Minor Website Update

March 27, 2006

Just announcing that we have done a minor reorganisation of some of the pages on our website. The improvement process is never complete and work is ongoing but this is a start. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

We have collected together most of the information pages under the Sapphire Facts page – we plan to make this the place to look for anything to do with sapphires from our region (Glen Innes in the heart of the New England, NSW). We have included a new page with our Fossicking information (previously published on this blog) and will be adding to this with maps and information about fossicking locations. We are continually looking to streamline the information and navigation of the website so any suggestions to improve usability are most welcome.

We do have further work to do on the website including additional information on the treatment issue and reorganising/updating the links section. Ultimately, we aim to upgrade our online shop section to allow our customers to buy direct more easily – however, in the meantime, our Ebay Store is working very well and we recommend you take a look at the great variety of bargains to be had there.

Just received a fantastic parcel of rough (aqua, tourmaline and spessartite) from Africa just today – excellent quality so keep an eye out for these new listings in the next short while. Here is a quick photo to whet your appetite.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Yarrow Creek zircon

March 26, 2006

Just picked up this zircon from an old fossicker who found it some years ago at Yarrow Creek on the eastern side of Glen Innes (our mine is just to the west of Glen Innes). This stone is honey coloured but is extremely clean – very nice piece and one of the largest zircons we have seen at just over 95 carats. Can click on the small images below to see the full size photographs.

People go fossicking or rockhounding at Yarrow Creek to find sapphire mostly but you can find garnet and clear or smoky quartz as well. The areas on the eastern side of Glen Innes are much more sandy in soil type and there is a slightly greater variety of gems found. Garnet, topaz and good quartz is much more rare where we mine on the black flats of the Reddestone Creek.

No commercial mining is carried out at Yarrow Creek – just some fossicking but this large zircon was certainly a very good find. The rarity of stones of this size combined with the excellent clarity should make it quite valuable indeed.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Check out our online shop for lots of great bargains – some new stock has just been listed and some excellent items up for auction. New rough from Africa arriving this week – stay tuned for details !


How to fossick for sapphire

March 18, 2006

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE HAVE ADDED A NEW FOSSICKING INFORMATION SECTION ON OUR WEBSITE:

Many visitors to Glen Innes are experienced fossickers who know what they are looking for. However, we often get visitors who have not tried this fun activity before and are looking for some guidance on the basics. Note that for our overseas visitors, fossicking is the same as rockhounding. The exact definition of the term is subject to argument, but in our experience, Aussies use the word fossicking to describe the search for gemstones while rockhounding is used when looking for fossils, mineral specimens and the like.

For those visitors looking for a quick and convenient fossicking activity with tuition and equipment provided, we recommend contacting Take a Wee Brek – operating tag-along fossicking tours and a fossicking park right in the centre of Glen Innes. Further information on fossicking locations and equipment hire may be found at the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre.

For those looking to strike out on their own, the following information may be useful:

No licence is required to fossick for gems in NSW – people simply need consent from the landholder and are required to follow some simple rules (see more on this here). Most fossickers will work in a sapphire bearing creek as the alluvial sapphire is the easiest to access. In contrast, commercial miners are not allowed to work within a watercourse and are usually working wash layers which are at some depth (not easy for the casual fossicker to dig down to).

There is great variation in wash type – you may be digging in heavy black clay or sandy soils. When digging for sapphire bearing gravel (or “wash”), the presence of black spinel (often called “black jack”) or of common corundum in the concentrate is a good indicator that sapphire is also present. Sapphire may be found in a wide range of colours including blue, green, yellow and gold, and combinations known as “parti-colours” so don’t just look for the blue ones.

The recommended method of finding sapphire in the New England area is to use 2 sieves with contrasting mesh size. You will also need a shovel and a bucket. We recommend that you wear old clothes for this activity as it can be muddy and dirty. Many of these areas are some distance from town so take along plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat. Often these locations are excellent spots for a picnic – no need to spend all your time on the end of a shovel!

Place your sieves one on top of the other and fill your top (coarse) screen with wash, submerge below water and shake in a circular motion. A slight up and down movement will help to suspend the gravel in the water and release the smaller and finer stones. When washing is complete, remove top screen and rake through it with your fingers, looking for gems of a ‘glassy’ appearance or stones of interesting colours. Next inspect the bottom screen (fine) and wash again to dissolve the clay.

