elemental mineral kingdom

WoaWomen Urra
6 min readAug 5, 2021


The Allison and Roberto Mignone Hall of Gems and Minerals is part of the American Museum of Natural History since the Seventies. It closed in 2017 to be redesigned as one of its 150th anniversary projects. Its grand opening was delayed and pushed back to June 12, 2021 because of the pandemic.

in front of one of two gargantuan amethyst geodes

New York City in the time of COVID is the perfect poster child for pandemic protocols. As the most populous city and a major gateway of the world on the East Coast, NYC was one of the first in the United States to be hardest hit by this globe trotting virus.

museum façade

After its year in lockdown wonder | wonder | women were eager to visit one of our favorite cities and spend a few days enjoying its iconic midtown landmarks. The newly opened Hall of Gems and Minerals was a definite must-see draw for us.

a case filled with trilobites

We had to pre-register to enter the museum, then join another virtual line to reserve our timed entry tickets to the exhibit hall. Huge tip: calling the museum works much faster and is so much less stressful than trying to reserve online. The museum staff are superb but their website leaves much to be desired.

Metasequoia petrified wood

Past the mayhem of the over crowded entrance and registration counters we made our way toward the exhibit. Where we signed up online for our timed entry tickets which we were warned would be at least a 45 minute wait. This gave us time to meander around other displays leading up to our main event.

ancient cave art

Our geekiness was fulfilled, we browsed around, thrilled and entertained as we lost ourselves in the Hall of Human Origins. The Spitzer Hall presents keys and evidence scientists use to assemble the evolutionary story of our hominid family, in fossils, genetic data and artifacts. The Sackler Educational Lab is currently closed but you can take part in a Virtual Lab Experience.

in front of Cape York meteorite

We lost ourselves in the fossil halls and the Hall of Meteorites, chock full of the origins of life on earth. This hall uses specimens to investigate the origins of meteorites, their journey through space and fall to Earth — providing a wealth of information contained within.

Following the hall’s circular path and directional arrows, we started with an overview in the center and moved through the three areas on its outer ring — Origins of the Solar System with its primitive and pre-planetary meteorites, Building Planets with material from planetary bodies, and Meteorite Impacts that track the dynamics of the solar system.

Lucy on display at the Hall of Human Origins

Before we realized it our time to enter the gems and minerals show came too soon. The new exhibit hall is housed in an impressive 11,000 square feet hall and features over 5,000 specimens from 98 countries.

two of the massive monoliths on display
the main exhibit hall

Each spectacular gem and mineral tells a fascinating tale of how it came to be here on our planet and why it was chosen for display here at the museum. Galleries are updated in both design and technology — there are interactive displays, touchable specimens and media support.

Jade, the Stone Age rock star
a few of our personal favorites

The mineral world presented here is both exceptional and extraordinary. On display are unique and alluring minerals collected from the earth’s surface, mines, quarries, road cuts and outcrops from various locations throughout the world.

crystals formed from water
image provided by the American Museum of Natural History

A mineral is a solid organic compound or inorganic substance of chemical composition and specific crystal structure. A basic element of all life forms on earth — animate and inanimate biological organisms, grouped into species.

beautiful & classic display
mineral properties & uses

The exhibit shows and highlights the vast diversity of mineral types — which arose on Earth, what are their scientific classifications, and how humans have used them throughout the millennia for personal adornment, tools, and technology.

mineral properties
mineral elements chart

Signature specimens formed in incredible environments and circumstances stand sentinel in this hall. A giant iridescent pillar of labradorite. A 14,500 pound slab of garnet formed a billion years ago and buried sixteen miles underground. The largest stibnite on public display in the world. A massive block of azurite than sings. The Sterling Hill rock with over 90 fluorescent species imbedded in it.

images from the American Museum of Natural History
Sterling Hill Slab & its 90 fluorescent minerals

The careful curation and organization show off why minerals matter, their properties and uses, what causes their colors, how light passes through them, their systematic classification system, timeline of their evolution — all beautifully mounted, in classic and contemporary displays.

Guan Yin carved statue

The new space also features some of the most prized signature mineral specimens. More than 2,000 gems, carvings and jewelry are on special display in the History of Gems Collection.

gemstone collection
faceted precious gems

And the special exhibition of Beautiful Creatures presents over 100 animal themed jewels created over the ages by the most famous jewelry houses and iconic artisans of their time.

Beautiful Creatures exhibit
creatures of the sea & land

Kudos to designer Ralph Applebaum Associates and the AMNH’s Exhibition Department — the exhibits are divided into three sections — the Gems Hall collections, the Minerals Hall displays and the Keith Meister Gallery jewelries.

Multimillion-Dollar Jewelry and Gems Gallery

Watch this video for a lingering and thoroughly enjoyable detailed immersive tour of these precious collection of classic and contemporary baubles and treasures.



WoaWomen Urra

curious creative tandem — cohearts & collaborators