Creating an Effective Display Case for Exhibitions

Dee and Russ Cable of Abilene, Texas, have learned through trial and error how to create effective display cases for gem and mineral shows. 

We all know the beauty of a highly polished sphere, but when you display these spheres at a gem and mineral show the spectators can't enjoy the wonder of how a sphere feels in your hand. The exhibitor must rely upon eye appeal to help others enjoy the beauty of gemstone spheres. Most exhibitors use glass-fronted display cases. By following a few simple steps you will soon have a sphere exhibit worthy of the Smithsonian.

 First Step

The first step is to cut liner-boards of fairly heavy cardboard for each side, the back and the bottom of the case. Make sure that the cardboard does not have lettering that will later show through the fabric lining. Allow for a slightly loose fit with your liner-boards, since the fabric covering which will be applied later will make them tighter. Cut the back first, then the two sides and finally the bottom.

The next step is to measure these pieces so you will know how much fabric lining you will need. Fabric choice is a matter of personal preference, but I can tell you from experience what not to choose. Velvet is a no-no. Any heavy objects placed in it will cause permanent marks, and you may want to arrange your spheres differently for another show. A medium weight fabric with a slight two way stretch works best. If your fabric is stiff or heavy, it is hard to form neat corners. My favorite liner is a soft beige psuedo-ultra suede that I found on a remnant table. I prefer neutral colors or black as liners, but color choice depends on the color range of your spheres. Always buy extra fabric to cover risers and display steps.

You will need a large work area to cover your liner-boards with fabric. Lay the cloth good side down and lay a piece of your cardboard on top. Cut the fabric leaving a two or three inch border to turn back.

Glue Gun

An electric glue gun works well for gluing the fabric to the cardboard. Starting at one edge turn the fabric back and glue it in place. Do the opposite side next so that you can stretch the fabric tight. Itís good to have two people at this point. Then do the side edges in the same way. If your side pieces are slanted make sure that you have them turned right or you will end up with two right or two left sides. When all four liner-boards are covered with fabric and ready for the case, put the back in first, then the sides, and finally the floor. The bottom piece will generally hold the others in place, but at times you may need to put a donut of duct tape behind at the top edges to hold the boards tight.


Now that your case is beautifully lined you want to plan your display. For spheres I like to use a riser across the back of the case. Use a piece of Styrofoam the same width as the case. Cut a piece of cardboard or poster board to fit the top of the riser. This will prevent the weight of the spheres from making indentations in your riser. Don't use the glue gun on the Styrofoam as it will melt and make a lumpy mess. To cover your riser lay your fabric right side down and pin the fabric to the riser using straight pins. Put your pins in on the bottom and they will never show. Wrap your corners like you were doing a neat gift wrap. Itís easier than it sounds. I also use the left- over fabric to cover circles, half circles and triangles of Styrofoam to give me more flexibility in my displays. We find that brass candlesticks and brass napkin rings make nice display stands. Always buy in pairs to help balance the case. It is much easier to place the empty display stands in the case first and then choose the spheres in appropriate sizes to balance the case in terms of both size and color. I lay the spheres out in rows according to size in a nearby area so the choices are easier. This way works best for me, but you may find a better way.

My husband has enjoyed making spheres more than any other lapidary project he has undertaken. I hope that these hints on displaying your spheres help in sharing this beauty with others.