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GOLD, Treasure, Beauty, and Power, Opens at American Museum of Natural History

- In the Galleries/Arts and Education

Treasure, Beauty, Power
November 18, 2006 – August 19, 2007
At The
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
Tickets: 212.769.5200
Press: Aubrey Gaby

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 14, 2006

(See a Review of Jazz at The Rose Center)
(See a Review of "Cosmic Collisions" at The Rose Center for Earth and Space)

At a media event at American Museum of Natural History, introductory remarks introduced the international press to the exhibit’s six sections – Natural Gold (including the Museum’s 2.2 lb. gold mass), Unique Properties (including a room gilded in gold leaf), Golden Age (including Tiffany jewelry and a Fabergé egg), Lost and Found (including gold coins from a shipwreck), Gold Standard (including 27 gold bars, weighing 30 lbs. each), and Golden Achievement (including an Oscar statuette, a Grammy award, and two Emmy awards). Speakers included Gary Zarr, Senior Vice President for Communications and Business Development, Ellen V. Futter, President, Michael Novacek, Senior VP, Provost, and Curator, Div. of Paleontology, James D. Webster, Chair and Curator, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Charles Spencer, Curator, Dept. of Anthropology.

During my leisurely stroll through the new GOLD exhibit galleries, I was struck by the vast, eclectic mix of the gold coins, gold jewelry, Golden Globe (Harrison Ford, 2002), gold Oscar (Susan Sarandon, 1996), gold Grammy (Beyoncé, 2003), gold Emmys (Tom Brokaw, 2004, and Lorne Michaels, 1999), gold Kentucky Derby trophy (Venetian Way, 1960), gold blocks, gold bars, and gold lunar module replica. There were icons from Pre-Colombian, Egyptian, and African cultures, and a 30 kilogram Eureka Bar from the California Gold Rush. Peruvian gold marriage vessels were not far from a 130 year-old box of $20 gold double eagles. Mexican and Aztec rings caught my eye, as well as gold nuggets, cigarette cases, PC cards, and an Apollo space helmet.

Informative Museum facts taught me that a single ounce of gold (one quarter) can be pounded into a thin sheet measuring about 100 square feet, due to its texture. More than 90 percent of all the gold that was ever used was mined after 1848, at the time of its discovery at Sutter’s Mill, CA, thus the gold rush. Worldwide, the total amount of gold that was ever mined is 152,000 metric tons, just enough to fill 60 tractor trailers. All the gold ever refined could fit in a cube that is 65.5 feet on one side. Only 2 percent of all native mined gold are nuggets, or solid lumps of gold. Also, 78 percent of the yearly supply of gold is used for jewelry, whereas 12 percent is used for electronics, medical, and dental, and 10 percent for financial business.

The American Museum of Natural History has also created a comfortable, hip Café, called Gold Nugget Café, serving Alaskan seafood, Yukon potato cakes, Miner’s chicken stew, Golden chicken nuggets, Golden creamy California corn, Buffalo chili, Oregon shrimp, Yukon west mushroom salad, Golden apple tart, and solid Gold chocolate bars. The exhibition shop, in which I was surrounded by gold, features superb Holiday shopping, such as 14- and 24- karat gold jewelry, a 12-piece gold, espresso cup-and-saucer set, decorated with gold chains and coins, a silk scarf designed with ancient gold coins, a gold-painted Buddha, children’s mining costumes, and many books and DVD’s on the history and nature of gold.

Family Programs, including children’s history workshops, Treasure Hunts, gilding lessons, and chemistry experiments are listed on the Museum Website, as well as the Public Programs with related performances, panels, and documentaries. Check or call 212.769.5200 for more information on current and future events.

California Gold Specimen
Over 150 million years ago, magma, or molten rock, ascended towards Earth’s surface drove superheated, gold-bearing water into cracks in the surrounding rocks, which deposited the veins of quartz and gold. This crystallized specimen was found in Eagle’s Nest, California.
©Jackie Beckett/AMNH

Newmont Gold Mass
Gold is one of the few minerals that occurs in a nearly pure, or native state. This rare crystallized gold specimen is part of the American Museum of Natural History’s preeminent collection and was found in Grass Valley, Nevada County, California.
©Craig Chesek/AMNH

Colorado Gold Specimen
This delicate, crystallized gold specimen was found in Leadville, Colorado and formed from superheated gold-bearing water. Crystallized gold specimens like this are extremely rare in nature.
©Denis Finnin/AMNH

Drinking Cups
Drinking chicha, or corn beer, from cups like the golden keros pictured here was an important part of Inka political ceremonies. This keros comes from Batan Grande, Lambayeque Valley, Peru.
©Denis Finnin/AMNH

Inka Figure
A hollow gold Inka figurine from Peru was probably used as an offering and was originally wrapped in cloth.
©Denis Finnin/AMNH

Mixtec Bell
This elaborate gold bell was crafted with the lost-wax process more than 500 years ago and possibly depicts the patron of fire known as Xiutecuhtili to the Aztecs and Iha Ndikandii to the Mixtecs of Oaxaca. The Mixtecs probably manufactured this object, which was found in the state of Veracruz near the Oaxaca border. Bearded, with two fangs, the depicted deity wears an elaborate headdress and carries a shield and atlatl (spear thrower).
©Craig Chesek/AMNH

Greek Earrings
Jewelry making use of animal shapes became widely popular during this Hellenistic period (late 4th to 2nd century b.c.e.). Jewelry similar to this pair of gold earrings is frequently depicted in scenes of everyday life on Greek vases and sculptures.
©Craig Chesek/AMNH

Inka Necklace
An Inka necklace of 13 hollow gold beads, each made of two hemispheres, found in Cajamarca, Peru.
©Craig Chesek/AMNH

