Monday, June 9, 2008

The ‘Flame Queen’ May Fetch $250,000

JCK -- An opal collection highlighted by what is arguably the most famous opal in the world—dubbed the "Flame Queen,"—the 263.18-cts. Gemstone will be part of Bonhams & Butterfields Natural History auction, scheduled for June 22 at the auction house’s San Francisco and Los Angeles locations.

The "Flame Queen" is oval in shape with a flat central dome surrounded by a blue-green band - lending it the appearance of a fried egg. It’s not only famous for its extraordinary large size (263.18-carats) but also but also for its unusual shape and color pattern.

The auction house said the legendary opal could bring as much as $250,000. Other opals in the collection include the "pineapple" (estimated price $40/50,000); and a pure black opal-filled Yowah nut (a type of nodule-estimated to bring $65/80,000).

The Flame Queen was found at the Lightning Ridge black opal mine in Australia in 1915 by miners Jack Philips, Walter Bradley and “Irish” Joe Hegarty. The most unusual color pattern of this opal is best described as having the appearance of a fried egg—gemologically known as the “eye-of-opal” effect—created when opal infills a cavity. The Flame Queen is the best known gem of this type. Polished as a broad, pear-shaped buff top cabochon, its flashes change from vivid red to fiery bronze when viewed from different angles and in different light.

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