The Houston Museum of Natural Science Presents Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt
The Houston Museum of Natural Science Presents Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt

For thousands of years, man has enjoyed the art of stone carving. Five thousand years ago, the Chinese began carving jade into mythical animals, and later the tradition of stone carving was carried on by the Greeks, Romans, and other cultures inEurope.

More recently, the fine art of stone carving is being quietly carried out by one individual here in the U.S.-Harold Van Pelt. On October 28, the Houston Museum of Natural Science presents the premiere exhibition of his life's work in Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt . The exhibit is on view through Spring 2012.

Van Pelt and his wife Erica are widely considered the finest gem photographers in the world today, yet few people realize that Van Pelt has been pursuing another art, the art of stone carving, for almost 40 years. Gemstone Carvings is the first time that anyone has ever had the opportunity to see the full body of his work in one place.

Most of Van Pelt's work is done in quartz, or rock crystal, or agate, a banded variety of quartz-the same materials used by gem carvers since ancient times due to its beauty, durability, and availability. Hundreds of hours go into working the stone down to 3 mm.-thin walls, bringing out the gorgeous natural quality and colors of the agate and giving quartz the transparency of glass. Many of his pieces are accented with gold or semi-precious stones as well.

Gemstone Carvings includes several noteworthy pieces, including Van Pelt's hollow, life-sized, carved quartz skull, containing two articulated pieces with a jaw hinge that opens and closes. What makes this skull one-of-a-kind is that Van Pelt spent additional months to hollow it out by carefully removing the material underneath. The original crystal, containing rare Izoklakeite inclusions, weighed over 250 lbs. The block of quartz with Izoklakeite inclusions that Van Pelt cut from the original crystal weighed 52 lbs. The finished skull now weighs just 6.5 lbs. Another fascinating piece in the exhibition is a faceted egg-different from all others because it is also hollow and the walls are paper thin.

" Gemstone Carvings features numerous elaborate masterpieces carved primarily from flawless pieces of natural rock crystal quartz," saidJoel Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "This combination-masterworks of unrivaled beauty complemented by the natural crystals from which they were made-broadens the appeal of the collection to the lay-person and connoisseur alike."

Transformed by one man's vision and skill from a solid stone to an incredibly delicate work of art, the gemstone carvings of Harold Van Pelt have to be seen to be believed.

Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt will be on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in the new Fondren Gallery located on the main floor of the museum's exhibit halls, from October 28, 2011 through Spring 2012. This exhibition is included in admission to the Museum's permanent exhibition halls. For more information, visit the museum's web site at

 This exhibit is organized by the Bowers Museum with Erica and Harold Van Pelt.

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