The Most Expensive Fine Mineral, La Madona Rosa

The La Madona Rosa, a specimen of rose quartz, set a price record as the most valuable fine mineral specimen ever offered at an auction, when it was bought for $662,500 at the Heritage Auctions'.

La Madona Rosa (the Pink Madonna) is an exceptionally large and beautiful specimen of Rose Quartz bearing a strong resemblance to traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary. 

The smoky Quartz "body" of the Madonna is an abstract composition of vaguely human form, bearing a multitude of scintillating surfaces. The overall effect is completed by a wide ribbon or "halo" of sparkling Rose Quartz crystals, completely outlining the body of the Madonna and enhancing the resemblance to classical statues and icons. Measuring an impressive 15.5 x 8 inches (40 x 20 cm), it towers over all other known Rose Quartz specimens and stands in a league of its own.

The Most Expensive Fine Mineral Specimen, La Madona Rosa
Rose Quartz "La Madona Rosa"
Lavra Berilo Branco, Sapucaia Do Norte, Galiléia, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil
The left photo by: Leo Boudreau, The right photo: Heritage Auctions

The La Madona Rosa is thought by many to be better than the celebrated Van Allen Belt rose quartz, which can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Standing almost 40 centimeters tall, the La Madona Rosa towers over the 23-centimeter tall Van Allen Belt.

According to Heritage Auctions It sold for $662,500, due to its incredible rarity alongside its own fascinating back-story. 

In the late 1950s, miners at a small mine known as Sapucaia in Brazil unearthed a glittering pocket of rose quartz. Although only six inches wide by 12 inches high, the seam actually extended for 16 feet, brimming with deep pink and smoky quartz crystals. La Madona Rosa is thought to have been part of this initial find.

The Most Expensive Fine Mineral Specimen, La Madona Rosa
Rose Quartz "La Madona Rosa"
Lavra Berilo Branco, Sapucaia Do Norte, Galiléia, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Photo: Heritage Auctions

The miners at "Sapucaia" (the mine's informal name because of its proximity to that town) had hit the jackpot --- Rose Quartz had never been seen before this discovery. Later finds in Brazil also yielded additional Rose Quartz specimens (notably Lavra da Ilha and Alto da Pitora) but none approached the sheer size and beauty of the specimens from Lavra Berilo Branco --- they became the "gold standard" for Rose Quartz. The only other major example known from this historic find, is the "Van Allen Belt" which currently resides in the Smithsonian.

Examination of La Madona Rosa's features leads to the conclusion that, in all likelihood it came from the original "Sapucaia" (Lavra Berilo Branco) discovery. But attempts to pin down the history of this particular specimen break down at a certain point. Some opine that it was produced during the original discovery of 1959 and remained hidden for decades in the collection of a Brazilian gentleman before emerging to the notice of the outside world. 

Another account states that it was "discovered" in Brazil in 1972 (the mine had been in sporadic operation until 1973). Whatever its origin, it was acquired by a London gemstone collector in 1972. It was sold in 1977 to a U.S. gem collector and resided in that collection for twenty years --- its significance unrecognized for decades.

The Most Expensive Fine Mineral Specimen, La Madona Rosa
The Van Allen Belt Rose Quartz at the Smithsonian Museum.

It surfaced at the 1997 Tucson Gem & Mineral show, where it was recognized for its considerable potential. Modern cleaning and trimming measures were performed and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. It was subsequently sold into the Hoppel Collection and held a central position in that collection --- hidden from public view until now.

An interesting fact: Although quartz is one of the most common minerals on Earth, natural rose quartz is one of the rarer colored varieties of crystalline quartz.

The above story is based on Materials provided by Heritage Auctions.

Next Post Previous Post