Thursday, March 30, 2017

Brazilian Aquamarine:
Around The World From 80 Countries

This aquamarine is one of the many artifacts in the Benton County Historical Society artifact collection which fits the theme of the 2017 “Around The World From 80 Countries” exhibition but is not currently on public display. H1982-081-0001

Many legends are attached to one category of small items--gems.  This bluish gem from Brazil is an aquamarine, a crystal of the mineral beryl.  The sea water color of the stone not only gave the gem its name but also led to the legend that it protects sea-going sailors. Belief in the calming influence of aquamarines also led people to make them into amulets to help control anger or as an aid to meditation and a calm mind. Aquamarines were also viewed as a symbol of enduring love and were popular wedding gifts. 

Brazil is the leading producer of these gems. The largest aquamarine, found in the Minas Gerais region north of Rio, was 19 inches long and weighed over 240 pounds.  Our pear-cut aquamarine, also from Brazil, weighs more than 54 carats.

Around The World From 80 Countries
by Martha Fraundorf

Around The World From 80 Countries museum exhibition


My name is Martha and I am a volunteer in the exhibitions department of the Benton County Historical Museum. At the museum, I help the curator develop a list of possible items that fit into the theme for an upcoming exhibition. Once he selects them, I will go into the storage facility to bring out those objects that will be included.  I try to learn more about the objects we've selected.  Before I retired, I was a professor so research is “in my blood.” During this whole process, I get to see some of the items that cannot be included in a display.

Benton County Museum's current main exhibition features items from all around the world that were part of the Horner Museum collection at Oregon State University. The collection contains several thousand items that were donated by university faculty and alumni and residents of Benton County who returned with items from the countries they visited. Scholars from other countries donated additional items.  After the university decided to close the Horner Museum due to budget constraints, the Benton County Historical Society decided to acquire most of the collection (the university retained some) to keep it in the area.

We could not include all of these objects in the exhibition. Some are too fragile and exposure to light would only hasten their destruction.  Small items would not show up well; large items would take up too much space.   We selected objects from a broad range of countries but that also meant we had to leave many interesting items on the storage shelves.

In the upcoming series of blog posts, I would like to highlight some of these objects from other countries that we could not include in the 2017 exhibition. 

African artifacts at Benton County Historical Museum, Philomath, Oregon, USA