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Alaska: Giant opal sold for more than $140,000

Juneau, Alaska, USA

A gemstone, listed as one of the world’s largest gem-quality opals, sold for $143,750 in Alaska on Sunday.

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

Until recently, Fred von Brandt kept it in a linen closet in a house in Big Lake, north of Anchorage. Von Brandt is a gold miner in Alaska, and his family has deep roots in the gem and rock business.

The opal is larger than a brick and broken into two pieces, which Von Brandt says was a practice used decades ago to demonstrate gem quality.

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

Von Brandt indicated that for decades the opal was in the care of his father, Guy von Brandt, who decided that it had been “locked up long enough; that it’s time to get it back out into the world and see what interest it can generate.”

“He tasked me with finding out which direction we wanted to go in order to separate ourselves from the stone,” Von Brandt told The Associated Press.

The family, with roots in California, displayed the opal at gem fairs for years, until the 1980s, he said. Then her father decided to dedicate himself to furniture and exhibited it in his store. Guy von Brandt eventually moved to Oregon and kept the stone “sort of hidden” for many years, von Brandt said.

He said he brought it with him to Alaska more than a year ago while he weighed the best approach to a possible sale. She said she chose Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals because she thought she would get more attention from a newer company than from a larger auction house. The sale is scheduled for Sunday.

Nick Cline, partner and appraisal specialist at Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, said the family has documentation of the opal’s provenance. As part of his investigation, he contacted Fiona Altmann, granddaughter of John Altmann and CEO of Altmann + Cherny in Sydney, Australia.

Altmann said that his grandfather, in his business, made regular trips to Europe and the United States.

She also indicated that when Cline emailed her, she was skeptical; the name of the stone, in particular, puzzled her. But she began to investigate and discovered “something in my grandfather’s handwriting with the image of the opal and the word ‘Americus Australis.'”

“I know with 100% certainty that their information about its origin is 100% accurate” because it coincides with information that she has, she said.

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