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Heasley Museum

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museumThe Timothy N. Heasley Mineralogy Museum is nestled into the apex of the Snee Hall atrium. Despite its diminutive size, it hosts a surprisingly diverse collection of minerals, fossils, lapidary works and antique instrumentation. The displays within its glass walls feature specimens representative of the thousands of known minerals. Many of these are from type localities and are of historic interest, including specimens from the Benjamin Silliman, Jr. "Cabinet of Minerals" purchased by Ezra Cornell in 1868 as the foundation of the University's original Museum of Geology and Mineralogy then housed in McGraw Hall. 

All images on this page have been provided by gemologist, Elise Skalwold. 







Calcite included with Copper Hancock, MI, 10 x 8 x 5 cm






Curating the museum's collections are Professor Emeritus of Geology Dr. William A. Bassett and gemologist Elise A. Skalwold, '82. coverIn addition to research and other activities, Bassett and Skalwold are authors and co-authors of mineralogical and gemological publications, including a 415 page coffee-table book, "The Edward Arthur Metzger Gem Collection", which documents a collection slated to go on display in Cornell's Johnson Museum of Art in early 2014. The volume is available locally in the lobby of the Johnson Museum of Art or by mailorder through Lithographie, LLC online bookstore here: (off-site link)

While the Heasley Museum was originally organized on the Dana System, current renovations in-progress will result in thematic displays designed to appeal to a wider audience. These will include such themes as: minerals of New York State and the Finger Lakes Region; the seven crystal systems, unique characteristics of different species and groups (example: tourmaline, garnet, quartz); fluorescent minerals; optical effects in natural crystals and lapidary materials.

One of the most popular displays is that of minerals paired with lapidary works such as ornamental carvings and gemstones. Lapidaries take advantage of unique properties of some minerals to create extraordinary effects in faceted and cabbed gemstones. Gems themselves provide fascinating ways to explore not only optical mineralogy, but also serve as windows into geological processes.

Central to the lapidary arts theme is the Allen and William Bassett Gem Collection, part of which was featured in the internationally acclaimed 11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium held in Carlsbad, California in a presentation entitled "Dr. Allen M. Bassett and the Ruby Mines of Nepal" (E.A. Skalwold, 2013). More on the story and the symposium can be found here: (off-site link).

Elise with goniometer

The photo to the left shows Elise Skalwold using the goniometer in its traditional manner, in this case, to measure the angles between crystal faces on a topaz crystal.

The museum's 1920s Model A two circle reflecting goniometer was designed by Prof. V. M. Goldschmidt and was made by Stoe & Rheinheimer of Heidelberg. There are probably fewer than 800 reflecting goniometers predating World War II in existence, and only 10 of this particular model were manufactured in 1920. This style of goniometer was inspired by the need to measure some newly discovered pink crystals which were so large that they would not fit in the pre-1905 Goldschmidt models. With the new design, the crystals were then able to be positively identified as spodumene by George F. Kunz and are now known as the gem " kunzite ".
For the whole story, see Shen, A.H., Bassett, W.A., Skalwold, E.A., Fan, N.J., and Tao, T. (2012) "Precision measurement of inter-facet angles on faceted gems using a goniometer". Gems & Gemology, Vol. 48, No. 1, pp. 32-38. (offsite link to pdf: 

Pictured below is the EAS department's Goldschmidt two-circle reflecting goniometer set up for precisely measuring the angles on a faceted round brilliant diamond (Gems and Gemology, Spring, 2012).



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Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Snee Hall
Cornell University

Free and open to the public:

Monday through Friday
Hours: 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM