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George F. Kunz Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: JJ
Date: circa 1967

Biographical History

George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932) was an American mineralogist and gemologist. He was Vice-President of Tiffany's, member and officer of numerous scientific societies, and author of books and articles on gems.

Kunz was born in New York City on September 29, 1856 and attended Cooper Union schools, though he did not graduate. He continued to educate himself through reading and field work and landed a position with Tiffany & Co., the American jewelry and silverware company, eventually rising to Vice President of the company at the age of only 23. He also led the development of the US mining and mineralogical exhibits at the international expositions in Paris (1889 and 1900), Chicago (1893), Atlanta (1895), and St. Louis (1904).

Kunz wrote numerous books and articles on precious stones, gems and jewelry (the Gemological Institute's recent Kunz bibliography runs to 26 pages), including a series entitled Natal Stones, Sentiments, and Superstitions connected with Precious Stones, printed each year to be given as gifts to customers of Tiffany & Co. Many of Kunz's books are now in the public domain and available online.

Kunz was the founder and president of the Museum of the Peaceful Arts in 1913, a special agent for the US Geological Survey (1883–1909), a research curator at the Museum of Natural History in New York City and assembler of its Morgan-Tiffany gem collection, and an important force behind the establishment of the international carat as a unit of measure for precious gems. He was a member and/or officer of many science-related New York clubs including the Circumnavigators Club, Mineral Club, Academy of Science, Bird and Tree Club, Institute of Mining Engineers, and the American Metric Association. Social or fraternal organizations to which he belonged include the American Scenic and Historic Society for Preservation, New York Society Order of Founders, Patriots of America, and the Empire State Society of Sons of the American Revolution.

Kunz received several honorary degrees, including an MA from Columbia (1898), PhD from the University of Marbury (1903), and D. Sc. from Knox (1907). He was an officer of the Legion of Honor, Knight Order of St. Olaf, The Rising Sun, and an Officer d'Instruction Publique. He also had an honorary membership in the Chambre Syndicale Pierres Precieuses.

In 1879 he married Sophie Henforth, with whom he had two children; after her death in 1912 he married Opal Logan Gibson.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George F. Kunz Papers includes letters, memos, telegrams, invitations, newspaper clippings, announcements and photographs.

Arrangement of the Collection

Folders are in no particular order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Kunz, George Frederick, 1856-1932.


Mineralogists -- United States.
Scientists -- United States.
Upper class -- United States.


United States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George F. Kunz Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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