Los Angeles - The highly anticipated Bonhams auctions of Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art and The World of Opals will take place on Dec 10th in Los Angeles.

Rare finds featured in the Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art auction include a lustrous 18.88 carats pear-shaped emerald, discovered in a mine 12 feet (3.7m) below ground at Hiddenite, North Carolina in 1998. Famously known as the "Carolina Queen," this exotic gemstone was one of two cut from a giant, 88-carat rough emerald. The smaller stone of 7.0 carats was sold privately shortly after the time of discovery for a reported $500,000. Bonhams is offering the present gem of 18.88 carats for an estimate of $350,000-450,000. Experts say that emeralds of this highest quality, having a rich saturation of green, are usually found in the famed mines of either Muzo or Chivor, Colombia. It is an extremely rare case that such a stone had been discovered in North America. At the time of its discovery, the Director of The American Gemological Laboratories, Cap Beesley, stated that the "Carolina Queen" is "by far the largest, finest and most significant emerald ever found on the American continent." The Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art auction offers selections from over 400 lots of un-mounted gemstones, exotic gemstone jewelry, mineral specimens and fine gemstone carvings with a particular emphasis on top quality works produced by German masters.

The brightest attraction of The World of Opals auction also to be held on December 10 in Los Angeles is the largest recorded fine black opal nodule (known as a "nobby" in the opal trade (est. $450,000-650,000). Appropriately named "Halley's Comet" after its discovery at the same time that the comet appeared in the Australian sky in November 1986, this gem weighs a hefty 1,982.5 carats and measures the size of a clenched fist. It has also been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records and has been showcased in the Australian Mineral Museum in Sydney.

Found by five opal miners known as the "Lunatic Hill Syndicate," "Halley's Comet" was discovered in Lightning Ridge, Australia, known as the "Black Opal Capital of the World." It was excavated from a depth of approximately 66 feet (20m) through a mine shaft located on the top of a hill in an open cut mine the size of a football field. This unique gemstone is the largest specimen of its type ever found in this region, and in the intervening years it has become known internationally as one of the finest quality black opals in existence, exhibiting a thick, black gem-grade opal color bar measuring approximately 1 inch (25mm) wide. Not only notable for its size, the specimen presents a floral harlequin pattern of gem-quality green, blue-violet and yellow hues. According to popular consensus, it is the largest black opal to be offered at public auction, and Bonhams is delighted to showcase its beauty to buyers.

Specialist and gemologist at Bonhams, Claudia Florian says, "Bonhams' Natural History Department has sold a number of notable opals in recent years such as "The Flame Queen," "The Prince" and the "Stardust" opal, however, "Halley's Comet" is in a unique category of its own. As opal is Australia's national gemstone, it represents an era of opal mining history in Australia and the romantic allure of the dangerous challenges that miner's face in excavating these treasures from the Outback soil. "Halley's Comet" is a trophy specimen worthy of consideration by the most serious opal collector and should be preserved as an example of Australian national patrimony."

The World of Opals auction consists of 175 lots gathered from around the world from an international client base and will take place at Bonhams Los Angeles sale room at 3pm, after the Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art auction which starts at 10am. This dedicated niche auction will exclusively feature opals of the highest quality and includes other highlights such as an impressive black opal and diamond pendant by famed New York jewelry designer David Webb (est. $120,000-150,000).

Public viewings start on Friday, December 6 to Monday, December 9 from 12-5pm at the Bonhams Los Angeles sale room. For more information on the auctions, please visit www.bonhams.com/naturalhistory.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

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 www.bonhams.com