Gourmet in the Glen

September 23, 2006

The New England region is starting to develop a reputation for producing quality wine.  Wine production is not new to the area with vineyards near Inverell dating back to the early 1900’s.  With this century, the industry has been reinvigorated with new vineyards and a vibrant wine show to discover and celebrate the best of the best.

Gourmet in the Glen
Saturday October 7th 2006 

After a modest beginning as “Grapes on the Grass”, this local wine festival now known as “Gourmet in the Glen”is a showcase for New England wine producers.

The day will include tastings of the local wine to enjoy while you sample wonderful culinary delights from local restaurants.  The festival also features a range of a range of local produce from regional food producers.  Many of the successful Wine Show exhibitors will also have stalls where you can purchase bottles of your favourite drop to take home.

Something new to the festival is the Cook-Off competition where two apprentice chefs from the town team up with invited chefs in a “ready, steady, cook” style of event – the teams of two will be put to the task of preparing a meal in twenty minutes from a mystery bag of ingredients.

Music will be provided by a number of talented young people from the district and beyond.  All you have to do is choose a mouthwatering dish and a suitable wine from the wide range on offer and enjoy the music during a beautiful spring day in Glen Innes.

Please see the New England Wine Show website   or the  Gourmet in the Glen website  for more information about this great event.  Please note that entry to Gourmet in the Glen (held at the Glen Innes Showground) is free.  If you wish to taste the wines entered in the wine show (150 of them!), this costs $20 and includes a souvenir tasting glass – great value for the opportunity to sample the best wines of the region.

The festival finale is the Glen Gourmet and Grape Ball.  Held at the Showground on Saturday evening (October 7th 2006), you will be treated to a fabulous night of wonderful food, exceptional local wine and fantastic entertainment.  Dress is Black Tie with music provided by Maxwell Street (from Armidale) who will keep the party atmosphere well and truly jumping.

Next post will look at some of the local wines in more details so stay tuned for more on this subject.  Cheers from Aussie Sapphire.


Field Trips at Emmaville

August 29, 2006

If you have not already planned your trip to Emmaville for this weekend’s Gem Show, it is not too late to arrange it.  There are some great field trips planned for the weekend so here are a few details to whet your appetite:

  • Saturday Morning (9:00am, 2nd September) – trip to the silver mine to look for silver and galena.
  • Saturday Afternoon (1:00pm, 2nd September) – trip to the emerald mine
  • Sunday (all day, 3rd September) – trip to the flourite mine to look for fluorite and Jap twin crystals.  This is an all day trip so please take your morning tea, lunch and plenty of water.
  • Monday (4th September) – trip to look for topaz, copper and tourmaline.

Cost for these trips is $10 for the full day and $5 for half day – very reasonable cost for access to some great fossicking areas with expert local guides to assist you.  As mentioned in our previous post, there will be some traders set up at the Emmaville Caravan Park over the weekend so even if you dont manage to find much yourself, there will be plenty of opportunity to pick up some bargains.


Images courtesy of Mindat.org – Mineralogy Database
Left = Galena, Right = Flourite

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire – hope to see you at Emmaville on the weekend.

Emmaville Gemfest & Swap Meet

July 15, 2006

Advance notice of the Emmaville Mining Museum Gemfest and Swap Meet coming up soon.

2 – 4 September 2006
Emmaville Caravan Park

This great little gem show is a good one for those interested in doing a bit of “hand-on” gem hunting.  Field trips will be run for tin, topaz, flourite, quartz, silver, tourmaline and copper azurite.  And who knows what else the lucky fossicker might find ?

The event will be run from the Emmaville Caravan Park with market stalls and a BBQ all weekend.  Accommodation is available here:

  • Emmaville Caravan Park (0429 333 122)
  • Tatts Hotel, Emmaville (02 6734 7309)
  • Club Hotel, Emmaville (02 6734 7304)

For further information, please contact the Emmaville Mining Museum (02 6732 7025).

Aussie Sapphire wont be attending as a seller but we generally make time to go out and have a quick look at the stalls ourselves.  A smaller gem show like this one is a great place to find some real bargains.

Cheers for now from 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

Celtic Festival 2006

April 30, 2006

Have just returned from a very successful and enjoyable weekend at the Standing Stones of Glen Innes – the site of the annual Celtic Festival. This year's festival was better than ever despite a little rain on Sunday at lunchtime which put a bit of a dampener on some of the activities. We enjoyed chatting to many visitors to the town who were very interested to learn more about sapphire mining in the local area.

The Celtic Festival is a celebration of Celtic heritage and culture through song, dance and entertainment. The festival is held at the Australian Standing Stones, comprising 40 granite monoliths set in a circular array orientated to mark the summer and winter solstices. This setting is entirely appropriate to the many activities on offer this weekend – a number of pipe bands and other musical entertainment, dancing (Scottish and other forms) and re-enactments from relevant historical eras.

The soldiers in red are from the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment. The warriors in action in this photo are from the 9th Roman Legion – very entertaining to see how the gladiatorial battles of old might have looked. Toss in a few Medieval Knights in shining armour and the spectacle is complete.

The Festival also features traditional Strongman events, sheep dog trials and many interesting market stalls. If you havent been to the Celtic Festival yet, mark it in your calendar for next year. A great weekend for all.

Of course, bagpipes and kilts are in abundance and Glen Innes has a very fine pipe band seen here in full voice.Thank you to all those visitors who made our weekend a success. We made many sales of jewellery and it makes us very proud to see people from all over Australia wearing our unique and beautiful gems.

Remember, if you missed us at the Celtic Festival, check out our website or contact us anytime with your enquiry.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

How to fossick for sapphire

March 18, 2006


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