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From today, you can see this gorgeous 110-carat pear-shaped yellow diamond in The Vault gallery thanks to the generosity of Cora diamond manufacturers who have loaned us the gem.

 

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Model Jerry Hall is dazzled by the arrival of the Cora Sun-Drop in The Vault gallery (Image copyright Adrian Brooks - Imagewise)

 

These large (over 100 carat) coloured diamonds are extremely rare in nature and are historically significant as so few exist. So it's a privilege to be able to have the Cora Sun-Drop on show to our visitors.

 

Cora-Sun-Drop-(black)-Photography-700.jpgI asked Alan Hart, the head of collections in our Mineralogy Department if he could tell me what particularly fascinated him about diamonds like this. He says:

 

'When you look at a diamond like this you are not only looking at a unique piece of art, you are looking at the fascinating science that bought this stone to us.

 

'The Cora Sun-Drop diamond was formed deep within the Earth’s crust 1-3 billion years ago. As it grew, it incorporated nitrogen into its carbon crystal structure. It is these nitrogen impurities that give the diamond its yellow colour as they modify light, absorbing the blue part of the visible spectrum. The diamond then travelled on a long journey upwards in a slushy rock magma. After it was found within a kimberlite pipe (a type of volcanic rock), it was expertly studied and cut, bringing the diamond to life.

 

'Good quality coloured diamonds, known as "fancy" diamonds, are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 10,000 mined diamonds are thought to have good body colour, and only a small percentage of these are considered to have good enough clarity to be labelled as a fancy diamond.

 

'The Cora Sun-Drop combines both a vivid yellow colour and another rare quality, a large size. At just over 110 carats, it is not only exceptionally large, it is the largest yellow pear-shaped diamond known.'

 

But diamonds aren't forever, I'm afraid! The Cora Sun-Drop is only with us in The Vault for a limited time, so bask in its light while you can. And don't forget there are 300 other diamonds in The Vault, including the Aurora collection, as well as a model of the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond.

 

You can hear Alan Hart talk about our impressive diamonds and gemstones at The Treasure Trove talk here in the Attenborough Studio on 25 March at 14.30.

 

And in case you wondered what the largest faceted diamond in the world is? At a whopping 545.67 carats, it's said to be the Golden Jubilee, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which now resides in the Royal Thai Palace as part of the crown jewels.

 

Watch the video about the Cora Sun-Drop diamond and The Vault gallery

 

Glimpse The Vault gallery highlights in our slideshow

 

Find out more about diamonds on our website

 

Pear-shaped Cora Sun-Drop image right courtesy Tom Tragale for M Patricof, Creative Group


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I wonder what's going to happen on Monday evening, 28 February, when bestselling fiction writer Jean M Auel and the Museum's esteemed human evolution expert Professor Chris Stringer meet to talk about ice age cave clans? Will flint sparks fly? Will they share a drink from ritualistic skull-cups?

 

We're not entirely sure of the details of their conversation, but the theme will certainly be earthy.

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Ayla and Jondalar - the main characters in Jean M Auel's latest book - as depicted in the book's film trailer. Her popular Earth's Children series follows the epic story of Cro-Magnons and Neanderthal cave dwellers in ice age Britain. She talks to Chris Stringer about the books here on 28 February

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Our event, Jean M Auel in Conversation, marks the release of the sixth and final book in the author's popular Earth's Children historical fiction series. The Land of Painted Caves is published on 29 March and is a highly-anticipated book for Jean Auel readers - the finale they've been waiting 30 years for. The fifth book appeared in 2002, and the first, The Clan of the Cave Bear, came out in 1980 .

 

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Jean Auel (left) is well-known for her meticulous research of archaeological findings in preparation of her novels and Chris Stringer (below) is the Museum's leading palaeoanthropologist with extensive knowledge of human evolution and the ancient human occupation of Britain.

 

Chris told me: 'I first remember meeting Jean at a human evolution conference in New York in 1984. I was able to spend more time with her when she co-sponsored another conference, in Santa Fe, in 1986. I have a lot of contact with the public through the talks I give and the enquiries I answer. Jean’s books regularly come up as having first inspired an interest in prehistory or as the source of an enquiry about some aspect of our evolutionary past.


'Palaeoanthropology is a fast-moving field, where new finds make us constantly update our ideas about ancient people like the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons who feature in Jean’s books. So I look forward to discussing with her how we both meet the challenges of these advances of knowledge in our research and writing about the past.'

 

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Jean Auel's publicist, Kerry Hood from Hodder, says: ‘I know that Jean is fantastically excited about coming to London to talk about the Earth’s Children series, and the last book. She is also really looking forward to renewing her very good acquaintance with Professor Stringer.’

