Encompassing around 900 square kilometres of irresistible gem fossicking opportunities, while in Emerald we couldn’t miss the Central highland gem fields. This was quite an experience. We left Lake Maraboon for a short drive to the mining towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire, and embarked on a guided tour of an underground mine.
Kim Caught gem fever as see discovered the famous jewels of the Central Highlands, and explored the famous gem shops, galleries, jewellers and locally created cottage industries that are the lifeblood of the Sapphire Gemfields.
We first stopped for a big brekkie at the Rubyvale Café and browse the adjacent Gem Gallery where Peter Brown, pioneering miner turned gem cutter and jeweller, showed us his collection of rainbow sapphires.
If you’re Kim and get seduced by all the bling you can buy a readymade piece or choose a loose sapphire and commission a special piece of jewellery.
Given the sheer vastness of Australia, it isn’t surprising to learn that the country comprises many natural resources and numerous gold rushes from as early as 1851 onwards. This has contributed to a maintained interest in fossicking activity, which still lives on to this day, especially in the Gemfields townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and The Willows which annually host GemFest, a celebration of jewels.
Many Australians and tourists alike still enjoy the rather unique activity of panning for jewels and who can blame them? It yields an unmatched experience which is rather different from retail ventures in the big cities or lazing on New South Wales beaches, revealing more about themes of culture while for those lucky enough; they’ll be able to take away a shiny souvenir.
The pioneering spirit is alive and well in the Sapphire Gemfields around Emerald. Treasure seekers have been coming here since the seventies, searching for precious stones. It’s a magnet for free spirits and adventure seekers who want to experience the real Australian outback and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
It’s hot, dusty work fossicking for sapphires, you have been warned! But it could be worth it. After all, you’ll hit pay dirt if you find a big old sapphire in your sieve. Stranger things have happened in the gemfields around Emerald and all the locals have a story or two to tell about sapphires they’ve unearthed.
We escaped the heat and went gem crazy with a Mine Tour at Miners Heritage. If you can’t take the heat, this is a great option because no matter how hot it is outside, it’s always cool underground.
Miners Heritage is Australia’s largest underground walk-in sapphire mine tour so you can experience what it’s like to be a miner. The short tour is fun for all the family and the sapphires sparkling in the walls will get you fired up for more fossicking later.
There’s an underground museum where you can read about some of the sapphires that have been found over the years, and after the tour, you can buy a bucket of ‘wash’ (the leftover dirt from commercial mines) and fossick for your own gem.
While we were visiting the area a grey nomad picked an eight-carat yellow sapphire out of a $8 bag of wash. You never know what you’ll find!