Bonhams & Butterfields will hold its annual holiday auction of Natural History on December 6, 2009, in Los Angeles. Amid the crystal specimens and faceted stones are several fine examples of lapidary art. The most stunning is The Winter Palace, an illuminated music box made of rock crystal quartz, diamonds and aquamarines. It was designed to resemble a Russian onion-domed palace tower and was created under the direction of the German lapidary artist, Manfred Wild. It is decorated with 641 small diamonds and the music box key is made of 18K gold with a cabochon aquamarine inset on each side. The doors of the palace open to reveal a tiny model of a Russian dacha in 18K golf with a snow-covered roof rendered in diamonds. This piece carries a presales estimate of $250,000 to $300,000.
The auction also features an 18.36 carat orange-pink padparadscha sapphire. The pear-shaped gem has a presales estimate of $350,000 to $400,000. Also up for bid is "The Cat's Meow," a 47.80 carat cat's eye chrysoberyl ring estimated at $120,000 to $140,000. A huge blister pearl, The Palawan Princess, is also up for sale. The five-pound product of a giant clam is estimated at $300,000 to $400,000 and comes with half of the original giant clamshell showing the point of attachment where the pearl formed.