Merry & Bright Gold, Gemstones and Jewelry Shine at Holiday Natural History Auction at Bonhams & Butterfields

  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • /
  • November 25, 2009

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The Winter Palace, an illuminated music box fabricated of Rock Crystal Quartz, Diamonds and Aquamarines, highlights the lapidary works of art section of the winter sale (est. Estimate $250,000-300,000).
Bonhams & Butterfields

International auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields, will hold its annual holiday auction of Natural History on Sunday, December 6, 2009.  The sale will feature a diverse group of distinctive and high quality mineral specimens, exceptional fossils, gold nuggets and unusual jewelry including a selection of "phenomenal" gems as well as lapidary works of art. 

The Winter Palace, an illuminated music box fabricated of Rock Crystal
Quartz, Diamonds and Aquamarines, highlights the lapidary works of art
section of the winter sale (est. Estimate $250,000-300,000).  Designed
in the form of a Russian onion-domed palace tower this enchanting
creation is the virtuoso work of a team of highly skilled craftsmen
under the direction of the German lapidary artist, Manfred Wild.

"The Winter Palace is one of Manfred Wild's masterworks.  Intricately
carved and bejeweled on a level rarely seen at public auction, pieces of
this size and stature are highly sought after by collectors of all
types," said Claudia Florian G.J.G., Co-Consulting Director, Natural

The iconic Russian image-the onion dome-is formed of highly transparent,
carved and polished rock crystal.  The walls are also fabricated of rock
crystal textured with a matte finish and dendritic or "fern-like"
patterns resembling winter's frost as it forms on a window-a stylistic
device used in much of the work of Carl Fabergé-for whom Wild's family
produced a great number of objets d'art at the beginning of the last

The structure rests upon a base carved of white dolomite, a mineral
whose internal structure of reflective platelets presents a
scintillating effect reminiscent of newly fallen snow.  The sculpture is
decorated with 641 small diamonds with a total approximate weight of
4.75 carats.  A key-wind mechanism controls the music box function-the
key itself is fabricated of 18K yellow gold with a cabochon aquamarine
inset on each side, together totaling approximately 7.24 carats.

The music box is both illuminated and electrified, so that the multiple
doors of the Palace open to reveal a magical interior.  The reverse side
of each door bears a photograph of a wintery scene while deep in the
interior rests a perfectly scaled model of a Russian dacha, or country
cottage, constructed of 18K yellow gold complete with a "snow" covered
roof rendered in tiny natural diamond crystals, totaling approximately
110.50 carats, utilized to create the effect of icicles suspended from
the eaves and tree branches.

Imagine the color of a Sri Lankan lotus flower combined with the hue of
a fiery sunset and you will conjure up the delicate orange-pink shade of
the large and exceptional padparadscha Sapphire on offer in December.
The unusual name padparadscha derives from the Sanskrit/Singhalese
"padma raga" or lotus blossom, and is a reflection of the stone's exotic
appearance.  This particular shade of orange-pink is an elusive one in
today's market-and the size is unheard of as well.  While one might
occasionally see stones in the 2 to 3 carats range, the stone on offer
weighs an impressive 18.36 carats.  This pear-shaped gem possesses all
the most desirable and sought-after attributes of a rare collector stone
(est. $350,000 - 400,000). 

In addition, a selection of gold, gold nuggets and native metals will be
featured during the holiday auction.  Highlighting the offering is a
substantial and evocative gold specimen identified as "The Bonsai Tree."
The specimen , which was discovered at the noted Eagle's Nest Mine,
Placer County, California, is named not only for its notable arborescent
crystal habit with its branch-like aggregates of flattened gold crystals
but also for its iconic appearance of a gnarled bonsai tree.
Aesthetically perched on a hillock of white quartz-it is a work of art-a
natural wonder whose beauty is sure to be appreciated by collectors
around the globe (est. $150,000 - 170,000).

Also featured in the December auction is an unusually large and highly
sought after cat's eye chrysoberyl ring (est. $120,000-140,000) dubbed
"The Cat's Meow."  The chrysoberyl cabochon weighs an impressive 47.80
carats, many times the greater than the typical 1 to 5 carats sizes
found commercially available on the market.  The gem is set in a stylish
platinum mount and surrounded by 32 marquise-cut diamonds. 

"The Palawan Princess," a rare and immense natural non-nacreous pearl
highlights the unmounted gem section of the sale.  The product of the
giant clam shell Tridacna gigas it was found off the coastal waters of
the Philippines many years ago.  Possibly the second largest pearl ever
discovered and documented, the specimen weighs 5 pounds and is estimated
to bring $300,000 - 400,000. 

Also on offer in the unmounted gems section is an immense emerald-cut
722 carats Brazilian Kunzite (est. $35,000-45,000). Dubbed "The Holt
Kunzite," after its present owners, the stone was previously in a
European collection for 25 years following its discovery and cutting in
1981 from a rough specimen which weighed over 1 kilo.  This particular
stone is a superb deep pink appearing almost amethyst-like in color, but
it is the massive size and superb luster that makes this example highly
sought after by collectors. 

Additional jewelry highlights from the December auction include a chic
pavé-set spinel and multi-colored sapphire butterfly brooch in hues of
red, violet, purple, rose, pink, and orange (est. $20,000 - 30,000); a
stunning oval 7.44 carat "Paraiba" green-blue tourmaline and Diamond
Ring from Mozambique (est. $17,000 - 20,000) and a unique golden beryl
and diamond pendant by Texas jeweler Robert Wander from the Crystal
Candy Collection (est. $12,000 - 15,000).  Also featured is a selection
of "phenomenal" gems, gemstones from the "100 Carat Club" and several
pieces of men's jewelry made available to the public just in time for
the holidays.

Preview: December 4-5, Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles

Auction: December 6, 2009, Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles


Press Contact: Jannelle Grigsby,, (310)


About Bonhams

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America and in August 2003, Goodmans, a leading Australian fine art and antiques auctioneer with salerooms in Sydney, joined the Bonhams Group of Companies. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further seven throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston in the USA; and Switzerland, France, Monaco, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 57 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to (01-08) For other press releases, go to

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