The next step is to pulsate the fine material in the bottom sieve. Shake vigorously up and down while periodically turning the sieve partway so that the gravel is concentrating evenly in the centre of the sieve. You are aiming for the heavy gems to sink to the bottom of the sieve and concentrate in the middle section. Take the screen to a clean, flat area for inspection (many use a hessian bag) and flip the screen over towards you landing it squarely upside-down. If centred correctly, the gemstones will be in the centre and on top.

Inspect the pile of gravel carefully and pick out anything of interest – some tweezers will help with this job and a small container is handy to store your gems. Remember that sapphires often are not very spectacular in their natural state – pick up anything with a slightly glossy appeareance even if the colour is quite dark. Hold the stone up to the sunlight – if it is transparent or translucent, it is most likely a gem of some kind.

Fossicking in the New England area will yield a wonderful range of gems. While most are looking for sapphire, other possible finds include zircon, black spinel, garnet, varieties of quartz, topaz and tourmaline. Zircon is associated with sapphire in most areas and range in colour from clear, yellow, honey brown to rich red and orange hues. Black spinel is another gem commonly found with sapphire and is an opaque black mineral with excellent properties as a cut gem.

Hope this information is of some help to those considering fossicking for their own sapphires. What to do with your find will be the subject of a future article.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Fossicking at Minerama

March 18, 2006

Fossicking at Glen Innes is a popular activity for many visitors to the town and Minerama provides an excellent opportunity for this with guided tours to a range of locations – some of which are not normally open to the public.

This year, trips were offered to these locations:

YARROW CREEK – sapphire, pyrope garnet, zircon & clear/smoky quartz

TINGHA – quartz gems, especially clear/smoky quartz & “grass-stone”

THE GULF FLUORITE MINES – Good mineral specimens can be picked up or dug from the mine dumps – fluorite, beryl, candle crystals of quartz, chlorite and copper minerals

SURFACE HILL – tin, topaz and some beryl

PRETTY VALLEY – sapphire including dog tooth, yellow and brilliant parti-colour, larger corundum crystals, zircon (including pink), clear and smoky quartz, black tourmaline.

REDDESTONE CREEK – sapphire and zircon.

EMMAVILLE – fluorite, beryl, candle crystals of quartz, galena, chlorite, arsenopyrite, cassiterite

The Reddestone Creek trip was a highlight again this year as this area is not normally open to the public. As Reddestone Creek sapphires are highly prized for their top quality, keen fossickers are always interested to get the chance to dig one up themselves.

Photo above shows the area being worked – two fossickers are being given a little help to shift some rocks from our son Angus.

As always, there is a lot of dirt mixed in with those beautiful Reddestone blues. However, determined fossickers were rewarded for their efforts with a large 16.2 carat sapphire being found along with some 10 carat sapphires and a nice 8.6 carat zircon. We heard that most people went home happy with some colour and a pleasant day out by the Creek. This next photo is another shot of some visitors working hard to see some colour in the sieves.

Thank you to the Tour Guides and the Minerama Committee for making this tour possible – Aussie Sapphire is always pleased to help out with providing access to our property. We hope to run this tour again next year at Minerama so hope to see you here.

Remember that if you missed out on finding a great sapphire from Glen Innes, there is always lots of choice in our online shop – both rough and cut gems direct from our mine.

Cheers from Aussie Sapphire


Minerama Report

March 12, 2006

Minerama 2006 at Glen Innes – WOW! A long weekend of fun and festivities for many hundreds of visitors and another successful weekend for traders. It was certainly great to catch up with some familiar faces and continue to supply our fine Reddestone blues to an appreciative audience. We were lucky to have a prime spot inside the Glen Innes Services Club so we had many interested visitors throughout the weeekend.

Most traders reported good steady business over the whole weekend – Aussie Sapphire had a fantastic weekend with excellent sales of rough sapphire to many buyers – some new customers as well as those who have supported us over the past year. We would like to thank everyone for this fantastic support as it makes all the hard work worthwhile. The photo below shows a lineup of customers looking through the selection of rough on offer – lots of interest there and many good sales made.

We also had excellent interest in our new line of gemstone beads featuring black spinel and sapphire from our mine on the Reddestone Creek.

