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Joining me at Bowers Museum's "Jewels of the Connoisseur" opening are private jeweler Mona Lee Nesseth and Bowers' President Dr. Peter Keller

Joining me at Bowers Museum’s “Jewels of the Connoisseur” opening are private jeweler Mona Lee Nesseth and Bowers’ President Dr. Peter Keller

I had never heard of such gemstones as benitoites, rainbow feldspar, spessartine garnet, and yogo sapphires until I found my way to an opening at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Invited by my friend Mona Nesseth, private jeweler and consultant extraordinaire, I was looking forward to viewing some stunning gems from the exhibit titled, “Jewels of the Connoisseur.” Gathering first in the Huang Sculpture Garden for libations and hors d’oeuvres, Bowers President Dr. Peter Keller welcomed everyone and stated that the world’s rarest gemstones in the exhibition were the from the amazing collection of Buzz Gray and Bernadine Johnston, who have played many roles in the world of gems and jewelry, including miner, gem dealer, gem cutter, and jewelry designer.

I’ve included photos of some of the gems I viewed in the exhibition. The spessartine garnets were quite beautiful. They were mined in the Little Three Mine in Ramona, California, currently closed. Buzz and Bernadine bought the raw material found at the mine and cut and fashioned it into some amazing pieces. The tourmaline necklaces in the exhibit show the wide range of colors that tourmalines come in, and the opal butterfly shows the diversity that a single gemstone can possess. The opals all came from Virgin Valley, Nevada.

The most striking gemstone in the exhibition was the 1,377-carat morganite. It was a showstopper! The peachy pink gemstone, named in 1911 by Tiffany gemologist George Kunz, was named in honor of J.P. Morgan, the well-known banker and gem collector.

If you’re a gem lover and want to see an extraordinary jewelry exhibition that just opened at Bowers, check out the current one, “A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels,” which just opened and runs through February 15, 2014. The 107-year-old storied jewelry house’s exhibition features 200 pieces of jewelry and objets d’art from its 700-piece private collection, as well as a few items loaned by their owners. Each piece has a story. It is a must-see!!

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