Sure, everyone loves the dinosaurs and the dioramas, but beyond the paleontological and zoological wonders, the L.A. County Natural History Museum is also a haven for gemology enthusiasts, and really for anyone who loves a crazy-looking rock.
The Gem and Mineral Hall is a pair of wide, dimly lit galleries lined with impressive glass cases and lightboxes, with an ocean of spotlighted vitrines filling the floor. This hushed, almost chapel-like space is home to a permanent display of some 2,000 specimens of precious, semi-precious and just plain surreal gemstones, minerals and meteorites — a small fraction of the 150,000-plus items in NHM’s world-class collection.
Treasures abound, from a (touchable!) piece of jadeite weighing hundreds of pounds to the largest gold nugget found in California; shiny, coppery space rocks with skins like circuit boards; crystalline formations that defy expectations for gravity and color; majestic geodes; and flamboyant surprises.
Beyond the fractal, chromatic delights of the core collection, there’s a further gallery space with rotating exhibition programming. On view through May 12, “Art of the Jewel: The Crevoshay Collection” features more than 50 pieces of bespoke, avant-garde jewelry by legendary designer Paula Crevoshay.
Aside from the dazzling craftsmanship, luxurious whimsy and material creativity of these wearable masterpieces, seeing the jewels in the context of the raw gems and minerals from their terrestrial origins is not only curious but rather poetic.
Natural History Museum, 900 W. Exposition Blvd.; nhm.org; open daily, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; $13-$15 (includes entire museum); free to L.A. County residents Monday through Friday, 3-5 p.m.; free for everyone every first Tuesday; and free on Sunday, Feb. 3, as part of Museums Free for All Weekend.