Byzantine Coin (Front and Back)
Byzantine gold Histamenon Nomis coin (1028-1034 c.e.) with a depiction of emperor Romanus III being
crowned by the Virgin Mary and on the reverse, Christ enthroned. Minted in Constantinople, Byzantine coin designs reflected the Empire’s close ties to Christianity.
©Craig Chesek/AMNH

Chavin Stirrup Spout Bottle
This hammered gold vessel with its distinctive stirrup-shaped neck was made by the goldsmiths of the Chavin culture of Peru that flourished between 900 and 200 b.c.e. Chavin goldsmiths excelled in working gold sheets to make fine ritual objects.
Photo by John Bigelow Taylor
©American Museum of Natural History

Baby Rattle
A Tiffany baby rattle with mother-of-pearl handle, manufactured around 1890, features 18-karat “chased” gold, a technique that involves pushing and pulling the metal with chisels and hammers to create a high-relief decoration.
©Tiffany & Co. Archives

Tiffany Coffee Pot
This 18-karat gold-and-ivory coffee pot created for the 1900 Paris Exposition by Tiffany & Co., was acquired by the gold millionaire Thomas F. Walsh (father of Evelyn Walsh Maclean, owner of the Hope diamond); the full set was later given to King Leopold II of Belgium, a family friend.
©Tiffany & Co. Archives

“Meteor” Cigarette Box
“Meteor” 18-karat gold box, designed by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. in 1971, one in a series of 24 cigarette boxes commissioned by Paul Mellon (1907–1999), the son of financier and industrialist Andrew W. Mellon. The box was given as a gift to John Walker, the former Chief Curator and Director for The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
©Tiffany & Co. Archives

Picasso Gold Brooch
This 18-karat-gold “Gold” brooch, designed by Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co. in 1988, was an extension of the original Scribble collection, a component of the Graffiti line commissioned by Tiffany in the 1980s.
©Tiffany & Co. Archives

Gold Coin Necklace
Eight gold coins dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including ducats of Charles V and Joanna (1506–1516), Tunisian francs of 1891 and 1898, and Egyptian coins from the 1920s, are incorporated into this yellow gold necklace made for Bulgari in 1980.
©Bulgari Vintage Collection

David di Donatello Award
This 18-karat-gold David di Donatello trophy on a malachite base was awarded to Gina Lollobrigida in 1955 for her performance in La donna piu bella del mondo. Modeled in the lost wax technique after the famous statue by Donatello, the Donatello is the main national film award in Italy.
Gina Lollobrigida private collection, ©Bulgari Vintage Collection

Marilyn Monroe Plaque
Marilyn Monroe was awarded this 18-karat-gold David di Donatello plaque in 1958 for her performance in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). The Donatello is the main national film award in Italy.
©Bulgari Vintage Collection

Cigarette Case
This 18-karat-gold art deco cigarette case with diamonds was created for Bulgari in 1936.
©Bulgari Vintage Collection

Parentesi Necklace
Starting in the 1970s, Bulgari began unveiling a collection of jewelry featuring a double horseshoe-like pattern inspired by elements of Roman architecture. This 18-karat-gold necklace, part of the “Parentesi” Collection, was created in 1982.
©Bulgari Vintage Collection

Cartier Replica of a Lunar Module
Three individual 18-karat-gold models of the American lunar module were made in 1969 by the jeweler Cartier of Paris on behalf of the French newspaper Le Figaro and presented to the three Apollo 11 astronauts during their postflight tour in Paris. This model was presented to astronaut Michael Collins.
©Nick Welsh/Cartier Collection 2006

Mary Pickford’s Vanity Case
Whether furnishing the home or accessorizing the person, gold objects signaled the owner’s high social status as well as high income. Douglas Fairbanks purchased this gold vanity case as a gift for his wife Mary Pickford.
©Nick Welsh/Cartier Collection 2006

Elizabeth Taylor’s Wristwatch
Purchased by Elizabeth Taylor in 1959, this gold tank wristwatch features sapphire-colored hands and a crystal face.
©Nick Welsh/Cartier Collection 2006

Cartier Necklace
The 1800s and 1900s saw many of the finest designers apply their artistry to jewelry for the elite. This 1959 18-karat-gold-and-diamond necklace by jeweler Cartier of Paris features detachable palmette clip brooches.
©Nick Welsh/Cartier Collection 2006

22. Gold Box
Because gold doesn’t tarnish, this gold box recovered from the 1715 Wreck of the Plate Fleet’s San Roman off the coast of Florida looks much the same as it did before it was lost to the sea hundreds of years ago.
©C. Chesek/AMNH, Courtesy of the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research

Keris Handle
The peoples of South and Southeast Asia have mined and worked gold for thousands of years. This keris (pronounced “crease”) handle found in Bali, Indonesia (c. late 1800s_ to early 1900s), is an example of the traditional dagger of Southeast Asia. The keris originated in Java as far back as 1400 b.c.e.
©C. Chesek/AMNH, AMNH Division of Anthropology

Frog Ornament
Metalworking techniques spread to Mesoamerica—the region that today includes central Mexico through Costa Rica—around 800 c.e. The Mixtec people became the greatest gold workers in the region. Part of the American Museum of Natural History’s prestigious collection, this Mixtec gold ornament is in the form of a frog (c. 1200_–1521).
©C. Chesek/AMNH

London Good Delivery Bar
The standard bar used in physical transactions within the London gold market, the London Good Delivery (LGD) bar, also called a “400-ounce” bar, is at least 99.5 percent pure.
©C. Chesek/AMNH, Courtesy of Johnson Matthey, Inc.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at