The lost art of carving: rare mineral and lapidary works of art highlight May auction in Los Angeles

Los Angeles–During its Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art sale, May 21 in Los Angeles, Bonhams will present one of the most comprehensive offerings of fine gemstone carvings to come to market in recent years. The property, from a private East Coast Collector, will feature examples of exotic animals, domestic pets, large cameos featuring Biblical and Grecian-inspired scenes and objet d'art. Many of these rare and unique pieces were created in the world-renowned carving centre of Idar-Oberstein, Germany.

Highlights include "The Merry Pig," a rock crystal quartz and Morganite Faberge-inspired egg-creation by Manfred Wild, Idar-Oberstein (est. $60,000-80,000); "Faun and Bacchantes," a three colour Agate cameo by Dieter Roth on an 18K gold base by Wild (est. $25,000-35,000); a Jasper carving of a standing lion by Christoph Schmidtt, Idar-Oberstein (est. $5,500-6,500); a black Obsidian carving of three monkeys inspired by the proverb "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," by Schmitt (est. $2,500-3,500); an Azur-Malachite carving of a frog by Eberhard Bank, Idar-Oberstein (est. $2,500-3,500); a grey Obsidian carving of a Persian cat by Wild (est. $3,500-4,500); a Labradorite carving of a duck by Manfred Gettman, Idar-Oberstein (est. $3,000-4,000) and a family of three chimpanzees with a baby on a Verdite branch by noted female carver Heidi Nilgis, Idar-Oberstein (est. $3,500-4,500). This is first time that Nilgis' work will be offered at a major public auction in the US.

According to Claudia Florian, Co-Consulting Director of Natural History at Bonhams, "Bonhams is the market leader in the field of gemstone carvings. We are honoured to feature this private collection in our May auction and look to continued success with lapidary works of art in all genres."

This Private East Coast Collection joins many other lapidary highlights in the May 21 Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art sale, as does the first carved ruby scale-model of a dragster to be featured at public auction. This unique vehicle is modelled after the famed Greer-Black-Prudhomme Dragster, which was raced by Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, built by Kent Fuller and tuned by Keith Black. Carved by designer Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio from solid panels of ruby, the model is detailed with Obsidian tyres, a gold vermeil engine and a polished rock crystal wind screen. The dragster measures approximately 60 centimetres in length and is estimated to bring $150,000-200,000. (Please see separate press release.)

Additional carved works of note include "This Skull is on Fire," a flawless rock crystal, gold vermeil and Obsidian creation also by Quispe Aparicio (est. $12,000-15,000) and "Lost Love," a gem aquamarine, diamond, platinum and 18K gold erotic sculpture by New York society jeweller Henry Dunay (est. $150,000 - 200,000).

Auctions of natural wonders will continue on May 22 with a magnificent array of highlights including an Tyrannosaurus rex maxilla with seven beautifully preserved teeth, Hell Creek Formation, Montana (est. $70,000–90,000); an exceptional fossil palm frond in limestone matrix framed in walnut (est. $40,000–50,000); a massive set of antlers and skull from a prehistoric deer known as an "Irish Elk" (est. $30,000–36,000) and an unusual fossil palm flower which displays like a piece of modern art (est. $25,000–35,000). (Please see separate press release.)

The illustrated auction catalogue for both of these May auctions will be available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at

Preview: May 17-21, Los Angeles
Auction: May 21 and 22, Los Angeles


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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