Opals to take center stage at Bonhams auction

We publish courtesy of The National Jeweler

San Francisco — A November sale to be hosted by auction house Bonhams & Butterfields will mark one of the first public auctions in the United States devoted to opals, the gemstone known for its sometimes fiery, sometimes milky hues.

On Nov. 10 in San Francisco, the “Nature of Opals” sale will feature a diverse group of distinctive jewelry, loose stones, mineral specimens, lapidary works of art, decorative objects, décor and fossils, all made from the luminous gem.

The highlight of the sale, however, isn’t a pricey piece of jewelry, but rather a hat, one of the world’s most valuable to be offered at public auction, Bonhams & Butterfields said. Dubbed the “Deep Blue Sea,” the hat is crafted from hand-blocked Australian felt, embellished with feathers and bejeweled with 26 opals weighing approximately 1,447 carats and mined at Australia’s famed Lighting Ridge. A collaboration between Australian master milliner Ann Maree Willett and opal miners Vicki and Peter Drackett, the hat was also worked on by acclaimed opal carvers Daniela L’Abbate and Christine Roussel and features sterling silver and 18-karat gold settings by master goldsmith Gerd Gerold Schulz. It is estimated at between $150,000 and $200,000.

Additional highlights of the auction include an 18-karat gold presentation box set with a 224.24-carat oval cabochon of white opal by famed lapidary artist Manfred Wild of Idar-Oberstein, Germany (estimated between $100,000 and $150,000); a 34.80-carat Boulder opal and briolette diamond necklace (estimated between $90,000 and $110,000); and a tangerine-red Mexican fire opal and diamond necklace mounted in 18-karat yellow gold (estimated between $20,000 and $30,000).

Carvings of note include a figure of a bear constructed from white Australian opals and set into a diamond-studded brooch mount (estimated between $13,000 and $15,000) and an Andamooka opal carving of Buddha (estimated between $2,500 and $3,500).

Prior to the Nov. 10 auction, Bonhams & Butterfields will host highlight previews in Los Angeles Oct. 1-3 and New York Oct. 16-18, followed by a full preview in San Francisco from Nov. 6-9.


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