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All That Glitters: The Splendor and Science of Gems and Minerals  takes you beyond the “bling” to see gems as very rare and ancient by-products of the forces that have created our landscape, including right here in San Diego County. It is designed to entice adults and children through beauty, science and fun. Through displays and interactive experiences, visitors will learn about the Earth processes that create gems and minerals.

See how one family enjoyed “ All That Glitters ” at theNAT... They liked the exhibition so much they created a video!


The science of gems and minerals
  • The heart of the exhibition features gems and minerals of California, including the California state gemstone: Benitoite, that is extremely rare and found only in San Benito County, California—nowhere else in the world.

  • Explore the Fantasy Gem Pocket, a cave-like space embedded with gems native to San Diego County, including quartz, tourmaline, blue topaz, pink kunzite, and orange garnet.

  • Through an interactive, giant periodic table you will learn how every gem is a  combination of elemental ingredients.



  • Gem specimens from around the world, and jewelry  by famous designers such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier  and  Van Cleef & Arpels  are on loan from private collectors, and Harvard University, the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), and the Newark Museum .
  • Gem carvings and jewelry with natural history themes include a Fabergé grey chalcedony pig with diamond eyes, a jellyfish opal brooch by Mauboussin, and a never-before-seen collection of 12 butterfly brooches set with rare gems.
  • Butterfly Brooch Collection: Created by Buzz Gray and Bernadine Johnston, 13 butterfly brooches set with rare gems such as alexandrite, Mexican fire opal, pearls from Baja California, topaz, rainbow moonstone, sapphire, and more.
  • Yogo sapphire butterfly brooch
  • Topaz butterfly brooch
  • Stibiotantalite butterfly brooch
  • Spinel butterfly brooch
  • Rhodocrocite butterfly brooch
  • Peridot butterfly brooch
  • Pearl butterfly brooch
  • Green Sphene butterfly brooch
  • Brown Sphene butterfly brooch
  • Benitoite butterfly brooch
  • Alexandrite butterfly brooch
  • Hiddenite (green spodumene) butterfly brooch
  • Specimens from our Museum’s own collection  will also be included—tourmaline, aquamarine, diamond, and a series of bowls carved by George Ashley, noted San Diego County lapidary artist
  • Gems made from minerals are not the only stars of the exhibition.  Organic beauties such as  pearls, jet, ivory, coral, and amber  are also featured.
  • Spectacular crystal specimens of tourmaline from mines in San Diego County will also be featured including signature “blue caps” from the Queen Mine, a suite of jewelry set with pink tourmaline from the Himalayas Mine, and green and pink tourmaline from the Stewart Mine set in a Chinese belt buckle from the 19th century.



  • The Big Kahuna
    The Big Kahuna is one of the top two, perhaps three, American kunzite specimens known. It was the discovery of large gemmy crystals of this pink to lilac to violet spodumene (the mineral species name) in San Diego County’s Pala district that led to its naming as a new gem variety, kunzite. It is named after George F. Kunz, who was Tiffany’s chief gemologist and vice-president a century ago, at the time of the discovery.
  • Carousel Egg
    A miniature replica of one of Balboa Park’s most beloved attractions—the carousel near the San Diego Zoo—inside a  bejeweled egg . Each hand-carved enameled animal depicts one of the actual 56 that revolve on the real carousel. And, yes, it really plays music.
  • Flor de Lise
    This crystal is regarded as one of the world’s most magnificent rubellite specimens. It was found in Brazil’s famous Jonas Mine, known for its huge, deeply colored, cranberry-red rubellites. So valuable are these rare, near-perfect stones that the miners who extracted them guarded the treasures with the help of poisonous snakes. True story or not, this rubellite is indeed spectacular.

Little girls were literally twirling around and saying how beautiful everything is, old men were gaping in awe and women were "shopping" while drooling over the cases. 

 The scope of your selections of both stones and finished jewelry is staggering.

-Sheryl G. Shatz, Certified Gemologist, SCC
Author, "What's It Made Of?" A Jewelry Materials Identification Guide