Rare black opals from Lightning Ridge, Australia lead December auction at Bonhams in Los Angeles

Gems, Minerals and Lapidary Works of Art
10 Dec 2012
Los Angeles

Los Angeles – International auctioneers, Bonhams, is pleased to announce a stellar result for its Gems, Minerals & Lapidary Works of Art and "The World of Opals, The Splendour of Gold" auctions on December 10 and 11 in Los Angeles. The December 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 & Robert E. Petersen.

Claudia Florian, Co-Consulting Director, Natural History, 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. This stunning named example, known as "The Black Prince," weighs more than 60 carats and boasts a rich and unique floral pattern on the surface that is dominated by red and splashes of orange, yellow, green and electric blue (pre-auction estimate $120,000-150,000, sold for $134,500).

Additional black opals of note from Lightning Ridge, Australia included a nearly 10 carat cabochon (pre-auction estimate $55,000-75,000, sold for $76,900); a carved example titled "The Eagle's Head" (pre-auction estimate $60,000-80,000, sold for $68,500) and a stunning, double-sided crystal specimen (pre-auction estimate $50,000-70,000, sold for $56,250).

Highlights from the two-day sale also included a rare, large and unheated purple-pink sapphire (pre-auction estimate $100,000-150,000, sold for $116,500); a very large 25.31 ozt gold nugget (pre-auction estimate $50,000-60,000, sold for $68,500) from the Collection of Margie & Robert E. Petersen; a comprehensive collection of 162 rough diamond crystals from world localities totaling an approximate 530.0 carats (pre-auction estimate $50,000-70,000, sold for $50,000) and a large Potosi Silver Bar from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha Shipwreck, dated 1622 (pre-auction estimate $45,000-55,000, sold for $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 in December."

Important lapidary works of art included a ruby, diamond and gold illuminated box with star ruby finial by Manfred Wild, Idar-Oberstein, Germany (pre-auction estimate $60,000-80,000, sold for $64,900); an illuminated ruby, emerald, sapphire and gold flower study titled "Bleeding Hearts" by Wild (pre-auction estimate $60,000-80,000, sold for $62,500); a white crystal opal, rhodochrosite and gold flower study titled "UME," the Japanese plum flower by Wild (pre-auction estimate $50,000-60,000, sold for $60,000); a tiger iron matrix, jasper and kascholong opal intarsia backgammon set carved by Konstantin Libman (pre-auction estimate $9,000-11,000, sold 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 (pre-auction estimate $30,000-35,000, sold for $52,500).


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

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