By Debra Wilson
The Section of Minerals collection contains many specimens with interesting stories of historical significance. One such story is about an unusual faceted stone.
As part of the Manhattan Project, the mission of the Hanford Site in Benton County, Washington was to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb. This included the first bomb tested at Trinity Site in New Mexico and the Fatman bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki to end World War II in 1945. The viewing windows that the scientists looked through in the plutonium production reactor were made of 70% lead to protect them from the highly radioactive material they were working with.
When the buildings began being salvaged in 1990, five of these radiation windows were sent to a salvage yard in Walla Walla, Washington, where they were stored in a warehouse. Sometime during the two decades of storage one of the panes shattered. When the broken pieces were sold, Patrick Kelley of PAK Designs in North Carolina was able to acquire two pieces. He faceted the Rectangular Baguette Cut, 51.4 carat gemstone in 2013 that now resides in the Section of Minerals collection. Note the yellow color of the glass due to the high lead content.
This stone is now on display in the Treated & Synthetic Stones case in Wertz Gallery.
Debra Wilson is the Collection Manager for the Section of Minerals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.