Late 19th-Century Illustrations of Gems and Precious Stones

Who loves rocks and minerals? Free scientific illustrations of rocks and minerals

I most certainly do ūüôā

Recently, I went to the latest gems and minerals show held at the New York State Museum. It was awesome.

And a few years ago I was lucky enough to attend the rocks and minerals show in Tuscan, Arizona, the largest of its kind in the United States. That was an awesome show too, as I came away with some great mini trilobites at a fraction of the price.

Tip: vendors ALWAYS discount on the last day!

Anyways, I’m getting off track. I clearly had rocks and minerals on the brain, so I went searching through 19th-century mineralogy books and found some wonderful illustrations for you to use and share.

These are my favorite illustrations from the book, Gems and Precious Stones of North America. But you can view the entire book here where you’ll find more images too.

Antique rocks and minerals illustrations


Who Wrote This Book Anyway?

The vintage book, Gems and Precious Stones of North America, was written and illustrated by the 19th-century mineralogist, George Frederick Kunz.

Kunz was born in 1856 in New York City and harbored a love for rocks and minerals from an early age.

In fact, by the time he was a teenager, Kunz had collected thousands of specimens and sold them to the University of Minnesota.

Though a working mineralogist and collector, Kunz never went to college to pursue a degree in the field. Instead, he taught himself through his own field research and whatever mineralogy books he could find.

By 23, Kunz was already vice president of Tiffany & Co.

During his tenure with Tiffany & Co., Kunz discovered a new gem which was aptly named, Kunzite.

Kunz founded the Museums of the Peaceful Arts, was president of the American Metric Association, and was a lead research curator for the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

vintage illustrations of precious stones and gems

Shop For Rocks & Mineral Gifts

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Vintage Book Illustrations of British Mammals

Free to use vintage book illustration of British Fox Free vintage book illustration of British Squirrel

I think it’s time to add more animals to this site, don’t you think?

Good because I found this awesome antique book packed with British mammal illustrations from the early 20th century!

Published in 1920, British Mammals features more than 50 color plates and pen ink illustrations of Britain’s most recognized mammals.

I picked out my personal favorites, a walrus, fox, hedgehog, squirrel, and wildcat, then made a few quick edits using Pixlr.

These illustrations are perfect for magnets, postcards, coffee mugs, school flashcards, posters, and images for your blog.

Keep reading to learn more about the book’s illustrator, Archibald Thorburn.

Free antique illustration of a British Hedgehog Antique book illustration of British wildcat - free to use

An antique book illustration of a British Walrus

About The Artist: Archibald Thorburn

  • Archibald Thorburn was born in 1860 in Hascombe, Surrey in the UK.
  • He was of Scottish descent and frequently visited Scotland to paint its floral and fauna.
  • His favorite place in Scotland to paint was the Forest of Gaick.
  • Archibald’s father, Robert Thorburn, was a miniature portrait artist and worked for Queen Victoria.
  • His work was frequently shown at the Royal Academy.
  • He regularly painted birds, and in 1899, he created the first official Christmas Card for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Antique Scientific Illustrations of Shells

Free antique scientific illustration of shell variety from 18th century science catalogI used to live by the beach and almost always came back home with pockets full of colorful shells. I miss those days, so I decided to dig around the public domain for some really great shell illustrations to clean up and share.

There are beautiful scientific illustrations of shells hiding out in dusty science publications from the 18th and 19th century. With so many to choose from, I selected a few of my most favorite illustrations for this post. These shells were selected from a variety of publications and catalogs focused on natural history and conchology, which is the study of mollusk shells.

Scientific illustrations are some of the most versatile works in the public domain. They make great material for school projects, crafts, classroom visual aids, posters, educational websites, blogs, and books, but they’re also handy for crafting DIY greeting cards, decoupage, wall art, and many more creative projects.

Antique Scientific Illustrations of Early Electronic Medical Equipment

This is a free vintage scientific illustration of a medical galvanometerAn early fascination with antique scientific illustrations helped inspire me to get into digital curation and archiving. These historic illustrations offer us a fascinating look into how science and medicine were practiced and understood in the 19th century. So much has changed, and it’s exciting to look back at how far science and medicine has evolved since the mid-1800s.

These particular antique images represent the early electronic machines and equipment used in hospitals in the 1860s. Selected from a medical equipment catalog published in 1868, the following scientific illustrations feature an old fashioned galvanometer, single-coil medical instruments, compound magnetic instruments, and magneto-electric machines.

So what they heck are these?

Apparently Galvanometers were used to detect electrical currents. This machine featured a single-coil construction, and when an electric current passed through the coil, it would trigger the pointer to move. Doctors would also use compound magnetic instruments to treat conditions related to the nervous system too.

