Foxfire Diamond

The Smithsonian to Display the Foxfire Diamond
The Firefox Diamond (Source: Rio Tinto)

The Smithsonian to Display the Foxfire Diamond

The largest diamond ever found in North America is about to get some respect: The Foxfire, a 187.63 carat unearthed in August 2015 at the Diavik diamond mine in Canada, will be displayed at the Smithsonian for three months in its rough, uncut state.

The Firefox Diamond (Source: Rio Tinto)

The Firefox Diamond (Source: Rio Tinto)

According to Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, “it’s a really unusual chance for people to see this rare diamond. It isn’t something that happens very often. This may be the only chance in your life to see such a thing”.

The story of the unearthing of the Firefox is no less interesting than the magnificent stone itself: the 187.63 stone was almost discarded when it was unearthed. Diavik is not generally known for large diamonds like the Foxfire, but rather much smaller stones. The chances of a large diamond coming through the sorting system were believed to be so slim that all large stones were assumed to be kimberlite, thus filtered and crushed. The Foxfire diamond could have been crushed, but because of its somewhat elongated shape, it slipped through the sifting screen.

In order to find out more about the Foxfire diamond’s composition, Post exposed the uncut gemstone to different types of light and used a spectrograph to see how the various elements in the diamond were reflecting the light. He then discovered that in a dark room an under a black light, the diamond glows bright blue. “It lights up the room,” Post says. “There are a number of diamonds that do this, but this does so quite a lot. This happens through trace amounts of nitrogen. By doing spectral analysis of that light, we can tell how much nitrogen might be there.”

It gets weirder, though. Post explains that “when you turn the light off [the diamond] continues to glow. First a deep orange color and then it fades to a creamy white glow. So that phosphorescence can tell us something about how that diamond was formed. . . . It gives us this interesting insight into its history that we wouldn’t get just by looking at it.”

For those of you visiting in New York in next few months, the Foxfire diamond will be on view in the Harry Winston Gallery next to the Smithsonian’s famous Hope Diamond until February 16, 2017.

 

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