"There was competitive bidding for many lots, both on the telephones and in the salesroom for natural wonders of all sorts. Colored stones, curiosities, gold nuggets and unique jewelry were the true highlights of the holiday Natural History auction at Bonhams & Butterfields," said Thomas Lindgren, Co-Consulting Director, Natural History.
The top lot of the winter sale in Los Angeles was a magnificent petrified wood log split into two lengthwise and handsomely polished. The pair was comprised of predominantly quartz and agate minerals in the brilliant hues of red, orange, tan and brown, with hints of gray and yellow. Complete with bark, the colorful specimen measured an exceptional 9-feet tall and brought $109,800.
Offered within a section of Native Metals were several lots of Australian gold nuggets such as a large 40.09-ozt example from Daylesford. Classic in every sense of the word, the nugget originated from the Central Victoria gold field in one of the quaint mining towns in Australia where the nation's first gold rush began in the 1850s. The bright, gold colored nugget was accentuated by deep brown limonite and sold for $73,200.
In addition, a selection of Natural History jewelry for men and women was also featured during the holiday auction. Highlighting the diverse offering was a dazzling array of unique stones that included a stunning, 6.16-carat, circular sugar-loaf cabochon natural unheated ruby, diamond and platinum ring (sold for $61,000); an exceptional 73.62-carat Tanzanite and diamond ring (sold for $23,180); an unusual antique Columbian emerald, diamond and pearl cruciform filigree pendant (sold for $20,740); and an aquamarine, fancy colored sapphire, and chocolate diamond necklace from the Crystal Candy Collection by noted Texas jeweler Robert Wander (sold for $19,520) as well as an oversize rare blue 7.5 carats "Paraiba" Tourmaline from Mozambique (sold for $17,080).
"Interest in colored stones has grown exponentially in the past several years. From examples of Agate, such as the exceptional 9-foot petrified wood logs to intricate pieces of jewelry, the market continues to be strong," said Claudia Florian G.J.G., Co-Consulting Director, Natural History.
Arizona and Mexican minerals were met with buoyant interest from collectors who fought competitively for an outstanding example of showy Wulfenite formerly deaccessioned by the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (sold for $19,520) and a private collection of 23 lots from Encino, California.
Highlighting the Curiosities section of the auction was a selection of human artifacts from the Ed Francis Collection. Known for his discovery of the first Lower Paleolithic hand axe site on the Arabian Peninsula, Mr. Francis' early interest in geology began when, as a farm boy in Southwestern Ohio he was inspired to pursue an education in geology. He attended the School of Mines in both Montana and Colorado and, in the early 1950's, Mr. Francis joined a team of oil exploration scientists in the deserts of Arabia and the Sahara. Though he was an amateur untrained in archaeology, Mr. Francis soon discovered a passion for collecting arrowheads and other stone artifacts uncovered during field operations. His surface collecting yielded a superb collection of Middle and Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic tools and points
that were gathered as he explored the central Sahara of Algeria and Niger.
Representing select highlights from The Ed Francis Collection, the following human artifacts - dating from 240,000 to 5,000 year in age - were among the first Lower Paleolithic Stone Age discoveries from the Arabian Peninsula to be collected: an extremely rare Stela recovered at one of the Sahara collection sites by Mr. Francis during 1960 (sold for $2,440); a collection of four Achuelian hand axes (sold for $1,830) and a selection of twelve large polished celts (sold for $1,220).
Featured among the strong offering of design and decorator items was a diverse selection of framed and unframed fossilized items from the world famous Green River Formation in Wyoming. Specimens of note included a golden-toned palm frond which measured a statuesque 59x48 inches (sold for $12,200). From the layer known as the F-2 Horizon of the Green River Formation, its delicate leaves attractively filled the large limestone matrix in which it was prepared.
Additional items of note from the holiday auction included a magnificent space gem discovery - an attractive slice of Fukang meteorite. Widely acknowledged as one of the world's preeminent pallasites, Fukang's large highly refractive translucent olivine crystals are unmatched by other pallasites and highly prized among collectors. The current example sold for $15,860 and is one of limited number of Fukang specimens to come to market in recent years.
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 www.bonhams.com. (01-08) For other press releases, go to www.bonhams.com/press.