Treasure Hunting 02: Queensland Gem Fields

I try to travel a couple of times a year to central Queensland on the Tropic of Capricorn to explore the Gem Fields; this is where beautiful Australian parti sapphires are found. I love spending time in this region. I've met lots of people who are really addicted to the treasure hunting aspect of mining and spend the year travelling to different parts of the country with their partners or families to fossick or work their claims. The golden days of sapphire mining in Australia boomed in the early 1980s, but the industry is much smaller now.

The parti sapphire is a gemstone I have been especially fascinated with these last couple of years. It's not a widely recognized type of sapphire but I love it for it's colour banding and the way it can be green, blue and golden all in the one stone. It reminds me of what I really love about Australia: the ocean, sky and earth.

Sourcing rough gems is often why I travel to this region, visiting annual gem fairs where I can connect directly with dealers. It's quite remarkable to see gems in this state as they look like coloured glass or little pebbles. Once you hold them to a light source you're able to make an assessment as to whether they are suitable for cutting and what shape they might take. It's a bit of a gamble as it is hard to know until you start - there's certainly a lot of serendipity that comes into cutting gemstones as well as skill!

One of my favourite experiences from these trips was meeting an elderly couple who were doing their last Gem Fest (having been there for the last 14 years). Norman and Lorraine were selling the collection of gems they'd amassed over the years; many were mined and cut by Norman himself. They had been married for sixty years and were such a delightful pair. It was a wonderful experience to spend time with them pouring over their gem collection and making a selection of stones I loved the most. Relationships and experiences are, for me, an important part of being a jeweller and this interaction is a great example of this.

I was also lucky enough to tour an old sapphire mine that is now inactive but was successful in the early 1980s. It was great to learn about the mining process, which is all about following the seam of the ancient riverbed where the sapphires are deposited, along the path where water once flowed. It's cool and quiet underground and the techniques for mining now are more efficient and safe than they were in the early days of Australian gem and gold mining during the nineteenth century. 

I try to travel a couple of times a year to central Queensland on the Tropic of Capricorn to explore the Gem Fields; this is where beautiful Australian parti sapphires are found. I love spending time in this region. I've met lots of people who are really addicted to the treasure hunting aspect of mining and spend the year travelling to different parts of the country with their partners or families to fossick or work their claims. The golden days of sapphire mining in Australia boomed in the early 1980s, but the industry is much smaller now.

The parti sapphire is a gemstone I have been especially fascinated with these last couple of years. It's not a widely recognized type of sapphire but I love it for it's colour banding and the way it can be green, blue and golden all in the one stone. It reminds me of what I really love about Australia: the ocean, sky and earth.

Sourcing rough gems is often why I travel to this region, visiting annual gem fairs where I can connect directly with dealers. It's quite remarkable to see gems in this state as they look like coloured glass or little pebbles. Once you hold them to a light source you're able to make an assessment as to whether they are suitable for cutting and what shape they might take. It's a bit of a gamble as it is hard to know until you start - there's certainly a lot of serendipity that comes into cutting gemstones as well as skill!

One of my favourite experiences from these trips was meeting an elderly couple who were doing their last Gem Fest (having been there for the last 14 years). Norman and Lorraine were selling the collection of gems they'd amassed over the years; many were mined and cut by Norman himself. They had been married for sixty years and were such a delightful pair. It was a wonderful experience to spend time with them pouring over their gem collection and making a selection of stones I loved the most. Relationships and experiences are, for me, an important part of being a jeweller and this interaction is a great example of this.

I was also lucky enough to tour an old sapphire mine that is now inactive but was successful in the early 1980s. It was great to learn about the mining process, which is all about following the seam of the ancient riverbed where the sapphires are deposited, along the path where water once flowed. It's cool and quiet underground and the techniques for mining now are more efficient and safe than they were in the early days of Australian gem and gold mining during the nineteenth century.