Links of Interest

December 28, 2005

Hope everyone is having a great Christmas-New Year break. If you are looking for some interesting internet sites to help you while away your holidays, you may be interested in some of the following suggestions.

The Rock Identification Key – by Donald Peck
The Mineral Identification Key – by Alan Plante and Donald Peck
Both of these are hosted at Bob's Rock Shop website and are very comprehensive – I'm sure would be interesting to any amateur geologist or rock collector.

Index of Faceting Diagrams – Bob's Rock Shop
This list of faceting diagrams would be invaluable to the hobby faceter or lapidary – some of these designs are spectacular.

Here at Aussie Sapphire, we are flat out working to get up and running again for 2006. The mine will just be closed for just 2 weeks while we harvest some of our crops (have to keep the farm running as well). Just grading up some nice new rough and cut gems to list on Ebay as soon as possible so keep an eye out for these new specials. Ebay auctions will resume mid January.

We should also mention that we plan to send out an occasional newsletter to keep our valued customers right up to date. Many of our previous customers will have received our first newsletter but anyone who wishes to sign up for this newsletter (and associated special offers) should sign up at our newspage or let us know via email. Please note that unsubscribe requests will be honoured immediately and we will never give away, publish or sell your email address for any purpose.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Seasons Greetings from Aussie Sapphire

December 21, 2005

From all of us here at Aussie Sapphire, we wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a healthy & happy New Year in 2006. May you all enjoy the holiday season – although we will not be having a holiday, we will enjoy some time with our family over the Christmas break. We will otherwise be working as normal, so if anyone is travelling through Glen Innes over the school holidays, please feel free to contact us or call in to Schmidts Jewellers (main street of Glen Innes) to view some of our stock.

We started selling online on at the beginning of the year – uploaded the website on New Years Day 2005 so we have only been operating in this new way for almost a year. However, we have enjoyed every minute of this new way of doing business – we have made many good friends, learned lots and enjoyed sending our sapphires and other gems all around the world. Thank you everyone for your great support. We have more improvements planned for the website (and welcome any suggestions) so stay tuned as we continue to provide the best gems and the best service possible.

Seasons Greetings
from Andrew & Leah Lane

Historic Ottery Arsenic Mine

December 12, 2005

Although Glen Innes is famous for its fine blue sapphires, there is a long history of mining for other resources in the area. At nearby Emmaville, there were many tin mines operating last century. Traces of this mining activity are still to be found throughout the district. One particularly interesting historic site is the old Ottery Arsenic Mine which has been made safe for visitors with information boards describing the history and workings of the mine.

The Ottery tin mine was opened in 1882 when a huge tin lode was found by Alexander Ottery. It closed in 1906 but reopened in 1920 when arsenous oxide was produced. Arsenic was refined on site using a furnace, series of condensation chambers and a large flue – remains of which can be seen today (see photo below). This mine was one of the first underground mines in the area – the main shaft extends to a depth of almost 80 metres. While arsenic production ceased in 1936, tin was produced from the mine until 1957. Total production from this mine was 2002 tonnes of white arsenic and 2737 tonnes of tin concentrate.


The family in front of the brick condensation chambers with the tall brick flue in the far background. There are still arsenic compounds to be seen coating the surface of the brickwork. (Photo: L.Lane 2005). Arsenic was used for a variety of purposes at the time – large quantities were used for the control of prickly pear and it was an important ingredient in many animal health products (sheep dip, drench). Demand for arsenic increased greatly during the First World War and all available production was required for use in the production of munitions, poison gas and germicides. Arsenic is used in much lower quantities now as safer alternatives have been found and Australia imports all of its current requirement. The prickly pear cactus is now successfully controlled by a biological agent and more effective chemicals which are safer and less damaging to the environment are now used to control internal and external parasites in livestock.

Working at the mine involved handling dangerous arsenic compounds and the men took all sorts of precautions to protect themselves – these included rubbing soap onto their body, wearing silk underwear, wearing wooden soled shoes, etc. On the other hand, it was said at the time, that working for a short while at the mine would cure various ailments – contributing to this belief was the fact that arsenic was used in low concentrations in some “tonics”. Artefacts from this time can now be seen at the Emmaville Mining Museum and remains of the processing chambers at the mine can still be seen just a short distance from the village of Emmaville.

After the mine closed, the area was left in a very damaged state with waste dumps polluting surrounding areas, dangerous open mine shafts and high concentrations of arsenic left on the site. Rehabilitation work was carried out by the Department of Mineral Resources (now the NSW DPI) to correct much of the environmental damage and make the site safe for visitors. The remaining workings of the mine have been left as a historic site but are fenced off to prevent visitors accessing areas which are still covered in toxic arsenic.

