Capillitas Mine, Andalgal√°, Catamarca, Argentina
    Although first discovered in Romania in the nineteenth century, the world's finest lapidary Rhodochrosite comes from a locality high in the Argentine Andes. As in most world occurrences, the mineral is found in a hydrothermal vein type deposit, previously worked as an Inca silver mine, where the Rhodochrosite grew in a remarkable developed, stalactitic form in caverns measureless to Incan man. At 11,000 feet above sea-level, the mining is extremely arduous, but in spite of that, its Rhodochrosite is so prized that such work has continued unabated for hundreds of years. Hidden within the vermiform rind of these stalactites, incredible banded patterns, in colors of Ruby-Red grapefruit, are revealed. Known locally as "Rosa del Inca" for this fine coloring, it was believed to be the petrified blood of the people's deceased rulers, but quien sabe?
    This is a superb older collection, with the deep rich color found in old specimens, as opposed to the paler pink of more recent production. The biggest piece is a spectacular large agglomeration of inter-grown, parallel stalactites, with pink areas showing through the 'rind'. These have been sliced at both ends to expose the remarkable patterns concealed within: Typically, several nuclei clustered together form the 'core' and from them radiate crystalline clouds of white and deep, rich "ruby-grapefruit" pink, surrounded by fine parallel bands of pink and white. It measures a very sizable: 8 3/8 x 8 3/8 x 7 1/4 inches. The fact that it has been sliced at both ends demonstrates the consistency of color and pattern existing all the way through the piece. The second piece, a stalactite end section, shows an unusual darkening due to other Manganese minerals that were co-deposited with the Rhodochrosite, adding an additional aesthetic element to the sliced and polished face. The structure is shown to be an extremely sharp, bifurcated growth of two stalactites, serving as nuclei and forming a distinctive figure '8' pattern. With near perfect symmetry, this figure is cleanly surrounded by concentric rings of white before exploding in a radiating explosion of deep pink crystals. It measures 4 1/2 x 3 3/8 x 4 inches (11.4 x 8.6 x 10.2 cm) and is accompanied by a perspex display base. The last portion of this lot consists of another stalactite, complete with end piece, this time sliced into 15 sections each of approximately 1/8-inch thickness and reaching 3 3/4 (9.5 cm) inches in diameter. Both sides of these slices have been polished and they display wonderfully concentric banding around their edges. In the center, a starburst of dark purple-black manganese oxide inclusions combine with the lovely translucence of the Rhodochrosite to yield an intriguingly different esthetic effect. Moving in sequence further up the stalactite the pattern gradually changes: a striking white core gradually appears, and the dark purple shades to a gorgeous rich pink color. Now that the mine is being converted to a modern open-pit operation, this kind of beautifully aesthetic lapidary material will be going to the ore crushers.

    Estimate: $50,000 - $65,000.

    Condition Report*:

    Condition report available upon request.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2012
    20th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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