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Huge opal stone sold for nearly $144,000 in auction

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – One of the largest gem-quality opals in existence sold for $143,750 at an Alaska auction on Sunday.

The opal, dubbed “Americus Australis,” weighs more than 11,800 carats and has a long history, according to Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals.

The gem was kept by Fred von Brandt, an Alaskan gold miner, in a closet in a house on the Great Lakes, north of Anchorage, reported to the Associated Press. His family has deep roots in the gem and stone business.

The opal was larger than a brick and was broken into two pieces, which von Brandt said was a method used decades ago to prove gem quality, the AP reported.

The stone has been in the von Brandt family since the late 1950s, when his grandfather bought it from an Australian opal dealer named John Altmann.

Von Brandt said the decades-old opal was taken by his father, Guy von Brandt, who decided it had been “locked up long enough, that it was time to take it out into the world and see if it could generate interest. what”.

“He put me in charge of figuring out the direction we wanted to take to part with the stone,” von Brandt told The Associated Press.

For many years, the family displayed the gem at exhibitions until the early 1980s. Von Brandt’s father manufactured the furniture and displayed it in his shop.

Guy von Brandt eventually moved to Oregon and kept the stone “hidden style” for many years, von Brandt said.

Von Brandt said he brought it to Alaska over a year ago to consider the best approach to get it up for sale. He said he came up with Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals because he thought it would get more attention from the newer company than a larger auction house. The discount is set for Sunday.

Nick Cline, Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals partner and appraiser, said the family has documents on the opal’s origins. During his research, he contacted Fiona Altmann, niece of John Altmann and general manager of Altmann + Cherny in Sydney, Australia.

Altmann said when Cline emailed her, she was suspicious; especially the name of the stone, which threw her. But she says she started digging and discovered “something in my grandfather’s handwriting with an image of an opal that says ‘Americus Australis.’

“I am 100% certain that their provenance information is 100% correct” because it matched the information she had, she said.

The auction house said the stone was discovered in the same field in Australia as the so-called “Olympic Australis” opal, which weighs 17,000 carats and is on permanent display in Altmann’s shop. According to Altmann’s company, Olympic was one of the stones that John Altmann and his partner Rudi Cherny acquired in 1956.

The auction company sought a minimum bid of $125,000 in Sunday’s auction. Cline said it was a “calculated risk,” with the company taking what it sees as a cautious approach in the hope of garnering the most attention.

“We are honored to be auctioning this one-of-a-kind specimen,” Cline said after the auction.

The sale included a smaller piece of the opal that von Brandt said his father had cut out to wear or display.

https://nbc-2.com/news/2022/02/21/huge-opal-sells-for-nearly-144000-at-auction/ Huge opal stone sold for nearly $144,000 in auction

Tom Vazquez

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