Report from the Field, author Sahana C. (Photo by Helen Triolo)

Diamonds, jewels and gemstones, oh my! Diamonds are forever!

As a society, we have integrated diamonds into our culture as symbols of beauty, love and prosperity, so much so that many American adages have to do with diamonds. But do we know where they truly come from and how they are formed?

Denise Nelson, graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America and a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA), spoke about how gems get from the mines to the stores in her lecture. With about 28 years of experience in the jewelry business, Denise had a lot of knowledge and stories about how gems get from the mines to the stores, to share with the audience.

She began her lecture more like a beautiful story, transporting the audience with her on the journey through South African mines and the “Forbidden Zone” of Namibia.

First she took the audience with her to the Premier Diamond Mine in Cullinan, South Africa. Here we saw the cleanest mining industry at work from which came the Golden Jubilee Diamond, which was the largest in the world until 1905, and the audience got the opportunity to see a glass replica of this precious diamond.

We then briefly travelled back in time and ventured to the “Forbidden Zone” where we learned about the history of its “diamond rush” and its formation as a German mining town. Now back to present day, we learned about how there is strict security in the forbidden zone, which is now completely owned and operated by the company. We also learned that geologists are now following ancient riverbeds to find diamonds in this zone.

From the Cullinan Mines to the town of Lüderitz and the Elizabeth Bay Mine to the “Forbidden Zone”, Denise captivated the audience with her story telling as she weaved her experience in with the information she shared, and included visual aids with every new chapter in her story, all together crafting a lovely and wholesome experience for the audience.

What also struck me about Denise was that she was a frequent attendee at the Science Cafe, which I saw strengthened the bond between speaker and audience and further made the already relaxed environment into one of encouragement and support. Such an experience was only possible because of the Rockville Science Center, for which this year is the 8th year running the Science Café’s and it continues to provide the community with such engaging science lectures. I cant wait to attend more!

The next Science Cafe is on August 16, with speaker Dr. Tammatha O’Brien talking about “The Genetics of Sex”.