 

After Jean and Chris converse, the audience will get the chance to ask questions. This is followed by an author signing session.

 

I've also just heard that the Gough's Cave human skull-cup replica will be on show at the event before it goes on public display in the Museum. Chris Stringer and the 14,700 human skull-cup discoveries have been receiving lots of recent media attention. So this is a rare treat for Jean Auel fans.

 


Find out about the Jean M Auel in Conversation event

 

Book tickets for Jean M Auel in Conversation - £10, starts at 19.30 on 28 February

 

Discover more about the human skull-cups and human evolution

 

Read the recent news story about the Earliest human skull-cups in the UK

About Earth's Children

For those of you may not know Jean Auel's Earth's Children, the series of historical novels traces the prehistoric adventures of Ayla, a young blue-eyed, blonde-haired Cro-Magnon (early human) orphan girl. In the first book, Ayla is adopted by a Neanderthal clan after a cataclysmic earthquake. The story is set in a harsh ice age landscape, about 30,000 years ago. In The Land of Painted Caves - the final forthcoming book -  Ayla is now a woman and a mother. With her young daughter Jonayla and loving mate Jondalar they face new challenges in the land of the Zelandonii.

 

Find out more about The Land of Painted Caves and the series and watch the official trailer for the new book


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They're all at it in this exhibition. But that's to be expected as Sexual Nature is a candid exploration of sex in the natural world.

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From bonobos to bunnies, guppies to gorillas, hedgehogs to hyenas and pheasants to penis bones, there is virtually no animal sexual practice, appendage or orientation that doesn't get a look in at this extraordinary science show. Plants and humans feature too, although the emphasis is on the animal kingdom. And the amusing antics of Isabella Rossellini impersonating animals having sex in her Green Porno film series are a real treat.

 

Today, 11 February, the exhibition opened its doors to the public after a hectic week of VIP events, media previews and press coverage and as I write our first visitors are now getting a taste of this sensuous and beautifully designed gallery experience. The heady mix of specimens, exhibits, films and facts is guartanteed to leave them buzzing by the end of their visit. I feel sure many will be coming back for more.

 

Before you visit, get a taste of the exhibition in our highlights slideshow on the website.

 

Glimpse Sexual Nature's highlights in our slideshow

 

Find out about Sexual Nature and how to book tickets

 

The exhibition contains frank information and imagery about sex, so it's best to look at the Parents sample content guide on the website first if you're considering bringing kids. A similar brochure is also available in the gallery.

 

You can visit Sexual  Nature in the evening at our After  Hours monthly events and if you want to take things further, there are sex talks and sexuality debates coming up too at After  Hours.

 

Read the news story about the Sexual Nature VIP event

 

Think you know a bit about animal sex lives? Test your knowledge on the BBC Surprises of animal sex quiz

 

In the meantime, enjoy the exhibition's launch week in pictures. Select the photos to enlarge them.

VIP event images

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Ronnie Wood capturing a moment of sex at the exhbiition entrance

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Gavin and Stacey's Matthew Horne with his back to the beetles...

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Newsreader Emily Maitlis, the lady in red

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Jameela Jamil in front of the descriptive panels that adorn the exhibition gallery walls

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Mr and Mrs Martin Clunes in front of the Red deer stag

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Museum director Mike Dixon gives his opening speech at the Sexual Nature VIP event

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Gavin and Claudine (our press officer) on the phones - you can listen to lonely heart ads and choose the one for you

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Ronnie Wood on his way out through the Sexual Nature shop with a copy of the pop-up Kama Sutra
Media preview

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Admiring the majestic Red deer stag specimen, a centrepiece of the exhibition

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Inside the gallery, on the right is the great Argus pheasant specimen

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Meeting Guy the gorilla

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Watching buffalos compete on one of the large video projections

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Inside the gallery, with the foxes mating display to the right

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At the final display area, listening to lonely hearts messages on the phones

 


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Just one week to go 'till our Sexual Nature exhibitions opens on 11 February. I popped in to the gallery this week to see how it's going and, despite many exhibits still waiting to be installed, the space looks incredible. I can see already that this exhibition has the wow factor.

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Of course, I can't give away much more yet, but the examples of dominant males, Guy the gorilla (below) and the beautiful Red deer stag (above), have definitely taken their pride of place. The three specially commissioned taxidermy mating displays of rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes were just arriving when I peeped in, and these are also bound to attract attention when it opens.

 

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You'll be hearing more about the exhibition in the press and media and on our website next week.

 

Watch this space for more images and behind the scenes.

 

Find out about the Sexual Nature exhibition

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.