Bonhams Auction Rides Lightning As Rare Black Opals Lead Sales

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — Bonhams reported a stellar result for its gems, minerals and lapidary works of art and “The World of Opals, The Splendor of Gold” auctions December 10–11. The sales brought more than $2 million and featured exotic discoveries retrieved from mines, caves and excavations across the globe and included a large selection of gold nuggets from the collection of Margie and Robert E. Petersen.

Claudia Florian, Bonhams’ co-consulting director, natural history department, said of the sales, “There was competitive bidding on both days for natural wonders of all sorts. Distinctive mineral specimens, opals of all hues, gold nuggets, lapidary works of art and gemstones were the true highlights of the holiday natural history auctions at Bonhams.”

Leading the winter sales was an important and rare, classic black opal from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia, that attained $134,500, and like many of the lots in the sale, sold within estimate. This named example, known as “The Black Prince,” weighs more than 60 carats and boasts a rich floral pattern on the surface that is dominated by red and splashes of orange, yellow, green and electric blue.

Additional black opals of note from Lightning Ridge, Australia, included a nearly 10-carat cabochon for $76,900; a carved example titled “The Eagle’s Head” at $68,500 and a double-sided crystal specimen for $56,250.

Other sale highlights included a rare, large and unheated purple-pink sapphire that brought $116,500; a very large 25.31-troy-ounce gold nugget for $68,500 from the collection of Margie and Robert E. Petersen; a comprehensive collection of 162 rough diamond crystals from world localities totaling an approximate 530 carats that achieved $50,000 and a large Potosi silver bar from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha shipwreck, dated 1622, that went out at $50,000.

According to Florian, “Recovered in 1985, the Atocha is one of the most famous treasure ships ever to be salvaged. Bonhams was pleased to offer this amazing example of a class 1 silver bar.”

Important lapidary works of art included a ruby, diamond and gold illuminated box with star ruby finial by Manfred Wild, Idar-Oberstein, Germany, that realized $64,900; an illuminated ruby, emerald, sapphire and gold flower study titled “Bleeding Hearts” by Wild, selling for $62,500; and a white crystal opal, rhodochrosite and gold flower study titled “UME,” of a Japanese plum flower by Wild at $60,000.

Also crossing the block were a tiger iron matrix, jasper and kascholong opal intarsia backgammon set carved by Konstantin Libman that trumped its $9/11,000 estimate to sell for $60,000 and a carved Russian emerald carved in the shape of a falcon perched upon a pillar of chalcedony and a base of natural black onyx that sold well above estimate at $52,500.

All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.

For additional information, or 323-850-7500.

A rare and large purple-pink sapphire from Sri Lanka, weighing approximately 28.98 carats, achieved $116,500.

A ruby, diamond and gold illuminated box with star ruby finial by Manfred Wild, Idar-Oberstein, Germany, fetched $64,900.

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