The Hamlin Collection

Tourmaline from Oxford County, Maine

By Mineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

A.C. Hamlin with tourmaline specimen by MGMHMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Augustus Choate Hamlin

A.C.Hamlin was  a renaissance man of his time with many interests. After serving as a Civil War Army Medical Inspector, Hamlin served as the Surgeon General of the State of Maine. After serving as Mayor of Bangor from 1877 to 1878, he purchased the Mount Mica farm in Oxford County to mine pegmatite material. For several decades Hamlin presided over mining operations at Mount Mica. Some of the most exquisite and famous gem-quality tourmaline crystals from Oxford County, Maine were yielded during his tenure.

Elbaite by E. BarajasMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The Tourmaline Group

Scientifically, tourmalines are a group of closely related silicate minerals that include the most well-known and valuable species, elbaite. Named for the Italian island Elba, elbaites occur in almost every color of the rainbow, but gem quality stones predominately occur in pink, red, green, and blue colors. Multi-colored stones are known as well, including 'watermelon tourmaline'- pink crystals with a green outer crust. Elbaites mined in the state of Maine rival stones from famous locations in California, Brazil and Madagascar. 

Elbaite by T. SmithMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Hamlin the Mount Mica Mine Manager

A.C. Hamlin’s father, Elijah Hamilton, was one of the original discoverers of elbaite on Mount Mica in 1821. A year later, Cyrus and Hannibal Hamilton, A.C. Hamlin’s uncles, were the first to seriously mine for elbaite. Successes in mining over the next 40 years inspired Elijah and his son to further the exploration of the site from 1868 until 1890. Twenty-seven pockets of tourmaline were opened, and thousands of dollars’ worth of gem-quality material was mined during this time. 

Watercolor of a tourmaline crystal by Harvard LibrariesMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Hamlin the Author

A.C. Hamlin is the author of over a dozen books, three of which address Hamlin’s love of Mount Mica and Tourmaline. One of these books, History of Mount Mica of Maine, U.S.A. and its Wonderful Deposits of Matchless Tourmalines, published in 1895, is filled with wonderful watercolor sketches by A.C. Hamlin himself.

Watercolor of a tourmaline crystal, Harvard Libraries, From the collection of: Mineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University
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The Hamlin Necklace Notebook by Harvard LibrariesMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

Hamlin the Artist

Not only did A.C. Hamlin produce exquisite illustrations of elbaite crystals for his book on Mount Mica tourmalines, he designed the iconic Hamlin Necklace. Numerous pages of pendant designs speak to Hamlin’s creativity and appreciation of the beauty of gemstones.

The Hamlin Necklace Notebook, Harvard Libraries, From the collection of: Mineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University
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The Hamlin Necklace by A.C. HamlinMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

The Hamlin Necklace

The Hamlin
Necklace is made of a simple gold chain decorated by
eighteen removable pendants with gems of varying colors, primarily tourmaline
from Mount Mica, Maine. In total, the necklace contains seventy exquisite gems
that total 228.12 carats in weight and range in size from roughly three to
thirty four carats. Hamlin designed the piece, clearly intending for the gems
rather than the metalwork to be the focal point of the necklace.

Hamlin presumably made the pendants removable so the wearer was allowed creative freedom to alter the necklace according to their mood or ensemble. Seventeen additional hooks for pendants are built into the chain of the necklace, which enable the inclusion of more charms or spacing adjustments to existing ones. Whether or not Hamlin or a wearer has altered the necklace from its original state remains unknown. While Hamlin sketched pendants from the necklace in his notebook, he did not draw the necklace in its entirety, leaving no concrete evidence of its earliest appearance.

Loose Hamlin Necklace Pendant (2016) by T. SmithMineralogical and Geological Museum, Harvard University

A True Treasure

The Hamlin legacy and love of Maine tourmaline live on with the Hamlin Collection at the MGMH. 

Credits: Story

Thanks goes to Ben DeCamp, Kevin Czaja, and the Harvard University Library for the images; to Raquel Alonso-Perez and Theresa Smith for the text; and to Augustus Hamlin and Fred Pough for their enduring support and generosity.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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