Natural gold nugget weighs in at 70 ounces; could top $300K

NEW YORK – In showcasing its newly expanded Fine Minerals category, Heritage auctions will be offering a tremendous 70+-ounce Gold in Quartz nugget – found in desert country a few miles east of the Colorado River canyon bottom in Arizona during the winter of 1989 by amateur gold hunter Bud Guthrie – estimated at $300,000 or more – on May 20 at Center 548, 548 West 22nd Street as part of its Natural History Signature Auction.

The auction represents the first time Heritage has expanded the fine minerals and gemstones section of its Natural History auctions into a separate catalog, a step that will lead to Gems and Minerals being the subject of their own auctions starting later in the year. To that end, Heritage has engaged the services of longtime and well-known Gems and Mineral experts Jim Walker and Mary Fong/Walker as Directors of the newly formed department. They will be assisted in their efforts by specialist Craig Kissick.

“The quality and diversity of the specimens we’re seeing right now is among the finest we’ve come across in a long time,” said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History at Heritage, “so we think they deserve the spotlight as their category. We’ve also seen the category of Fine Gems & Minerals expand greatly over the past few years, so to meet the demand and insure that we maintain the highest level of quality, we’re broadening the category.”

70-ounce natural gold nugget  70-ounce gold in quartz nugget, found Dolan Springs, Mohave Co., Arizona, by gold hunter Bud Guthrie in 1989. Courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries

The astounding Gold in Quartz nugget, found in Dolan Springs, Mohave County, Arizona, was the find of a lifetime for Bud Guthrie and the nugget has achieved a good bit of fame in the subsequent 20-plus years after its unearthing. After spending hour after hour searching with his “gold bug” metal detector, and turning up little save an occasional stray bullet, Guthrie moved a few miles east into desert country where there appeared to be some old mine workings. Sweeping the open areas between scrub bushes, he was rewarded with a beep and began to dig. A full 16 inches down he ran into something solid and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of the auction’s most important pieces, a stunning Azurite on Malachite from the Chessy Copper Mines, Chessy, France, comes with a provenance directly related to one of the most famous natural history collections in the world, that of Archduke Stephan of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen (1817-1867). It is estimated at $15,000 and up.

“Archduke Stephan Franz Victor was a passionate mineral collector,” said Jim Walker. “Mining was in its heyday all over the Empire during his reign and, with his royal connections, income and demonstrated aptitude for minerals, it’s not surprising that he amassed one of the most important collections in the world – at one time numbering more than 20,000 specimens. The vast majority of that collection resides today at the Natural History Museum in Berlin, though treasures like this one occasionally show up on the market and are always highly sought after.”

Further highlights of the auction include an exceptional Blue Fluorite on Quartz, measuring 17 by 9 by 6 inches high from La Viesca Mine, Asturias, Spain, estimated at $300,000 and up; a large Gem Tanzanite Crystal from the Merelani, Arusha, Tanzania, more than 4 inches high and estimated at $300,000 and up; and a Trapiche Emerald Parure from the Muzo Mine, Colombia, weighing in at 110 carats and the largest cabochon measuring 17.1 by 13.6 mm, estimated at $135,000 and up.

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