Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall

Natural brilliance

Gems and minerals not only serve as the building blocks of our planet — many of them also happen to shimmer, sparkle and glow! Explore both the practical and beautiful aspects of these complex structures.

Giant Gems of the Smithsonian is on display in this hall through January 17!

From the outside, the 5-foot geode in our Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall looks like any other big rock. But when you turn a wheel to reveal the colorful crystals inside, it’s easy to see what makes mineral crystals and gemstones so highly prized by collectors, jewelers and scientists alike.

With high-definition videos, digital puzzles and touchable specimens to explore, you’ll discover the astounding variety of colors, shapes and hardnesses of Earth’s original rock stars. From the gleaming luster of “fool’s gold” to the ultraviolet glow of fluorescent minerals, your next stunning scientific observation is as close as a visit to the Perot Museum! Delve into the science behind the beauty as you explore these and other concepts:

Birth of a Crystal

Where do crystals come from, and how do they form? Find the answers to these and other questions as you:

  • View a vivid high-definition film introducing natural mineral crystals
  • Examine mineral specimens collected from all over the world
  • Observe time-lapse video showing the growth of various minerals
  • Survey crystals in their “natural habitat” — a hollow pocket in solid rock
  • Open a geode to reveal the crystals inside

Mineral Properties

Different minerals possess a broad range of properties. Discover the details that set them apart by:

  • Using a touchscreen to explore the physical and optical properties of various minerals
  • Comparing different minerals at our hands-on touch table
  • Learning about scratch testing and the Mohs hardness scale 
  • Seeing minerals in a different light, as some take on vibrant hues under ultraviolet bulbs
  • Exploring how sulfur and salty brine, considered contaminants in crude oil, also form crystals that are highly prized by collectors