See the NSW DPI Minfact No.22 Arsenic for more information on arsenic mining in NSW.

If you are in the Glen Innes/Emmaville area, a visit to the historic Ottery Mine is well worth it. Take Tour Drive 11 and do the circuit to Emmaville and back again. You will pass by our mine (visible from the road) about 12km from Glen Innes on the way to Emmaville so keep your eyes open.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Gem of the Month: Blue Topaz

December 9, 2005

Blue is the colour for December with birthstones including stones such as tanzanite, blue zircon and turquoise. However these days, blue topaz is the most popular choice as the birthstone for December due to its bright colour and affordability.

Gemmology Matters: Topaz is a silicate mineral with the composition Al2SiO4(F,OH)2. Topaz is found in a range of colours although it is commonly very pale or colourless – in ancient times, the name “topaz” was used to refer to any yellow stone. Although topaz has a good hardness of 8, it has perfect cleavage along one direction – it can be split with a single blow and should be protected from hard knocks. For this reason, it is not recommended to clean topaz in an ultrasonic cleaner. In nature, blue is among the rarest of colours for natural topaz, however, the use of irradiation treatment to create vivid blue colours has made it the most commonly used colour for topaz in jewellery today. Pale topaz which is enhanced to become blue is found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and China. All commercially available blue topaz has been treated to enhance colour which ranges from Sky (light), Swiss (medium) to London Blue (dark) as seen from left to right in the photo below. Generally London Blue Topaz is more expensive as it requires more treatment to achieve the deeper colour.

Photo at left shows topaz before and after irradiation treatment (photo from EBIS Iotron) – note the dramatic change in colour.

Mythology and Lore: Blue topaz is said to enhance communicative abilities, helping to more easily and clearly express oneself. Historically, topaz was thought to give protection from poison, disease and sorcery. Blue topaz is the zodiac stone for the sign of Sagittarius and the anniversary gemstone for the 4th, 19th or 23rd years of marriage.

Photo from Topaz Buying Guide  

Alternatives in Blue: There are many blue gemstones available representing the colours of the heavens. Blue zircon is perhaps the closest match in colour but these days is less commonly used as irradiated blue topaz has become the blue gem of choice for affordable jewellery. Blue sapphire is more valuable but is generally more saturated in colour. Aquamarine is another popular choice in blue but is generally much paler in colour. Tanzanite is another popular blue gemstone although the colour often has purple hues as well and limited supply can make this gem expensive.

Links of Interest:

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Some new developments

December 5, 2005

Just a short announcement to explain some of the website alterations. Those visitors arriving to the blog via the news flash page will already have noticed the news feed on the main website. As the blog is updated more regularly than the News Flash page, it made sense to automatically feed these articles directly to the News Page. Hope that this feature makes life a little easier for those wanting to keep up with the latest developments at Aussie Sapphire. Please note that if there are no articles showing in the newsfeed box, you may need to manually refresh the News Flash page to grab the most recent information.

We are also continuing the process of moving most of our inventory over to the Ebay Store and have now revised the online shop pages to reflect this change. While this has been done to reach a larger audience and facilitate easier listing/selling of our many items, please feel free to contact us directly if you would like to make a special order. Much of our stock goes direct to standing orders from the trade or by negotiation for special purchases so just email us if you dont see what you need online. Trade customers and resellers are still very important to us, contact us at any time with your requirements and we will help.

Special sapphire of the highest quality is very hard to find. Often sapphire like this is sold at greatly inflated prices simply because of the reputation of the trader. Most traders (even these high class ones) just visit Thailand and buy what seems to be good for them – if there is no independant laboratory certificate, the buyer will have to take the word of the seller as to the treatment status and origin. After many decades of our best sapphire being re-labelled as being from other more desirable locations, we know only too well that great sapphire may be from a variety of sources. There are many steps in the supply chain for sapphire and other precious gems. The only way to be totally sure you are buying what you think you are, is to buy direct from the source with the added advantage of far more reasonable pricing.

Aussie Sapphire offers this unique benefit – we can offer these truly collectable gems without the extra markups in the supply chain and our signed Certificate of Authenticity guarantees the origin and treatment status of each gem from our mine. The photo above shows just one example of a fine blue sapphire from our mine – this beauty is 3.3 carats and completely natural (unheated). A rare gem with lasting value.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire