May 31, 2006

Things have been very busy lately so havent had much time to update the blog. The GAA tour mentioned in the last post went very well – a full bus load of gemmologists visited the Kings Plains mine where Jack Wilson (Austgem) and Andrew (Aussie Sapphire) were able to take them through the mining process and discuss some of the issues facing the Australia sapphire industry at present. Once again, we were struck by the fact that a number of people in the industry are not aware that Australia can (and does) produce good quality sapphire at competitive prices.

We are currently working a particularly good patch of ground which has been very pleasing. We have been loading quite a few new items on the Ebay Store but they dont seem to be lasting very well with keen buyers snapping them up quickly. We are not complaining about this but it seems that everytime we think we have gained some breathing space by listing new stock, lots of the new items are grabbed. We suggest that you keep a close eye on the Store so you dont miss any good opportunities.

The word around the traps is that good quality rough, particularly from Africa, is becoming very dificult to source. We will be listing more of our existing stock soon and are working on securing a new parcel of tourmaline. We will let you know as this happens.

We do have some sapphire rough auctions running so keep an eye on those.

Some of our customers may know that we have been working on a new website – this will bring the online shop function back direct to our website. We started out with an online shop but were not really happy with how it was working – we have been looking for a suitable alternative for a while now and it is very close to launch. For those interested in things technical, we will be running an online shop based on the Zencart ecommerce solution – this will provide all the features and functions you expect from a modern online shop and we are very excited about this new development. Stay tuned for more on this as we are getting very close to going “live”.

Please note that we will not be abandoning the Ebay Store because we have gained lots of really great new customers this way – however, the new online shop will have some features that I think all of our buyers will appreciate.

While we have been working on the website, we have taken the opportunity to rewrite and reorganise some of the information pages on the website including duplicating some of the more important blog posts so that they are available to readers in a more permanent and accessible manner. When the new site is launched, we will be very interested in any feedback that you might like to provide (good or bad) as our aim is to provide a useful and interesting resource for our customers. If you can help us do that job better, we will be very appreciative.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


GAA Conference 2006

May 18, 2006

The National Conference of the Gemmological Association of Australia for 2006 will be held at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel 30 Pitt Street, Circular Quay on 19 – 21 May 2006. See the GAA website for more information on the 2006 Conference.

The conference will offer many items of interest to members with the keynote speaker being John I Koivula (co-author of Photoatlas – Inclusions in Gemstones).

The post-conference tour will be held from 22/5/06 to 28/5/06 and tour the important gemfields of NSW – the tour will feature the Barrington Tops, Inverell-Glen Innes and Lightning Ridge. A fantastic opportunity to see some really interesting parts of Australia.

While in the Glen Innes/Inverell area, the tour group will visit the mine of our good friend and colleague Jack Wilson at nearby Kings Plains. I hope that this tour will help visitors to realise that NSW produces very fine quality blue sapphire – something often overlooked by many in the trade.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

PS – the website rewrite is going extremely well and we hope to open it up for a sneak preview very soon. The site will be launched officially soon afterwards. Stay tuned for more news on this.

Miners safe at last.

May 9, 2006

Anyone watching the news today will have realised that the two miners trapped underground in a Tasmanian goldmine for almost 2 weeks have finally been rescued.

An incredible event with all of Australia celebrating the safe rescue of the 2 miners while acknowledging the tragic death of their workmate in the rockfall.

While Australia has extremely safe mines, underground mining is still a dangerous occupation – something that should never be forgotten. We send our condolences to the family of Larry Knight and rejoice in the news that Todd Russell and Brant Webb are finally safe.

For international readers who may not have heard much about this story – see more information here – National Nine News.

Aussie Sapphire

Lonewood Museum – Part 1

May 8, 2006

Apart from our interest in gems, we have had a long-standing interest in antique machinery. Over the last couple of decades, Andrew has put together an impressive collection of antique tractors and stationary engines. These are currently housed in the Lonewood Museum (aka the Shearing Shed lean-to) although the collection constantly threatens to spill over and encroach into neighbouring shed space.

We thought some of our blog visitors may be interested to see just an overview of some of the collection in these few photographs. Will talk about a few of our favourite pieces in a future article.

Here are some of our old tractors including a Twin City 21-32, Allis Chalmers C35 and a Case. All these tractors are in working order. Unfortunately the Dodge ute (1923 model) will need some work before we can drive it.

This view shows another old Case and a Howard DH-22 – one of the few genuine Australian designed and built tractors.

┬áThe last photo shows a selection of our stationary engines – used for many jobs throughout the last century. Many of these are in working order although they are still in their “working clothes”.

That’s all for now from us at Aussie Sapphire.

Could write pages about our museum but better get back to work on the website re-write. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article some time soon.

Computer work

May 8, 2006

Have been absolutely flat out all weekend on the computer trying to do a few things at once. For keen buyers looking for a bargain, we have a number of auctions running at the moment.

These comprise some nice pieces of sapphire as well as a selection from our other categories – some nice rough in tourmaline, spessartite and aquamarine as well as a good sapphire cabochon and unique black spinel silver bracelet. Something there for everyone and the prices still at bargain levels so take a good look.

If this watermelon tourmaline doesnt attract some buyers I will be very surprised as this is an excellent example of the type with well defined colour zones – a great piece of rough with good size (9.3 carats).

The other job keeping us up late at night is a major re-write of our website. This will bring the online shop function back to our own website with much greater convenience and functionality for our customers. We wont be leaving Ebay but are keen to bring some of our items "back home".

