Standing majestically at nearly 11 feet tall and weighing the same as a Cadillac Escalade, The Empress of Uruguay is billed as the world's largest amethyst geode.
The exposed interior radiates with tens of thousands of deep purple, gem-quality amethyst crystals and is the top attraction at the Crystal Caves Museum in Atherton, Australia.
Amethyst is the official birthstone for February babies, and there is no example of the gem more impressive than this 5,500-pound geode.
The Empress of Uruguay was discovered in the Artigas region in northern Uruguay, a mining area famous for yielding some of the world's finest-quality amethysts.
Crystal Caves Museum founders René and Nelleke Boissevain purchased the geode for $75,000 in 2007 and paid an additional $25,000 to transport it to Queensland on Australia's northeastern coast.
Moving a massive geode 9,100 miles across land and sea was no easy task. The Empress of Uruguay had to be packed into a custom crate at the mine in Uruguay and then secured in a steel container for its sea voyage from Brazil to Brisbane.
Two large cranes were used to place the geode in its current position in the Empress Room at the Crystal Caves Museum.
Visitors are encouraged to touch, feel and take photographs of The Empress of Uruguay. Often they can hardly believe the geode is real and wonder if the seemingly perfect crystals have been enhanced or altered in any way. The answer is that they are completely natural.
The museum's Q&A page on its official website explains that the original geode traveled to Queensland completely intact. A section of the face was carefully removed to reveal the beautiful crystal structure inside. In addition, the museum staff smoothed some rough exposed edges and added a coat of black paint to the back of the geode, presumably to keep light from coming through.
The museum has reportedly received offers to buy The Empress of Uruguay for as much as 250,000 Australian dollars (about $190,000), but the geode is not for sale.
The Crystal Caves Museum is located just an hour from the Cairns International Airport on the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. The Empress of Uruguay is the largest of a spectacular mineralogical collection that includes more than 600 specimens.
Credits: Images via www.crystalcaves.com.au. Map by Googlemaps.com.