The weekend also featured a number of fossicking tours, some to our own property on the Reddestone Creek – more on this in the next blog post.

There was certainly an abundance of fine gems of every colour and type at Minerama, as well as a great selection of fossils, mineral and rock specimens and fine/costume jewellery. Something for every taste and budget. If you missed Minerama this year, pencil it in on your calendar for next year – March 9-11, 2007.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Quick Update

March 8, 2006

Just a quick note to update our customers. We have been busy preparing for Minerama – our local Gem Show here this weekend. See our recent post on the subject. Very busy preparing gems for display and our other range of products so not much time to photograph and catalogue new rough.

Consequently, we did not list any new items last weekend and will not have time to do so this weekend. We do have good stock of our own sapphire and other gems of interest so there is still plenty to consider. We plan to restock the Ebay Store after Minerama is over and we get a chance to draw breath. We may even find a few bargains at Minerama which might be of interest to our customers – we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, there are 2 auctions running which are due to finish after the weekend. At the time of writing this, these are still at the starting price of 99 cents so you never know – these might go for a bargain price. Remember, this rough is of our usual high quality. These auctions allow our buyers to set the price and every 99 cent auction has the chance of finishing well below our normal selling price – on the other hand, we have had some keen buyers compete strongly for our very best pieces. We have a nice 9 carat Reddestone Blue and a Lovely Lighter Coloured Parti Sapphire up for grabs this time so we recommend you check it out.

More news coming soon with hopefully a Minerama report by the end of the weekend – we will have 2 guided fossicking tours running on our property along the Reddestone Creek. We wish all those participants the best of luck – hope you find plenty of treasure in amongst the mud and gravel of the creek.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Gem of the Month: Bloodstone

March 1, 2006


The modern birthstone for March is aquamarine – see our March 2005 article on aqua for more information on this gem. However, the traditional birthstone for March is Bloodstone which has only recently been replaced by the more valuable aquamarine gems. However, bloodstone is a really interesting gem which is definitely worth a closer look.

Gemmological Matters: Bloodstone is a variety of chalcedony – a cryptocrystalline variety of quartz which can be in many different forms. Bloodstone is the name given to a dark green/greenish-blue chalcedony with small red blood-like spots. The red colour of the spots deriving from iron oxide. Like all quartz, the chemical composition is SiO2. The main source of Bloodstone is India – it is also found in Russia, Germany, Austria, Australia, China, Brazil and the USA.

Hardness is 7 on the Moh’s Scale of hardness so it is acceptable for use in jewellery with appropriate care. Bloodstone is a popular gemstone that is usually cut as cabochons. It is also used for beads, as a seal-stone (with an engraved device), for men’s signet rings, cameos and decorative carvings.

Mythology and Lore: Bloodstone is a very ancient stone with the red flecking giving rise to many interesting legends. The ancient Greeks and Roman believed athletes would gain endurance by wearing Bloodstone. Bloodstone is also regarded by some as a “Hero’s Gemstone”, capable of instilling courage in dangerous situations and providing protection from ones own dangerous desires.

Medieval Christians often used Bloodstone to carve scenes of the crucifixion and martyrs resulting in an alternative name as the “Martyr’s Stone”. Some sources suggest that it was worn by early Christians as a symbol of their faith. The Christian legend of the origin of Bloodstone says that it was first formed when drops of Christ’s blood fell and stained Jasper at the foot of the cross during his crucifixion.

Bloodstone is the traditional birthstone for March and is associated with the Zodiac sign of Aires. Bloodstone is often used as a healing stone and it represents courage and martydom.

Alternatives: The unique red spotting on the green background is unique to Bloodstone and we do no know of any similar alternative. May be confused with green jasper which does not have the characteristic red fleck through the stone.

Image at left courtesy Gemstone Magic

Links of Interest:
ICGA Gem by Gem article on Bloodstone – The Martyr’s Gem
Branwynn Annwn – Bloodstone for March
PGR Gens – datasheet on Bloodstone
Gem Society – Chalcedony Information
Mineral Miners – Mineral Factsheet on Jasper

Bloodstone may be available from any good rock shop – we do not stock this fascinating stone. However, we have good stock of the modern March birthstone of aquamarine so contact us if you need quality aqua in rough or cut form.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire