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This spring Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house, highlights an exceptional selection of fine mineral specimens from estate sources in its upcoming Gems, Minerals, Lapidary Works of Art and Natural History auction on May 20th.

Once regarded as a relatively unknown and hidden collector's hobby, the steady rise in demand for mineral specimens has elevated the status of this collecting category to an emerging worldwide asset class, with serious collectors growing internationally. Minerals are valued mainly for their aesthetic qualities and are prime examples of naturally-occurring art. For some rare specimens, miners have delved into the most dangerous or remote places to extract these hidden treasures.

The top highlight of the sale is a collection of 27 Rhodochrosites, also known as "Red Gold," which were mined from the Kalahari Manganese Field in South Africa. Estimated to fetch between $200,000-250,000, this offering represents an unprecedented opportunity to acquire a collection of specimens formed over many years from a locality that is no longer producing.  Considered the prettiest of minerals, this group contains crystals that range in a light rosy color all the way to the very rare and highly-desirable cherry-red hue.

Also on offer is a large group of varied mineral specimens from the Estate of Carey A. Parshall, Stamford, CT. Obtained predominantly on buying trips from the 1950s through the 1980s to Morocco, Mexico, Japan, Brazil and India, the collection features desirable Vanadinites, Smithsonites, Azurites, Stibnites and Zeolites from these diverse localities.

A massive Ruby crystal in Zoisite, the largest Ruby crystal to be offered at public auction and is seven times larger than any other ruby found in the famous Longido, Tanzania deposit, weighs 100 pounds (228,000 carats) and is expected to fetch between $100,000-150,000.

In addition to offering fine minerals, the 431-lot auction includes mammal, dinosaur and plant fossils; un-mounted and rare faceted gemstones; lapidary carvings by German masters; jewelry, amber, petrified wood, meteorites, gold nuggets and rare, natural pearls.

A unique feature in the Natural History section is a giant Pacific Walrus skull and set of tusks found on Saint Lawrence Island in Alaska and ranked in the Boone and Crockett Club's "Records of North American Big Game" as the fourth largest in the world and will be on Bonhams auction block with an estimate of $85,000-100,000. The enormous size, pristine condition and completeness of the present specimen make it a significant discovery.

Other highlights include an exceptionally rare and large Demantoid Garnet ($130,000-180,000);

Exceptionally Rare and Large Demantoid Garnet, Ural Mountains, Russia. Weighing approximately 6.83 carats and measuring 11.4 x 10.3 x 6.9mm. Est. $130,000-180,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

A life-size Obsidian carving of a bald eagle ($80,000-100,000) and a multi-gemstone Gold and Drusy Onyx Necklace known as "The American Ingenuity Necklace," designed and fabricated by Jeffrey E. Appling ($60,000-80,000).

According to Claudia Florian, Co-consulting Director of Bonhams Natural History Department, "Over the last ten years, Bonhams has established itself as market leader in selling Lapidary Works of Art and Exotic Gemstone Jewelry to a discerning international clientele. Additionally when it comes to handling estates which contain minerals, our level of service in presenting them is unparalleled in the business.” 

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