May 24, 2023

EP. 321 — What Makes Gems So Precious? with Dr. Gabriela Farfan

We’re dripping in jewels this week on Getting Curious! What does it mean for a diamond to be “hard”? Are lab-grown gems made to perfection? What’s the difference between rubies and pink sapphires? Dr. Gabriela Farfan joins Jonathan to discuss the science and art behind the dazzling, multifaceted world of gems and minerals.


Dr. Gabriela Farfan is the Coralyn Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She began collecting minerals at a young age and turned her hobby into a career as a mineralogist, geochemist, and the first woman and Latina to become Curator-in-Charge of the National Gem Collection.


You can follow Dr. Farfan on Twitter @gabriela_farfan and on Instagram @the.mineralogist. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is on Twitter @nmnh and Instagram @smithsoniannmnh.


Curious for more? Check out these resources from Dr. Farfan:


What is a Mineral?

The AMNH’s “GeoGallery”

Hope Diamond

Whitney Flame Topaz

Dom Pedro Aquamarine

Chalk Emerald

Carmen Lucia Ruby

Lion of Merelani Tsavorite Garnet


And check out these episodes from the Getting Curious archive:


Does Groundwater Go With The Flow?

How Does Dust Impact Earth’s Climate?

How Major Are Volcanoes?


Follow us on Instagram @CuriousWithJVN to join the conversation. Jonathan is on Instagram @JVN.


Transcripts for each episode are available at


Find books from past Getting Curious guests at


Our executive producer is Erica Getto. Our producer is Chris McClure. Our editor is Andrew Carson. Production support from Julie Carrillo and Emily Bossak.


Our theme music is “Freak” by QUIÑ; for more, head to


Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness & Gabriela Farfan JVN [00:00:04] Welcome to Getting Curious, this is Jonathan Van Ness. I’m so excited about this episode because I wanted to learn about this for so long. I feel like ever since Queer Eye came out, like, once a year since 2018, I realized that, like, I can afford something that I never thought that I could. Like, the first year was, like, “Oh my gosh, I can have a house.” And then, like, 2021 was, like, “Oh my gosh, I can get jewels.” I never knew I could wear jewelry. Like, I thought I wasn’t a jewelry person. Next thing I know, I’m a fucking jewelry person. Like, I love jewels, I love a mineral. And it’s interesting because my first thing I ever collected was rocks. My favorites were geodes. So it really feels like this, like, return to this, like, childhood joy. Which leads us to our guest, Gabriela Farfan, who is the Coralyn W. Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian National

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