"Intensely hued jeweled masterpieces float wondrously in utter darkness, embodying the ultimate combination of natural perfection and flawless artistic execution.” That is how curators describe the gem treasury awaiting visitors to the new Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault, set to open to the public on November 17, 2006 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
In selecting many of the objects for inclusion in the Gem Vault, the Museum’s curators used their extensive connections in the mineralogical world to acquire mineral “cutting rough” freshly extracted from mines around the world. In this way, the museum obtained good quality natural stones and had them cut into faceted gems of exact specifications.
Featuring some of the most extraordinary cut and polished jewels ever displayed in a single permanent exhibition, the Smith Gem Vault will complement and enhance the museum’s existing collection of natural mineral crystals, presently considered one of the finest in the world.
For more than a decade, Lester Smith, a third-generation oilman who began collecting rocks as a boy in his hometown of Wharton, Texas, has served as a trustee of the museum. For the last five years, he has served as chairman of the Gems & Minerals Committee and has provided millions of dollars in funding to advance science education.
The opening of this new permanent exhibit hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science mineralogically completes the story begun by the world-renowned Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, where the Gem Vault will be located.