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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Sphalerite (NMNH G10695-00) from the National Gem Collection.
Photo by Ken Larsen. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G10695-00
Locality Spain
Weight 214.21 ct

Purchased with funds from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation in 2011.

Sphalerite is zinc sulfide, an ore of zinc. The name comes from the Greek “sphaleros,” meaning treacherous, in reference to how easy it is to mistake the darker varieties for galena, a lead ore. It is usually black in color, but in transparent form the mineral can be yellow, orange, red, or brown in hue with a resinous to adamantine luster. Because of its low hardness (3.5-4.0 Mohs scale) and perfect cleavage, sphalerite is a fragile gemstone that is not commonly used in jewelry. However, it shows great dispersion, three times that of diamond, making it a popular collector’s gem. This 214.21ct sphalerite from Spain has a deep brownish-orange color with pronounced dispersion. It was acquired for the National Gem Collection in 2011 with the Tiffany & Co. Foundation endowment.


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