National Mall

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Receives Rare Red Topaz

The gemstone is giant at nearly 49 carats

A rare, fiery red topaz that's nearly 49 carats is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The giant gemstone called the Whitney Flame Topaz was privately owned for decades until philanthropist Coralyn Wright Whitney recently gave it to the museum along with a $5 million endowment, the Smithsonian announced in a news release.

“We are indebted to Coralyn Wright Whitney for her generosity and her commitment to the future of the National Gem Collection,” Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History, said in the release. 

Topaz stones are typically a golden-orange color, but the Whitney Flame Topaz has a vivid red hue which makes the gemstone extremely rare and valuable, the Smithsonian said.

The red color is the result of trace quantities of chromium that were incorporated into the original topaz crystal as it grew in the earth, according to the Smithsonian. The topaz came from mines in Ouro Preto, Brazil, where only 1 to 2 percent of all topaz are of gem quality, making it even more astonishing.

“The color and beauty of this gemstone is astounding. You have to see it to believe it. The Whitney Flame is truly one of Earth’s treasures,” said Jeffrey Post, chair of the Department of Mineral Sciences and curator of the museum's gem collection.

The gemstone will be on display indefinitely in the Harry Winston Gallery at the museum.

Contact Us