Rare Earth: Santa Barbara

Apr 23, 2022

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2559 Puesta del Sol 

Learn More: https://www.sbnature.org/visit/exhibitions/84/rare-earth


Fluorite with Calcite from the Yaogangxian mine, Hunan, China. Robert Lavinsky Collection. Joe Budd Photo.

Far more than a dazzling display of gems and minerals, Rare Earth tells the story of how we can value the natural world in a new light.  Copper may be worth a few dollars per pound, but a beautiful piece in its (remarkable) natural form is worth far more than that.  The question is why? We humans inherently assign value to beautiful things above and beyond their utility. It’s why we value impressive minerals like these higher than their price as a mere commodity. Whether it’s a mineral, a tree, or an ecosystem, viewing nature purely in terms of “price per pound” undervalues the resource and deep down, we know it. The minerals and crystals you see here are treasures in their own right, worthy of being displayed (and valued) like any other fine art. 

As these remarkable specimens draw you in, you may wonder, “did they really come out of the ground looking like this?” The answer is a resounding yes. It is their raw natural form and geometry that resonates, calls to us, and sets them apart. Beyond their beauty, the minerals in this exhibit convey stories that tie them to the rise and fall of modern civilizations, and the evolution of art and culture throughout human history.  

Valuable beyond utility, beautiful to observe, and essential for life as we know it, minerals shape our lives in ways most of us have never imagined. Until now.   

Frank Hein

Director of Exhibits 

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History