Juneau, Alaska – The gem, named one of the largest opals of the most precious gemstone, was sold at auction in Alaska on Sunday for $ 143,750.
According to the auction house Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, the heating, which was named “Americus Australis”, weighs more than 11,800 carats. It also has a long history.
Most recently it was kept in a linen closet at a house in Big Lake north of Anchorage by Fred von Brandt, who mines gold in Alaska and whose family has deep roots in the gem and rock business.
Heating is bigger than bricks and broken into two parts, which, according to von Brandt, was a practice used decades ago to prove the quality of gemstones.
Von Brandt said the stone had been in his family since the late 1950s when his grandfather bought it from an Australian opal dealer named John Altman.
Von Brandt said the opal had been under the care of his father, Guy von Brandt, for decades, who decided it had been closed long enough that it was time to bring it back into the world and see what interest it could arouse.
“He entrusted me to find out which direction we want to go to part with the stone,” von Brandt told the Associated Press.
The family, which has roots in California, exhibited the stone at gem exhibitions for years, until the early 1980s, he said. Then his father took up the furniture and exhibited it in his shop. Guy von Brandt eventually moved to Oregon and kept the stone “as if hidden” for years, von Brandt said.
Von Brandt said he brought it with him to Alaska more than a year ago when weighing the best approach to a possible sale. He said he left Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals because he thought the new company would attract more attention than a larger auction house. The sale is scheduled for Sunday.
Nick Klein, a partner and assessment specialist at Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, said the family has documents related to the origins of the opal. As part of his research, he contacted Fiona Altman, granddaughter of John Altman and general manager of Altmann + Cherny in Sydney, Australia.
Altman said her grandfather regularly traveled to Europe and the United States in his business dealings
Altman said that when Klein wrote her an email, she was skeptical; the name of the stone in particular threw her. But she said she started digging and found “something with my grandfather’s handwriting with the image of fallen with the word ‘Americus Australis.'”
“I know with 100% certainty that the information about their origin is 100% accurate,” because it matches the information she has, she said.
The auction house said the stone was found in the same field in Australia as the opal, known as the “Olympic Australis”, which weighs 17,000 carats and is on permanent display at the Altman store. The Olympic was among the stones that John Altman and his partner Rudy Cherney acquired in 1956, Altman’s company said.
During Sunday’s auction, the auction company was looking for a minimum bid of $ 125,000. Klein said it was a “calculated risk” and the company adheres to what it sees as a conservative approach in hopes of attracting the most attention. It was aimed at a selling price of $ 250,000 to $ 350,000, Klein said.
On sale is a smaller piece of opal, which, according to von Brandt, was cut off by his father to wear or show.
This story was updated to correct what the heating sold for $ 143,750 based on the updated auction house figure taking into account the buyer’s premium.
Associated Press journalist Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report from Phoenix.
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