"Sonoran Sun" at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Striking Gold

A photo essay. To view all 15 images, check out the email version.

Technically, it comes in leaves, crystals, plates and dust. Romantically, it comes in flowers, fingers, flames and suns.

It’s California gold, now starring in California Gold, the newest exhibit at the Peabody Museum. Debuted last Saturday and featuring almost two dozen rare specimens alongside vintage tools of the gold trade—all on loan from a private collection—the one-case show illuminates not just historic methods California miners used to find, extract and assay gold but also, in accessible terms, the geological processes that positioned and shaped the gold those miners sought.

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Like its neighbors, the show’s centerpiece, nicknamed “Sonoran Sun,” emerged from cooling subterranean magma chambers beneath the Sierra Nevada mountains. Perhaps a foot across and fittingly molten in appearance, it’s a contrast to smaller examples bearing more geometric or crystalline features.

Richard Kissel, the museum’s director of public programs, marvels at the natural yet “sculptural” character of the exhibit’s precious contents. Stefan Nicolescu, the museum’s collections manager for mineralogy and meteoritics, says the quality and size of the specimens render the show “one of the most spectacular” displays of its kind “in the entire world.” Aiding the spectacle is the exhibit’s dramatic design and lighting—what museum director David Skelly describes as a “more modern way to display these sorts of objects.”

In other words, at the Peabody Museum, the gold strikes you.

California Gold: Modern Marvels from the Golden State
Yale Peabody of Natural History – 170 Whitney Ave, New Haven (map)
Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm | $13 for adults, $9 for seniors, $6 for kids
(203) 432-8987

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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