Always part of the planned itinerary, we dropped into the Central Queensland Gemfields region, surrounded by the towns Sapphire, Rubyvale and Emerald. Pre-visit I’d done some Googling and learnt that like the Lava Plains, the Sapphires here are plentiful, but are bloody hard work to dig out. So aside from a quick pick near the park, we purchased buckets of gravel from both our caravan park, the Gemini Caravan Park, and from Armfest, a commercial mining operation that offer buckets for sale.
Now this is the way fossicking should be. Pre-dug gravel, which is easily washed and then sorted, with all the buckets we purchased containing a good amount of Sapphire and Zircon, approx. 5% of which is cuttable, albeit small cutters. So, we spent a nice couple of days exploring the and shaking Sapphires out of gravel. When I get home, I’ll send a bunch of stones of to Thailand to get cut.
<< Photo credit: Jeff – Me working the Willoughby to wash a bucket of gravel purchased at Gemini Caravan Park >>
<< Photo credit: Jeff – Sorting our find from a bucket of gravel purchased at Gemini Caravan Park >>
<< Photo credit: Jules – A good sieve. If done correctly, the heavy material such as Sapphires and Zircon will collect at the bottom of the sieve in the middle, with the other heavier material, as shown in the dark patch above. >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – The results of a bucket of gravel from the Gemini Caravan Park. Now it’s just a matter of picking the pretties out! >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – A $20 bag of gravel from Armfest. Everyone around here sells bags of gravel and Armfest run a commercial mine, skimming off some of their wash to sell in buckets and bags. >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – Some of the rocks from one bag of gravel >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – Our total gem find whilst staying in Sapphire… The big bag top left is still to be sorted into cutters etc. The big bag top right is all ‘show and tell’, i.e. gems that aren’t viably cuttable but will look pretty once run through the tumble polisher. The bottom left bag is all our cutters (so far), the middle bag are stones which are polish-able into star cabochons and the right bag are ‘skin polish-able’ >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – Our total haul of cutters so far. A mix of Sapphire and some Zircon, all found either in Gemini Caravan Park or Armfest bought gravel >>
The other great experience we had was the people of the Gemini Caravan Park. Like much of our trip, we followed the advice of WikiCamps and visited Martin and Toni who’ve recently bought the oldest park in the Gemfields and have been hard at work refreshing it. We’d be lying if we said it was the nicest park we’d stayed at, but don’t judge a book by its cover and the people of the park are true gold. Every night there’s a communal BYO happy hour where stories and laughter are exchanged. Friday night is Pot Luck Dinner night, where everyone brings a plate of ‘something’, and we then all share, buffet style. All in all a very relaxed and friendly place which we’d definitely recommend and will revisit when we’re next in the area.
<< Photo credit: Tony – Pot Luck Dinner time at the Gemini Caravan Park >>
<< Photo credit: Tony – Tim working Gemini’s small Sapphire mine. It’s a hard slog, in 6 rubbish bins worth of gravel he ended up with 2 small (approx 6mm across) blue stones and 2 very small green stones, none of which are really cuttable. However, he’s happy as the wash he’s digging up has all the right indicators in it so it should be a matter of time and effort before he strikes the big one.. >>
<< Photo credit: Jules – The crew enjoying a beer and watching the West Coast Eagles demolish Melbourne to book a place in the AFL Grand Final >>