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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Maharani Cat's Eye

Photograph of the Maharani cat's eye chrysoberyl (NMNH G3642)
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G3642-00
Locality Sri Lanka
Weight 58.2 ct

Obtained in an exchange in 1961.

With its exceptional size, honey color, and sharp band of light, the 58.19ct Maharani Cat’s Eye from Sri Lanka is one of the finest gems of its kind. The optical phenomenon of chatoyancy can be displayed by many gemstones, but the most popular and highly prized is that of the mineral chrysoberyl. Chatoyancy is light reflected off of parallel inclusions of microscopic tubes or crystals of another mineral inside the gemstone. When a stone is cut with a domed top and flat bottom, called a cabochon, the reflected light is focused into a bright band that forms the “eye.” In fact, the term “Cat’s Eye” is synonymous with chrysoberyl, owing to the resemblance of the phenomenon with the slits of a cat’s pupils. The “eye” that the stone displays when it is cut en cabochon is caused by the reflection of light off numerous parallel inclusions of fine, needle-like crystals, commonly of the mineral rutile.



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