By Brecken Branstrator
This gemstone and gold carousel, which features an interactive sound system with a CD player, is the highlight of Tuesday’s “100 Lapidary Treasures from The Estate of Gerard L. Cafesjian” jewelry auction at Bonhams Los Angeles.
Los Angeles—On Tuesday, a number of masterfully carved lapidary pieces from the personal collection of a businessman and philanthropist will hit the auction block.

Bonhams is selling “100 Lapidary Treasures from The Estate of Gerard L. Cafesjian” in Los Angeles, showcasing a collection that reflects Cafesjian’s love of gemology, color and form, the auction house said.

Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, to Armenian immigrants, Cafesjian served in the Navy during World War II before attending college, graduating with joint degrees in geology and economics from Hunter College and, later, a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law.

He began a decades-long career with West Publishing Company, one of the largest publishers of legal materials, in 1952. Rising through the company’s ranks, he eventually became executive vice president of marketing and advertising and a member of the board, and it was here that he amassed his wealth.

Cafesjian, who died in 2013 at the age of 88, was known for his philanthropic pursuits.

During his time at West Publishing, he started an annual art exhibition called “Art and Law,” for which he received the prestigious Business in the Arts Award.

Cafesjian also founded the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, dedicated to the exhibition of modern works of art, design and architecture, and established the Cafesjian Family Foundation, donating millions to various Armenian charities.

In 1988, Cafesjian led the effort to save a 1914 merry-go-round that had been at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for 75 years. According to local news reports, he contributed more than $2 million to keep the piece from being broken up and auctioned off.

It’s fitting, then, that the highlight of his collection headed to auction is an illuminated and automated gemstone and gold carousel by Andreas von Zadora-Gerlof, circa 1991, which Cafesjian commissioned from the artist.

Bonhams said it took 960 hours of stone sculpting and cutting, 3,250 hours of goldsmithing and 210 hours of stone setting to make the carousel.

Featuring stones such as ruby, emerald, sapphire, white opal, lapis lazuli, rhodonite, Cacholong opal, malachite and gray agate, the carousel is estimated to sell for about $150,000, Bonhams said.

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The sale also features the “Bleeding Hearts” gold flower study (seen above) by renowned lapidary artist Manfred Wild.

Its blossoms are comprised of 15 ruby flowers weighing 152 total carats, with white Cacholong opal from the Caspian Sea forming the flowers’ pistils. There are also 12 green leaves carved from Brazilian emerald weighing about 184 carats.

The piece is decorated with 109 pave-set diamonds weighing 1.10 carats, and the vase is formed of carved rock crystal with four sapphire slabs inset to the side as well as two marquise-shaped ruby cabochons and two triangular-shaped emerald cabochons.

Bonhams said it expects the piece to garner between $30,000 and $50,000.

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Another notable piece in the sale is a carved agate falcon (pictured above) by another well-known lapidary artist, Gerd Dreher.

The bird’s wing edges and tail feathers are made of highly transparent banded agate set into speckled agate, with solid colored agates used for his throat, head and beak. The feathers on his back, meanwhile, are carved hawk’s eye quartz.

The falcon sits on top of a copper specimen with some traces of quartz, designed to mimic a mountainous outcropping, and is raised on a circular rock crystal quartz base.

The piece is estimated to sell for between $15,000 and $25,000.

In addition to the carved gemstone works, Bonhams also is holding two online-only sales—“Gemstones from The Estate of Gerard L. Cafesjian” and “Minerals from The Estate of Gerard L. Cafesjian”—both of which are currently open for bidding. Bidding closes March 16.

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