One look at the Dom Pedro aquamarine and the only thing you’re able to articulate is, “Wow.” At a height of 14 inches and weighing over 10,000 carats, the obelisk-shaped gem is considered to be almost as rare as the Hope Diamond.

When Jeffrey Post, the curator of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian Museum, looks into the clear, Caribbean blue sparkle of the gem he sees more than a rare artifact; he sees a museum exhibit that would never had happened had it not been for the generous donation from a budding gem enthusiast and her husband this month.

The story begins in the 1980’s when a prospector saw the aquamarine wedged in an outcropping of rock. When pried loose, the gem stretched more than three feet long and weighed almost 100 pounds but it was not destined to stay this size.

After accidentally being dropped and broken into three pieces, the portion that would eventually become the Dom Pedro was sold to a third-generation broker. He then brought the gem to a skilled gem cutter who crafted the precious stone into the piece of artwork it is today.

Three years later, the owners of the gemstone wanted to sell. They first made an offer to the Smithsonian, asking for seven to 10 million dollars. Jeffrey Post was there when the offer was made and remembers laughing. “It doesn’t work like that. The Smithsonian collects via donations. We can’t just go to Congress and ask for $10 million for a gem,” he said.

It was money the museum didn’t have, but it was money a gem enthusiast and her husband did have so after buying and showing the gem at various exhibits around the world, they finally decided to donate it to the Smithsonian.

“We didn’t buy it for ourselves,” the gem enthusiast said. Now, besides reducing their estate tax for the future, the couple has shared a rarity with the world that could have remained unnoticed if not for their generous donation.

Source: The Washington Post, “The Dom Pedro aquamarine’s long and winding path to the Smithsonian,” Brian Vastag, Dec. 2, 2012