The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is pleased to host and display a rare carving by Vasily Konovalenko. The collection of Konovalenko’s whimsical gem carvings on display at the Museum are a favorite among visitors. For a limited time, the Museum is exhibiting Martin Luther King in Sapphire, a highly unusual sculpture that further makes the case that Konovalenko was one of the best gem carvers the world has known.
Carved in 1984, Martin Luther King in Sapphire is a regal rendition of the great civil rights leader’s bust carved into a 4,180-carat black sapphire, the largest such stone known. This carving is particularly extraordinary because it is the only instance in which Konovalenko carved the image of a real person in a gemstone, and the likeness was rendered from a single piece of sapphire, a variety of the mineral corundum that is second only to diamond in hardness.
Martin Luther King in Sapphire is on loan to the Museum from Kazanjian Brothers, a jewelry dealership in Beverly Hills, California. The Konovalenko Project, the Museum’s ongoing effort to systematically photograph and publish all of artist’s sculptures, continues. Stephen Nash, the Museum’s curator of archaeology, and Rick Wicker, Museum photographer, will soon return to Europe for the project, this time to Moscow to photograph and document nearly two dozen sculptures held in museum and private collections there.
Martin Luther King in Sapphire is on display in the Konovalenko gallery on Level 3 of the Museum.