May 28, 2015
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
HOWITT LECTURE 2015
A joint lecture with the Royal Society of Victoria
Location: Royal Society lecture theatre, upstairs at 8 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Talk by Dr William Birch
Victoria's Gemstones: Much More than Just History
Early interest in gemstones in colonial Victoria was inextricably linked to discoveries made during alluvial gold mining, when diggers routinely turned up brightly coloured sapphires and zircons in their pans and sluice-boxes. The discovery of rare diamonds heightened the excitement.
Three influential men, the Rev. John Bleasdale, George Milner Stephen and George Ulrich, all members of the Royal Society of Victoria, were responsible for promoting Victorian gemstones. As President, Bleasdale organised an exhibition of colonial gemstones and jewellery, open to the public in the Society’s hall, for the week ending May 6, 1865, 150 years ago this month. A few years later he proclaimed Victoria to have more rare and precious gems than any other country. Nowadays, Victoria’s gemstones do little more than tease occasional diamond explorers and entice hobby fossickers, yet their very elusiveness, variability and puzzling distribution excites scientific curiosity.
Dr William Birch bio:
Dr William Birch is Curator Emeritus at Museum Victoria. Until his retirement at the end of 2013 he was Senior Curator in Geosciences, responsible for researching and developing the State’s geological collections.