Showcasing rocks and minerals takes a sophisticated design, and not one that can just be plucked off the store shelves. These specimens are often extremely valuable, but they will not look like it if they are set with cheap fixtures. And collectors want to show them off to impress, to show others the beauty they see in the pieces they’ve collected. The only way to ensure this is to set up a display that is customized to the collection. To get there, a collector needs two things – the right set of fixtures, and a trusted designer that can position them properly.
What is the lighting theory behind showcasing rocks and minerals?
Geological samples, at least those that are prominently exhibited, often have reflective or translucent surfaces that play well with light. Gems, for example, are multifaceted and permit a high degree of light transmission, so they can look quite brilliant with well-positioned fixtures. Some stones look better under diffused light, but these tend to be darker or opaque, like agate. In general, designers will often use halogen lights that offer flexible positioning and aiming options, as these fixtures can work with just about any display. LED sources are now becoming popular as an alternative to halogen lighting. LED light sources produce very little heat and are perfect for displays inside cabinets, or areas where the ventilation is poor.
Exactly what fixtures to use will also depend on where the specimens will be displayed. If the samples are to be placed in a wooden cabinet with wooden shelves, fixtures placed on the underside of each shelf and hidden behind a piece of trim are the best approach. In cabinetry that includes glass shelving, vertical mount fixtures, or fixtures placed at the very top of the cabinet can produce a brilliant amount of light without overloading the space with fixtures. If the collection is to be displayed on standalone shelving or on pedestals, fixtures placed along the base of the display can provide a dramatic look. Alternatively, a collector may choose overhead fixtures like track lights or an optical framing projector.
Regardless, when showcasing rocks and minerals, light positioning is key, with color temperature a secondary priority. Every fixture, if focused and aimed properly, will create a single point of light on the piece, giving it that familiar sparkle that people are used to in jewelry stores or catalogues. Setting up several lights around the subject will give the subject a glow that shines from all angles. However, this has to be done just right, or there will be too much light, or the light will affect other display subjects. Halogen light is almost always the choice when showcasing rocks and minerals, as it can be focused and shaped easily, and because it renders color well. It does produce heat, though, so make sure an expert is on hand if there are heat-sensitive specimens present. Some fixtures can be placed several feet away and preserve their effectiveness, and this will ensure heat does not become an issue.
Collectors may dedicate entire rooms to their prized specimens, and as a collection grows, the need for a sophisticated lighting system will only grow. So if a collector plans on showcasing many rocks and minerals, they will get the most out of their collection if they team up with an experienced lighting designer to set the system up. Lighting designers are used to working with such displays, and know exactly how to approach a project.