Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt

6 September 2010

Gemstone Carvings:
The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt
July 17 - January 3, 2011
Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California, USA


Harold and Erica Van Pelt are two of the best gem and mineral photographers in the world. The Van Pelts have been the photographers for Kristalle for over 30 years and their work is well recognised, such as the unique advertisements of Kristalle's on the inside cover of the Mineralogical Records.

But what few know of is Harold Van Pelt’s extraordinary ability as a fine art gemstone carver, which he has perfected over the last 35 years. Harold carves Quartz (rock crystal) and Agate, accented with Gold and Semi-precious stones. His entire body of work has never before been assembled in one place and the Bowers Museum is proud to present the first comprehensive exhibition of the extraordinary artworks of Harold Van Pelt.

Van Pelt exhibit

The exhibit is well presented with each of Harold's works effectively displayed and lit. And the pieces are really incredible when you consider the amount of work and precision that goes into each piece.

Carved Quartz vase with flowers
Flower Vase of Quartz, with five pink and green tourmaline flowers and leaves inside

'Balancing Act' Quartz container
'Balancing Act' An acorn-shaped Quartz container suspended from a base of Rutilated Quartz

View of exhibit
View of part of the exhibit

Checking out the exhibits
Dona, Robin and Dave check out the exhibit

Rutilated hand
Hand from Rutilated Quartz, this is a life size replica of Erica Van Pelt's hand

Erica's hand
The underside of the hand

Chalcedony Skeleton Hand
A Chalcedony Skeleton Hand, anatomically correct.

'Suspension' Quartz egg on Obsidian base
'Suspension' A hollow Quartz egg on a Mahogany Obsidian Base, amazingly thin.

Kristina Bode of Bode Verlag and German mineral magazine Mineralien-Welt joined us to visit the exhibit and write an article for Mineralien-Welt.

Quartz egg with gemstones
Hollow faceted Quartz eggs, on the left with gemstones, on the right with a 363 carat Beryl var Aquamarine pedestal base. The hollow egg is only 3mm thick!!!!

Rutilated Quartz
Polished Rutilated Quartz crystal on left, and carved Rutile in Quartz pendant with the shape of the pendant following the three dimensional shape of the Rutile star inclusions. Apart from the incredible workmanship, the other challenge is find suitable rough material, where the Rutile stars are centred with enough Quartz around them to carve out such a pendant.

Quartz Jewel Box
A Quartz jewel box with a Dendritic Quartz lid.

Dona and Peter
Dr Peter Keller, President of the Bowers Museum joins us to discuss the exhibit.

Dona, Peter, Dave
Dona, Peter and Dave.

Agate Rhyton
Agate Rhyton - a carved Agate drinking vessel with Gold nose.

The exhibit is accompanied by an excellent catalog - a beautiful book with photographs of the carvings and Harold at work, photographed of course by the Van Pelts themselves, and an 'interview' with Harold by Peter Keller. The book is available from Kristalle, please contact Dona by clicking here to obtain your copy.

The Bowers Museum is a superb museum to visit, a beautiful building and grounds, where many weddings are held.

Bowers Museum
Dona and Kristina outside the museum

Grounds of Bowers
Inside the courtyard

The Bowers Museum has both permanent and special exhibits. I had the pleasure of visiting the museum in 2008 and seeing 'GEMS! Colours of Light and Stone', a display of Michael Scott's gemstones (the first president of Apple Computers), one of the most important private gem collections in the United States. Bowers also recently exhibited the Terracotta Warriors from China, one of the few museums outside of China to have them on display. The museum really is lovely to visit, it is well laid out, the exhibits are presented effectively with good lighting and information (suprisingly this is something that many museums fail at!). The current exhibit which opened last Thursday 2nd Sept is 'Weird and Wonderful: Celebrating 75 Years of Collecting at Bowers' - here is a sneak preview:

Pyrite Mirror
A mirror made of Pyrite, 500-900 AD from Peru

Shrunken head
Yes this really is what it looks like - the shrunken head of a boy. It was amazing in person, so well preserved, and freaky!

Wayne, Dona and The Van Pelts
Wayne and Dona with Harold and Erica Van Pelt, outside of Harold's exhibit, at the opening of the Weird and Wonderful exhibition.

For more information on the Van Pelt exhibit, or the Bowers Museum please visit their website:

Author: Robin
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