By Brecken Branstrator
An AMNH exhibition staff member installs specimens in the new Allison and Roberto Halls of Gems and Minerals. (Photo credit: D. Finnin/ AMNH)
New York—The American Museum of Natural History gave those anxiously awaiting the opening of its renovated gem and mineral halls some good news: a date has been set.

The museum’s new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals are slated to open Feb. 17, 2021.

The 11,000-square-foot halls feature about 5,000 specimens from 95 countries.

They will showcase recently acquired specimens, like a 3,000-pound block of iridescent green and blue labradorite, two amethyst geodes among the world’s largest at 9 and 12 feet tall, and a slice of a fossilized tree called a metasequoia that lived between 35 and 33 million years ago.

They will also have, of course, pieces that have proved to be visitor favorites, like the “Singing Stone,” a big block of blue azurite and green malachite first exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and legendary gems like the 563-carat “Star of India” sapphire and 632-carat “Patricia Emerald.”

Throughout, the hall will explain to visitors how mineral diversity came about, the environments in which minerals form, how scientists classify them and how they have been used throughout history for personal adornment, tools, and technology.

“Generations of New Yorkers have loved the museum’s mineral and gem halls, storing up memories of family visits and marveling at the glamorous displays of utterly spectacular minerals and gems, while learning about the latest scientific explanations for their formation,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History.

“Now, as New York continues to endure the many challenges posed by COVID-19, we are proud to be among the first major new museum spaces to open. These magnificent halls remain true to the traditions that New Yorkers cherish while signaling the reawakening of the entire city.”

The new halls also will have, for the first time, a temporary exhibition space—the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery—which will open with “Beautiful Creatures,” highlighting jewels inspired by animals from both storied jewelry houses and contemporary designers.

20201103 AMNH Insert copyThis snake necklace from American designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal will be on display in “Beautiful Creatures” in a new temporary exhibition space in American Museum of Natural History’s renovated gem and mineral halls. Created in 1990, JAR’s piece features pave-set sapphires, amethysts and diamonds in silver and gold. (Photo credit: FD Gallery)

The exhibition pieces on view, curated by jewelry historian Marion Fasel, range in date from the mid-19th century to the present.

They’re also featured in a concurrent jewelry book from Fasel highlighting the exhibition.

The Halls of Gems and Minerals are named for Roberto and Allison Mignone, long-time supporters and volunteers, while the new temporary exhibition space is named for Melissa and Keith Meister, the latter of whom is a museum trustee.

They are curated by George E. Harlow, curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, and designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates along with the American Museum of Natural History’s Exhibition Department under the direction of Lauri Halderman, vice president for exhibition.

AMNH renovated the halls as part of the initiatives coinciding with its 150th anniversary. The projects will culminate in the opening of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a new facility housing galleries, education spaces, and collections.

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