Natural History Sold December 2nd at Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles

“There was competitive bidding for many lots, both on the telephones and in the salesroom for natural wonders of all sorts. Gold nuggets and meteorite specimens were the true highlights of the December 2, 2007 sale at Bonhams & Butterfields, as were several items that posses rare and unusual qualities,” said Natural History Department Consulting Director Tom Lindgren.

The top lot of the Winter Natural History sale at Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles was a complete brilliantly mirror-polished Seymchan meteorite. Discovered in Russia, the slice displays an unusual and dramatic presentation of its iron composition. The lot is one of the largest complete slices of an iron meteorite ever offered. The Seymchan slice sold for $96,000 while its book match, a slice of Seymchan offered separately as the preceding lot, brought $48,000.

Additional meteorites of note included a fine Gibeon Octahedrite (on a custom patinated bronze base sculpted by lapidary artist Lawrence Stoller). Its astonishing aesthetic form includes a deep scoop and innumerable regmaglypts, or thumb prints. Its shard-like shape is a result of the force with which the outer space invader sliced through Earth’s atmosphere, the intensity of its descent twisting and crushing the molten metal as it rained down to Africa (sold for: $33,000).

Featured within a section comprising Native Metals were several lots of Australian gold nuggets such as a large 23.5-ozt nugget of rugged character with great three-dimensionality. The edges have a somewhat “molten” appearance and the specimen exhibits an overall warm buttery patina (sold for $39,000). Another nugget, weighing 14-ozt, was also catalogued as possessing dramatic character and three-dimensionality, it brought $22,800. The final lot of gold nuggets sold for $8,400, this example weighed approximately 4.9-ozt. The only example of domestic gold, a 0.61-ozt crystallized gold specimen from Nevada, sold for $3,600.

The sale’s Décor section was robust, highlighted by an immense petrified wood desk (sold for $24,000) comprised of a polished slab of extinct pine with textured edges atop a mesquite base with two drawers. According to Lindgren: “The market for petrified wood and items comprised of this exceptional material continues to be strong.”

Highlighting the Curiosities section of the sale was a large Narwhal tusk. A widely unknown creature, the narwhal is a majestic marine mammal, a species of whale (cetacean) most closely related to the Beluga whale and the Irrawaddy dolphin, the species still dwells in the Arctic Ocean today.

Male narwhals are easily identified by their single, exceedingly long spiraling tusk — which is actually a tooth that projects from the left side of the upper jaw. While the body of an adult male can grow up to 18-feet, the tusk can grow to be five to ten feet long — an extraordinary percentage of the beast’s overall length. Offered on a custom marble base, the tusk is impressively large and brought $11,000. Bidding was active for insect taxidermy during the start of the Sunday sale, well-prepared butterflies, spiders and even a display of four distinct species of bats attracted bidder attention, many selling above estimate (the bats brought twice their estimate, selling for $1,680).

Additional highlights from the December 2 sale included: a superb Tanzanite of impressive size – weighing approximately 103.73-carats (sold for: $42,000); a very large Woolly Mammoth tusk (sold for: $36,000) and a fossil palm frond with fish on an irregular matrix sold for $19,200.