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Diamond Exhibition Is a True Gem

Some of the largest and rarest go on display today with the Hope in Washington.

June 27, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A sliding door creaked open and in rolled a table covered with a white cloth.

Tense security guards eyed the room. Photographers and reporters packed into the small gallery, backs turned to the famed Hope Diamond. Slowly, the cloth was lifted. All was quiet except for the clicking of camera shutters.

Six of the world's rarest diamonds gleamed in the camera lights. A seventh hung from the neck of actress Jenna Elfman.

"It sounds weird, but I can feel the wavelengths," Elfman said of the 59.6-carat Steinmetz pink diamond she wore. "It enhances one's femininity."

The seven diamonds go on display to the public today, sharing a gallery at the National Museum of Natural History with the 45.52-carat blue Hope Diamond until Sept. 15, when the visiting gems return to their owners.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity" to see such a collection, said Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection. After this show the stones will never be seen as a group again, Post said.

National Museum of Natural History Director Cristian Samper said the museum hopes as many as 3 million visitors see the gems while they are on display.

The display represents the largest and most unique of each color of diamond, said Nir Livnat, chief executive of the Steinmetz Group.

It takes millions of years for diamonds to form in the earth, Livnat said, with chemicals imparting color to some of the normally clear gems.

Then, once they are found, studying and cutting the stones to shape can take more years, Livnat said, "we cannot afford to make mistakes."

Livnat declined to estimate the value of the gems on display, other than to say that some stones with similar colors have sold in recent years for $660,000 to $800,000 per carat.

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