- a unique descriptor (e.g., specimen number),
- an accompanying label,
- a permanent record,
- and safe, accessible storage.
Typically, this is a unique number assigned to the specimen. It may also be an alphanumeric character string, a bar code, etc.; but a symbol that requires a sophisticated scanner to read assumes that scanning system will be available for the useful life of the specimen (which may be centuries).
For minerals, this number is usually affixed to the specimens, either by writing or painting it on the specimen, or by attaching a printed label with permanent glue.
For loose gemstones, typically each gemstone has its own box, and a label with the descriptor is affixed to the box. As the label is not physically attached to the stone, it helps to include the gemstone weight on its label as a quick (but not exact) check for its identity.
Every record for this specimen should include the descriptor. Descriptor should not be used for more than one specimen (except in the case of bulk samples, where each bulk sample needs a unique descriptor, and individual grains in the sample only need separate descriptors when they are separated out for some purpose, like research or display). Descriptors should never be reused, since even if a specimen is destroyed, lost, or traded away, its records should remain with the collection.
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