See what gemstones look like before the jewellers get their hands on them at London's Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7. "Earth's Treasury" (Earth Gallery number 64), features 6,000 specimens, including many precious gemstones and the spectacular Latrobe gold crystal. "Minerals" (Life Gallery number 102) is a display of more than 3,000 minerals according to chemical composition and structure, and includes gemstones cut and polished to reveal their beauty. For details tel: 0171 938 9090 or visit the website on www.nhm.ac.uk
The medieval Langdale Rosary, the Armada Jewel (Elizabeth I's gift to her courtier Heneage), a set of diamond dress ornaments from 18th-century Russia and the Beauharnais Emeralds, given by Napoleon I to his step-daughter, are among the 4,000 exhibits in the Jewellery Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7 (Rooms 91-93). Sections range from the Ancient World, the Early Middle Ages and Pre-Columbian America to the present day. In Room 102 there are displays of costume jewellery and traditional jewellery from many European countries. The Vamp;A also houses the national collection of English silver and 45,000 examples of decorative metalwork. A free booklet, Jewellery and Adornment is available. Tel: 0171 942 2648; website: www.vam.ac.uk
The British Museum, London WC1, has an unrivalled collection of ancient jewellery (tel: 0171 636 1555; website: www. british-museum.ac.uk), and there are good displays in these regional museums: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (tel: 0121 303 2834), Cleveland Craft Centre, Middlesbrough (tel: 01642 226351), Leeds City Art Gallery (tel: 0113 2478248); Holburn Museum, Bath (tel: 01225 466669), Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham (tel: 0121 440 3838), National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (tel: 01222 397951), Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (tel: 0131 225 7534), Shipley Arts Gallery, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear (tel: 0191 477 1495) and Ulster Museum, Belfast (tel: 01232 383000).
A posh frock needs to be set off by stylish accessories, including fabulous jewels, as demonstrated by some of the women featured in Women of Style, an exhibition at the Museum of Costume, Bath, until November 2000. Take the Ranee of Pudukkottai, born plain Molly Fink in Hobart, Tasmania. Having married one of India's wealthiest prince-lings, she held court in Cannes in the 1920s and would send little parcels of diamonds to her Paris shoemaker to incorporate in his designs. Tel: 01225 477789 or visit the website at: www.museumofcostume.co.uk
The Inspirational Bug: Insects in Art and Design at the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton, until September 19. Exhibits include couture pieces from Milan and London, jewellery and oriental prints and porcelain. Related summer activites for children include the chance to make colourful metal insects, on August 10 and 17, 2-4pm, pound;2.50 in advance. Tel: 01273 292777.
Children aged four and upwards can create headpieces using wire and beads at The Hove Museum and Art Gallery, East Sussex, on August 10, 10.15-11.45am and 1-2.30pm, pound;2.50 in advance. The museum houses an impressive jewellery collection. Tel: 0171 709 0765 The Crown Jewels, in Waterloo Barracks at the Tower of London where they have been kept since the 1300s, are one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. Either get there early to avoid the horrendous queues, or visit Her Majesty's website at www.royal.gov.uk to look at photos of the jewels and discover their history.
The Goldsmiths' Company's current exhibition, Treasures of the 20th century, runs at Goldsmiths' Hall, Foster Lane, London EC2 until July 21, 2000, and The Goldsmiths' Fair runs from October 4-10. For details and information about jewellery courses held throughout the UK, tel: 0171 606 7010.
You don't need to go to Istanbul to see the famous jewel-encrusted Topkapi dagger fashioned in 1746, the Spoonmaker's Diamond, a golden cradle from the 16th century and various magnificent thrones embellished with gold, precious stones and enamel. These and many other exhibits from the Imperial Treasury can be viewed in all their glory at The Topkapi Palace Museum site at www.ee.bilkent. edu.trhistory topkapi.html
It would take around 11 years to see all the exhibits in The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. You can, however, view a limited selection of its treasures online at www.hermitagemuseum.org. In the Golden Rooms, for example, is a stunning exhibition, "The Jewellery Art of the East and South America", featuring gold, silverware and gems fashioned into fascinating pieces of jewellery by Russian, European and Oriental artists and craftsmen from the 16th to 18th centuries.
To build up links with local schools and free up space in its premises for the UK's first professional stone cutting and design school, Holts Purveyors of Fine Gems is giving away hundreds of dazzling gemstones to 20 secondary, three special needs and two primary schools. This joint project with the London Jewellery Quarter Network will provide training for 75 students from local businesses. Details from Holts, 98 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8NX, tel: 0171 405 5286; website: www.holtandco.demon.co.uk