By  on July 27, 2005

LONDON — The Natural History Museum here is showing all facets of the diamond, the glitter and the grit, in a major exhibition that features some of the world's most precious gems.

"We were fascinated by the material side of the diamond — after all, it's just carbon — and why it has such glamour and cachet," said Sharon Ament, director of public engagements at the museum, where the show runs until Feb. 26. "After all, we humans are mostly carbon, too, and no one makes that much of a fuss over us."

"Diamonds: The World's Most Dazzling Exhibition," sets out to balance the regal glamour of the stones with the realities of their origins in the crater-like mines of Botswana, the rivers of the Congo, or the wilds of the Brazilian countryside.

The De Beers Group, which sells three-fifths of the world's rough diamonds, and The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the largest global diamond manufacturers, are the co-sponsors and have loaned some of the priceless gems in the collection, including the Steinmetz Pink, the world's largest fancy vivid pink, flawless diamond.

The show features some of the biggest colored rocks ever found. They're suspended in a series of black cases, and are so bright a spectator has to blink or look away after a few seconds.

The show opens with the 59.6-carat Steinmetz Pink, which took almost two years to cut out of its rough crystal shell. The diamond, which is the size of a small fist, is priceless because it is unique.

The museum would not reveal the values of any diamonds or diamond jewelry because of insurance issues.

Ament said the Steinmetz Pink is by far the most popular stone with museum-goers. "It's unexpected. I don't think most people realize there are colored stones out there," she said.

In that same lineup is the 5.11-carat Moussaief Red, one of the rarest diamonds in the world. There's something eerie and unnatural looking about the claret-colored stone — even the Gemological Institute of America said it had never graded such a diamond before.

There's also the 27.64-carat Heart of Eternity, a brilliant blue diamond from South Africa and The Ocean Dream, a 5.51-carat fancy, deep blue-green stone that got its color from exposure to high-energy radiation over thousands of years.

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