Light of the Desert

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Angled view of the Light of the Desert.

The Light of the Desert is a cerussite gem in the Royal Ontario Museum's collection. It is the world’s largest faceted example of cerussite.[1] The word “cerussite” comes from the Latin meaning “white lead”; the mineral is a lead carbonate with the chemical formula of PbCO3.[2] The raw cerussite was discovered in Tsumeb in northern Namibia and acquired by a gem cutter from Arizona who then cut the raw material into the gem on display. The cutting and transport of this gem is a delicate business as cerussite is extremely fragile and sensitive to changes in temperature changes and vibration. After it was cut in Arizona the gem was placed in a box, then wrapped in a large woolen scarf and a winter vest, and then hand transported to Toronto for display.[3] Cerussite is too fragile to ever be set in jewelry.

Side view of the Light of the Desert at the Royal Ontario Museum

Cerussite is known for its dispersion (or fire). Dispersion is the amount of light a gem will pass through the color spectrum. Many gem collectors love cerussite because of its ability to clearly prism light into the different colors of the light spectrum.

The "Light of the Desert" at the Royal Ontario Museum, showing the intense color spectrum.


  1. ^ Jewel Envy. (2012). Cerussite [1]. (retrieved October 2013)
  2. ^ Cerussite. [2]. The Free Dictionary. (retrieved October 2013)
  3. ^ Tait, Kim. (2009). Iconic: Light of the Desert [3]. Royal Ontario Museum. (retrieved October 2013)