Photos from the GAA Gem Tour

June 28, 2006

Readers may be interested to view this webpage with photos from the Gem Tour run after the Gemmological Association of Australia’s annual conference in April – this tour was mentioned in a previous post.  However, Jack Wilson and I were so busy talking when the tour group stopped at the Kings Plains mine that we neglected to take any photographs.

Luckily, some on the tour did remember to get out the camera.  These images were taken by Wolf Kuehn and published on the Canadian Institute of Gemmology website – we provide these links for your interest only so please note the copyright.

There are a number of photo galleries covering the various stops.  See here for the Gallery showing the Glen Innes and Inverell stops including a number of images of the Kings Plains mine. 

cheers for now from Andrew (Aussie Sapphire)


General News

June 27, 2006

Have not had much time to update the blog so just a quick one to update everyone.

The new website is now fully operational and we have lots of people looking and a few sales already.  Please feel free to register an account with us – this is free and only takes a moment.  Remember, if you are located overseas, you can view prices in a number of other currencies (USD, CAD, EUR) by simply selecting it from the drop down list in the top right hand corner.  If you would like us to add another currency for display purposes (we still charge in AU dollars), just let us know and we can add it to the list.

gcgs.jpgAndrew and our oldest son Patrick spent last weekend at the Gold Coast Gem & Craft Show – a one day gem show held at Miami each June.  Trade was steady through the day and sales were pleasing – this particular show tends to focus on jewellery rather than facet rough.  This photo shows Patrick chatting to some customers.

While we do not attend many gem shows, Andrew is planning to go to the Lightning Ridge Opal Show in late July.  Should be a very interesting weekend so if you are in the area, drop in and say hello.  Leah will be staying home to hold the fort so shop operations will continue as normal.

Speaking of jewellery, we have added a few more items on to our new website so take a look.  We are also working on some new designs right now.  We are adding new products all the time so keep checking back.  One interesting new product is an affordable faceting machine for those you who have been considering getting involved in lapidary but concerned about the high cost required for setup. 

Mining has been a bit interrupted over the last week due to other work committments and rain.  However, we are currently working quite a good patch so we hope to have some more good rough listed on the weekend.

Cheers for now from Andrew and Leah (Aussie Sapphire)

Short History of Lonewood Mine Part 1

June 27, 2006

Further to my last post, I thought I’d just write a few short notes on the history of the Lonewood Mine.

Often I get asked two questions: 1) why do you worry about running the mine when you own such a great property and 2) what makes the most money.

I will answer the second question first (makes sense?).  Neither make much money (worst luck!) but one does prop the other up and vice versa.  The relative profitability changes a bit depending on the market at the time.

The first question is a bit harder to answer, I will go back into some of our past and that should help explain the (at times) madness.

When I was a small boy my Grandfather Frank Lane owned a “bush block” at Bullock Mountain about 5 miles downstream on the Reddestone Creek.  He loved it and spent most winters down there mucking around as it was always warmer.  Quite a bit of the rest of his time was spent fighting sapphire mining companies. Many a battle was played out in the court as at that time the chance of getting an honest royalty out of a miner was about zero.  Another problem was the fact that proper restoration of the land after mining was unheard of. 

I can see why he was frustrated by the invasion of these miners on his peaceful bush block and we need to remember it wasnt just a couple of miners.  This was around the height of the sapphire boom in the area so there were many miners including the daily car loads of mostly no-hopers from town that expected free access to anything they could find.  Anyway it was in these early days that I guess my initial interest was aroused.  The rough minesites and machinery (and people) interested me.  Pretty soon, most of my spare time was spent watching (and probably annoying) these facinating men.

By the age of around 9 I had a Honda postal bike that took me anywhere I was allowed.  Unfortunately, this resulted in the eventual sale of our bush block. It had been for sale for some time when on a weekend visit I caught up with a funny old chap by the name of Arthur Lancaster.  He was a city bloke who bought a mine on the place and came up for extended periods to lose some of his hard earned cash mining.  I didnt know that he wasnt aware that the whole property was for sale but me and my big mouth 😦 – within about 8 weeks our bush block was gone.  Malcolm, my father, kept one lease that he was informed may have some sapphire on it but much to my disappointment, the rest was lost.  However life went on and I kept pestering the miners. 

But I will keep the rest of the story for Part 2.
Cheers from Andrew

Missed our 10th Birthday!

