Working It!

From meteorite Axes to inedible easter eggs, come explore some of the most interesting and meaningful worked objects of the MGMH's collection

Arabic Seal (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Working objects

While tools and other practical objects being made of minerals might be nothing new, with the earliest known lithics (stone tools) being 3.3 million years old, that doesn't mean that there can't be meaning behind the use of minerals, or the minerals used.

Meteorite Axe (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The meteorite axe

Created from a piece of the Gibeon meteorite in Namibia, this axe is an object of incredible allure, born from humankind's fascination with meteors, & anything from the stars. In another age, it would have borne a name of legend. But "The Meteorite Axe" works for museum purposes.

Meteorite Axe (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Star metal

Meteorites have been used by humans for millennia, often to create items of religious importance. Before iron smelting, meteorite's were one of early people's only sources of iron; the earliest known iron objects are beads made from meteoric iron in Egypt, from 3200 BC.

Chinese Lion Seal (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Chinese seals

One of the most enduring symbols of Chinese history is the seal. Used throughout East Asia, with the first Chinese examples coming from the Shang Dynasty, their use continues in both governmental and personal spaces.

Chinese Seal (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Sealed in stone

Seals in East Asia come in a variety of styles. The previous piece is a Baiwen seal, with the background being imprinted. This piece is in Zhuwen style, with the characters being imprinted, and is likely a name seal, used by an individual in the same way signatures are in the US.

Fish Carving (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Lions, tigers, bears, oh my!

The carving of animals into minerals is a form of art almost as old as art itself; the earliest example of an animal carving being the "Lion Man" of  Hohlenstein Stadel, which was carved out of ivory in 38,000 BC!

Chinese Lion Jar (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The Chinese lions

Beautiful opals bearing the imagery of the royal lion, these pieces are wrapped in luck in more ways then one. The Chinese Lion has been a symbol of luck since their introduction to Chinese art during the Western Han dynasty. They also represent royalty and prosperity.

Chinese Lion (2024-05-28) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Shining with possibility

Along with the luck of the Lion, the opal makes this jar lucky as well. Believed to hold luck all over the world, including China, opal has borne many mystical beliefs through history. It's been used since the Bronze Age, with the earliest examples coming from Kenya in 4000 BC.

Black Opal Figurine (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Holy minerals batman!

Minerals are one of the oldest mediums for creating objects with religious or symbolic value across cultures, whether that's Rio's "Christ the Redeemer" statue, made out of soapstone and concrete, or an award like an Oscar, made out of bronze and 24-karat gold.

Buddha on Elephant (2024-05-28) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The bountiful Buddhas

Art is born from religion; Religion is borne through art. Throughout its 2,500 year history, Buddhism has embodied that maxim; each region's art is distinct, although one commonality are Buddhas. Whether they're depicted through the the 73m tall Leshan Buddha, or these figurines.

Buddha Statue (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

A meditation on coral

This beautiful piece depicts a Buddha through red coral. Within Buddhism, gemstones are supposed to add spiritual energy to religious objects, and coral, as one of the 7 treasures of Buddhism, adds even more. It represents life force, especially the blood of the Buddha.

Commemorative Silver Shovel (2024-05-28) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The California gold rush shovel

While not a religious item, this miniature shovel, made in 1998 by Cheryl Scalisi, has symbolic value all its own. Created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the California Gold Rush, it acts as a symbol of the history which it portrays, iconic in the dictionary definition.

Mineral Eggs and Rooster (2024-05-30) by Rachel GnieskiMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

We live in strange mines indeed

While this list has included many of the traditional items that minerals may be used to make, there are many other items which one might be shocked to see made out of minerals, precious or not. Here are some of items whose creators one must surmise were just "messing around".

Clock (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The modern sun dial

While most modern, physical clocks are made out of glass, wood, or metal, this clock instead presents itself as a throwback to one of humankind's oldest time keeping devices, the Sun Dial. Invented in 1500 BC, Sun Dials track the time of day using the position of the sun.

Nest of mineral eggs (2024-05-30) by Rachel GnieskiMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

A clutch of eggs

Commissioned by Robert Myers, these pieces are incredible mineral snapshots within a handheld shell. Numbering objects, this collection cracks the usual mold for mineral carvings, and even if it might ruffle a few feathers, they are a design that may only be starting to fly.

Orb Rabbit (2024-05-21) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The rabbit and it's orb

A gift from Major T.K. Gibbs and originally sourced from Japan, this is an object with no clear purpose, nor origin. While rabbits in Japan represent everything from springtime to good fortune, why this one exists, and especially why it has an orb upon its back, is unknown.

Commemorative Silver Shovel (2024-05-28) by Benjamin D. KaplanMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Digging deeper

These objects are, ultimately,  a beautiful example of how something as simple as a stone can be turned into something with meaning, something that gives a glimpse into the era, cultures, and traditions it was born from. To learn more about the MGMH collection, go here!

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