Today, these vintage medical illustrations reside in the public domain and can be used for a wide variety of creative projects. Add them to your blog, email newsletters, online history lessons, and social media posts, or create unique invitations, greeting cards, and other printed products.


Geektastic Gifts Featuring Scientific Medical Illustrations


Human Anatomy Skeletons by Leondardo da Vinci 20 Oz Large Ceramic Coffee Mug    Vintage 1800s Heart Retro Cardiac Anatomy Hearts Adult Apron   antique medical instruments greeting card

Free Vintage Scientific Illustrations from 1883 Antique Science Journal

Every year, I see more and more homemade gifts and Christmas decor made from vintage scientific illustrations. Antique sketches of microscopes, fossils, canyons, and minerals are great for a wide range of gifts, like greeting cards, ornaments, fine art collages, wall art, book covers, printed fabric, and homemade books. I went to one of my favorite public domain archives to search for more amazing vintage scientific illustrations to share. I came across a science journal from 1883 (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and it was jam-packed with intriguing engineering sketches of the time and beautiful nature drawings. I was particularly drawn the hot air balloon illustrations and trilobites! These 19th century illustrations give us a unique look into the ideas and inventions of the time. These prints are exciting because they were published less than 20 years before the start of the great industrial revolution.

Craft Ideas for Scientific Illustrations

Vintage scientific illustrations can be used in a variety of creative ways, making them an ideal crafting material for birthdays, holidays, and interior decorating. Furthermore, they’re appropriate for a wide range of ages and interests. Perfect for med school birthdays, science geek gifts, and Etsy products, these public domain science illustrations go a long way. To stay inspired, copy and share this list of craft ideas to start making cool geek inspired gifts today!

  • Create your own science-themed printed playing cards
  • Make cool greeting cards for Halloween
  • Make a popular science-themed t shirts
  • Science themed birthday cards
  • Disposable paper placemats
  • DIY Journal Covers
  • Digital Collages
  • Printed Couch Pillows
  • Earrings and resin pendants
  • Glass paperweights
  • Geeky Christmas tree ornaments

Vintage Owl Illustrations in the Public Domain

People are crazy for owls (well, I am).  For a second there, I thought hedgehogs were going to take over indefinitely in the gift shop world.  But alas, vintage owls are still the kings of antique inspired stationery, gifts, and vintage inspired art.  The turn of the century brought a fantastic collection of scientific owl illustrations, postcards, and more unique Victorian era greetings.  Many of these vintage images have been immortalized in postcards, canvas prints, stationery, notebooks, and even jewelry.

Did You Know?

That the owl symbolizes intuition, and the “ability to see what others cannot see.”. ¬†The owl also symbolizes wisdom, change, and a messenger or ‘announcer’ of death. ¬†If you want to read more about this stuff, check out this article on spirit animals.

Owls can turn their head 270 degrees due mostly in part to having 14 vertebrae.

Owls are actually more closely related to hummingbirds

Cannibalism has been seen in owls

Owls don’t have eye balls, but rather fixed tubes that prevent owls from moving and rolling their eyes.


It’s Back to School! FREE Vintage Public Domain Illustrations of School Related Subjects

I almost forgot it was back to school season! ¬†A lot has been going on oddly enough. ¬†I just got finished moving across country to my new home in North Carolina, started working on Free Digital Pics, a new site featuring my own photography that’s FREE to use for both personal and commercial work (whoo-hoo! More free stuff), and I’m filling out job applications like the dickens.

A few months back I had done a school related post, so this time around I went on the look out for even more unique, and even bizarre, vintage illustrations in the public domain.  These images would make awesome DIY cards for college students, Anatomy and Science students, science and history instructors, science and history buffs, and teens who also love history, science, and vintage art.

Need Back to School Crafting Inspiration?

Back to school season is the time for making stuff people can USE!  Your decoupage supplies with come very in handy for making old supplies new again, like pencil boxes, pencil cups, desk mats, coasters, binders, and dorm room decor.  Here are few easy to do craft ideas you can do today!

  • Laminate old vintage maps to create cool place mats, desk mats and school decor for the classroom and even a college dorm.
  • Cut out and laminate circles of your favorite school house images to make sweet coasters for school morning beverages, like hot chocolate and orange juice.
  • Go vintage with your school decor this year! ¬†Simply print out your favorite free vintage illustrations on photo quality paper and insert into the clear cover flap of last year’s binder to make it cool again. ¬†You could also splatter your image with cool iridescent nail polish, glitter, or watered-down acrylic paint to make it a little more cool and funky.
  • Paint over and decoupage those old pencil boxes and supply cups with unique vintage images to give them a little more style.