June 15, 2006

This note was prompted by the fact that time flies when you're having fun. On Thursday last week, the day was progressing as normal.  After our normal 7am start in around -8 degrees (fun with water and machinery to start), we just sat down in luxury on our 5 gallon buckets for our 15 minute cup of tea when sudden silence fell over the plant site – no power.  Now this kind of thing is not uncommon.  We are lucky enough to be connected to the mains power, but we do have our share of brownouts and loss of power from time to time. This is a real pain as sapphire is often lost over the jigs when this happens plus there is a big load when starting our gear up again when the trommel has a couple of tonne of wash in it.  Following a normal restart, it's off to work we go.  I was digging in a rocky bit of wash (unusual for our flat) and didnt notice my offsider Phil arrive down at the cut with that telltale sad look on his face that told me all was not right at the plant. Shortly after I had left the main pump stopped again and when Phil investigated he could smell the smoke a hundred yards from the pump shed – that awful burnt wire smell that means you're up for lots of dollars.

Anyway, that's a long way around to explaining the title of this post.  As I mumbled to myself some unrepeatable words while removing the cover of the 40hp electric motor, I made a comment to Phil that "we didnt get much of a run out of that motor". Phil then quietly pointed down to the date scratched into the top of the cover and it all came back to me. Ten years isn't so long I guess but not such a bad run for the motor after all.  I remember it was only a couple of months after we took over the entire operation of the mine that I scratched that date into the rebuilt electric motor.  It hurt paying for it then and it did again this time.  But I cant deny that it has been an interesting 10 years – we certainly didnt think then that we would be sending our sapphires all over the world from our website – in fact we had only just discovered the internet about then. 

But really, my interest in sapphires goes a lot further back than just 10 years.  If you have kept reading up to this point, you might be interested to read a bit more about the history of Lonewood Mine in the next post – will write a bit about this in the next couple of days.

Just installed the new electric motor today – yes, it did cost lots of dollars but we are up and running again. 

cheers for now from Andrew

Expedition Travels

June 11, 2006

Just had a very pleasant, albeit extremely cold (max of 4.7 degrees C), visit from a small group of German tourists visiting Australia to tour our gemstone areas.  This tour was run by Expedition Travels, a small tour company specialising in trips to Australia where small groups can look for gold, sapphires and opals.

German Tourists fossicking for sapphire on the Reddestone Creek

This small group did some fossicking down on the Reddestone Creek and were lucky to find a couple of very nice dog’s tooth crystals along with plenty of lower grades and some nice small blues.  Funny how it was only myself and one of the tour guides that did the sieving 😉   It was very cold ! We just had 63 mm of rain overnight and in fact I think there was a bit of sleet falling when I took this photo.

Hope the visitors enjoyed their visit to our place anyway and hopefully they will have better weather next time they visit Australia.  If you would like to enquire about joining one of the tours, please see their website – very friendly and knowledgeable guides so you are guaranteed of a great trip.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Still Tweaking

June 11, 2006

Hello everyone.  Regular visitors to our website will see that we are still tweaking the new websites.  However, these are just minor adjustments to improve navigation and usability so feel free to browse, read and even go shopping !!

You are very welcome to register an account with us right now – this is free and allows you to save shopping cart contents, addresses, etc.  When registering, you may choose to receive emails from us or not.  If you prefer not to receive our very occasional emails, remember that we make all relevant announcements here on the blog so you can still keep up to date with the latest developments very easily.  A few of our regulars have already signed up – cheers to RK in the USA who was the very first cab off the rank. 

If you are in the trade you may qualify for wholesale discounts on cut gems and jewellery so just contact us after registering with your trade credentials and we will assign the relevant status to your account.  For our facet rough buyers, please note that these prices are already at trade level as we consider small volume custom cutters to be just as important to our business as the larger trade buyers.

Obviously there is still lots of work to do loading up lots of new products – we plan to attack this job over the next few weeks.  For those still looking for a bargain in sapphire rough, there are 2 stones up for auction right now on Ebay.  Still at bargain prices so take a look at these two beauties: #350 and #351.

We have some fantastic smaller sapphire back from the cutters right now in a range of shapes, sizes and colours so if you are looking for something special, just send us an email and we will see if we can help you out.

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah (Aussie Sapphire)

New Website Up and Running

June 8, 2006

Welcome to the new site for our news blog.  Our regular readers may have arrived here either from our website or from the old version at Blogger.  We hope this new location will give us some added features that will make it easier to organise and use the information stored here.  Still some minor housekeeping to do but will be posting here from now on.

 The really big news is that our new website is now up and running at last.  Please check it out at and let us know what you think.

 We still have a few more minor editing jobs to do and lots of products to load up but the shop is now operational so feel free to register an account and browse the site.  We welcome any feedback you might like to give us.

Please update any bookmarks you might have saved.  The old website has been revised slightly so you will see some changes and some new things to view.  Of particular interest is the photo gallery which shows some new photos and video clips that be of interest to visitors.  The new online shop is easily found via a link on the home page or click on the link in the box on the right hand side of this page.

cheers from Andrew and Leah – Aussie Sapphire