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Glistening sapphire.
Glistening sapphire.
The gemfields area.

Sapphire Safaris

Sunday, October 26, 2003
The gemfields area of central Queensland encompasses the towns of Anakie, Sapphire, Rubyvale and Willows. It has the world's richest deposits of sapphire and is also known for zircons, rubies, jasper, diamonds and gold.

The gemfields area of central Queensland encompasses the towns of Anakie, Sapphire, Rubyvale and Willows. It has the world's richest deposits of sapphire and is also known for zircons, rubies, jasper, diamonds and gold.

Gems were first found there in 1872 by two railway surveyors. Things got off to a slow start, but serious fossicking for the valuable gems and metal has been going strongly since the 1880s and is still popular. In 1899, the area received a boost when sapphires and other jewels from Queensland were displayed at the Earl's Court Exhibition in London.

In 1979, a 2000-carat sapphire was found, valued at $1 million. In 2000, some lucky tourists unearthed a 221-carat sapphire and sold it for $87,000.

Sapphires are mostly blue, but can be yellow, green, white or pink, which is very rare and costly.

The gemfields cover over 900 square kilometres and supply around 60 percent of the world market. Its dealers have a reputation for being reliable and purchasers continue to return.

Gem and goldfields always seem to attract their share of unusual people and Queensland is no different. Some live in rough shacks or tents near the fields, obsessed with finding "the big one", spending days on end just digging.

Independent fossickers need a licence from the Emerald Courthouse. It's best to try your luck between April and September, when the temperature is comparatively cool.

Andrew and Ann Jarrett run Sapphire Safaris and take prospectors to a private cattle property in Rubyvale, where they have sole access to the mining lease. They collect you from the Fossicker's Rest accommodation in Sapphire or the New Royal Hotel in Rubyvale in their 11-seater four-wheel drive tour bus.

All fossickers need is a hat. All equipment is set up on site and food and drink is provided.

You buy a nine-litre bucket full of wash, which is the sapphire-bearing layer on top of the ground. You shovel the wash off, sieve and wash it and keep your eyes peeled for gemstones.

Mick and Jane Taylor have been cutting and setting stones in Rubyvale for 15 years. Mick is a gemologist and Jane is just a natural at deciding how a stone should be cut and set. They work around any flaws or cracks and cut in rectangular, oval, triangular or round shapes.

If you haven't been lucky enough to strike it rich yourself, you can purchase loose or set stones from them.

Location

Sapphire, four hours west of Rockhampton.

Cost

Sapphire Safaris Gemfields Tours cost $45 per person. The fossicking tour is $65 and the full-day combination tour is $96.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Sapphire Safaris
PO Box 345
Sapphire 4702
Ph: (07) 4981 0076, Fax: (07) 4985 4773

Taylors Fine Sapphires
Heritage Road Rubyvale 4702
Ph: (07) 4985 4518
taylors@maxspeed.net.au

To book a flight, visit qantas.com or call 13 13 13.

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