On Sunday, a gemstone billed as one of the largest gem-quality opals in existence was sold for $143,750 in Alaska. The opal, dubbed the "Americus Australis," weighs more than 11,800 carats. It was recently kept in a linen closet in a home in Big Lake, north of Anchorage, by Fred von Brandt, who mines for gold in Alaska and whose family has deep roots in the gem and rock business. The opal is more significant than a brick and is broken into two pieces, which von Brandt said was used decades ago to prove 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. Altmann's granddaughter researched the stone and located records indicating it came from the same field as the 1,700-carat opal known as the "Olympic Australis," which is displayed in their family shop. (AP News)
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