The website is coming along very well and we hope to get it up and running very soon. If you have any comments or suggestions as to what you would like to see on the new website, let us know and we will see if we can use them. We value your feedback so help us make the website meet your needs as a gemstone buyer.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Gem of the Month: Emerald

May 2, 2006

The gemstone for May is Emerald, also known as the Gemstone for Spring for its beautiful colour. In fact, relatively clean gems of intense grass-green colour are among the most valuable of all gemstones.

Gemmology Matters: Emerald is the green variety of Beryl – a mineral with the composition Be3Al2(SiO3)6. Emeralds are found in many countries with Columbia recognised as the source of the finest gems – emeralds are also found in Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Australia, Africa, India, Norway, and the United States.

Emeralds have been commercially mined in Australia in only two main areas: the New England region (Emmaville and Torrington) and in Western Australia near the Poona district. Emeralds were first mined near Emmaville in the early part of the 20th Century with over 53,000 carats produced over 20 years of intermittent production. Another attempt at commercial mining took place at nearby Torrington in the early 1990’s – while the gems were of good quality, it appears the source is now exhausted. The photo above shows an excellent example of an New England emerald (courtesy GAA – see link below).

The difference between green beryl and true emerald is determined by chemical analysis with emerald containing traces of Chromium Oxide. Where chromium is not present, the colour of green beryl is caused by traces of vanadium and/or iron. There seems to be some discussion among experts about what percentage of chromium compared to vanadium is required to qualify as emerald. Given that gems of a range of colour intensity are found in both Cr-coloured and Va-coloured stones, I suggest the point is somewhat moot and people should choose a colour that appeals to them. In practice, the name emerald is usually reserved for the gems of better colour (intense grass green of pure tone) with those of lighter colour (and perhaps yellowish tone) are referred to as green beryl.

Although emerald has a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Moh scale, it is usually regarded as quite a brittle gem due to the high level of inclusions typically found in these stones. Emeralds usually contain many cracks, fissures, and inclusions – for this reason, most emerald are “oiled”, an enhancement treatment which immerses the stone in oil in order to reduce the visibility of the inclusions and improve clarity. Because this treatment is almost universal, it is usually not disclosed to buyers. Emeralds should be treated with particular care and never cleaned in an ultrasonic or steam cleaner as this may damage the stone or may cause the gem to require “re-oiling”.

Mythology and Lore: The name emerald is thought to derive from the Ancient Greek word “smaragdos” meaning green stone and was originally applied to a variety of green colored minerals. Emerald is the birthstone for May as reflected in this old English nursery rhyme:

“Who first beholds the light of day
In spring’s sweet flowery month of May,
And wears a Emerald all her life,
Shall be a loved, and happy wife.”

Emerald is often given as an anniversary gift for the 20th and 35th anniversaries or as an alternate stone for the 55th wedding anniversary. Emerald have been long been associated with eyesight – it has been used to cure diseases of the eye and enhance clairvoyance. It is said that Nero used an eyeglass made of transparent emerald to improve his vision while watching the gladiators in the arena. Emeralds were also used as amulets to ward off epilepsy in children and were thought to improve memory, intelligence, and enhance love and contentment. Legend holds that if an emerald is given by one sweetheart to another, it will pale and grow dull when the love between them fades.

Emeralds have been highly prized by many cultures for thousands of years. Known to have been sold in the ancient market of Babylon over 4000 years ago, they feature in many legends and myths. In Greek mythology, Hermes composed a tablet carved from a giant emerald as a gift for Aphrodite. In the Book of Revelations, the throne of God is said to be made from emerald and the Holy Grail carved from a huge emerald which fell from Satan’s crown upon his banishment from Heaven. In Hebrew lore, emeralds were one of the four precious stones given to Solomon.

Cleopatra prized emeralds above all other gems – the famed emerald mines of Egypt from over 2000 years ago were near the Red Sea and owned by Cleopatra. The Moguls of India, including Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, admired emeralds so much they inscribed them with sacred text and wore them as talismans. The incredible beauty and quality of the fine emeralds found in South America enflamed the greed of the Spanish Conquistadors arriving in South America. Pissarro, the leader of the Spanish, ordered that Incan rulers were to be tortured until they revealed the location of the emerald mine. In 1557 the Spanish finally found the fabulous Muzo mine in what is now Colombia – an important source of fine emerald to this day.

Alternatives in Green: Green symbolises the element earth and represents fertility, prosperity, employment, money, healing, and growth. While emerald is perhaps the most valuable of all the green gems, there are alternatives to suit every budget. For everyday wear, green sapphire is an excellent choice with a hardness of 8 – good quality greens are very rare but often priced quite reasonably compared to other sapphire colours. Green sapphire may be less brilliant than some of the other alternatives and can have a slightly olive tone. Demantoid and Tsavorite Garnet are both very bright green gemstones with good brilliance and intense colour. Peridot is an affordable alternative to emerald and in fact is sometimes misleadingly called “Evening Emerald” although usually the colour is slightly yellowish compared to the pure green of quality emerald. Tourmaline can come in beautiful shades of green – often with some blue tone – some varieties are highly sought after. Opaque alternatives in green include jade and chrysoprase.

Links of Interest:

Emerald Factsheet at Mineral Miners
Wikipedia article on Emerald
ICGA Gem-by-Gem article on Emerald
Bernadine Fine Arts Jewelry – Emerald article
GAA Gem Gallery – Australia’s Emerald Deposits
The Emerald Deposits of Muzo, Colombia (reprinted by Palagems)

We currently have a small amount of green beryl in stock – some originates from Nigeria but some is from our own backyard (the Emmaville/Torrington area). Most of this is of the lighter green colour typical of these sources but some very attractive crystals here along with some interesting facet rough (see photo at left). Keep an eye out for this in our Ebay Store.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire