Sapphire and Fossicking Facts
Sapphires were formed millions of years ago deep within the earth. The many active volcanos in the area caused the earth to flip and flop, pushing mountains up and back down again. The lava eventually eroded away and is now the black soil that farmers grow their cotton and sunflower crops in. The theory is that as the lava eroded, the sapphires were washed into the river systems and are now classified as alluvial deposits. Sapphire “wash” as it is called can be found on the surface in some areas but can be as deep as 70ft. That’s a long way on a ladder!
Sapphires are the second hardest gemstone. Diamond is at the top of the Moh Scale at 10 and Sapphire is 9. Only different grades of Diamond powder will cut and polish Sapphires. Most semi precious gemstones are around 7 on the Moh Scale.
Zirconium Silicate, commonly known as Zircon is found with the Sapphires. They are the heaviest gemstone of all the gemstones. Containing Zirconium, a heavy metal, Zircons are slightly radioactive. Enough to expose film. This is what gives them their brilliance when cut and polished. Rainbow sparkles out of any colour Zircon in the sun. They are a little bit soft for every day wear so we recommend setting them into pendants, earrings or dress rings. Often confused with Cubic Zirconia which is the man made diamond, Zircons are actually used to make Cubic Zirconia. They heat up (oxidise) the Zircon under lab conditions and grow a cubic crystal. Hence, Cubic Zirconia or Zirconium Oxide. If you look at the picture of Sapphire and Zircon, the Zircons are the clear, yellow, orange, brown, red colours and the sapphires are green, yellow blue and black.
Many years ago, some very forward thinking people decided to designate areas and land. On Designated Fossicking Areas you are not allowed to peg a mining claim. Most surface digging areas were designated Areas so that future generations (us!) could have the opportunity to have a go. Otherwise, the whole 900 Square kilometres of sapphire bearing wash would have been excavated long ago and we would not be here living a lovely life. The deeper ground was designated Fossicking Land and you are allowed to peg a mining claim to shaft down to the Sapphire Bearing Wash and start tunnelling with jackhammers. For further info re Mining Claims in Rubyvale or Sapphire please go to Dept of Mines and Energy, Emerald.
To go fossicking for gemstones on the surface in a Designated Fossicking Area you are required to have a Fossicking License (we sell these), a Fossicking Kit (we run daily DIY Gemstone Fossicking Day Tours) and some knowledge of how to process the sapphire bearing wash (this education is part of the DIY Gemstone Fossicking Tours). You are restricted to pick and shovel digging only. You have to wash and process the dirt there. The rules of fossicking are simple. Do not enter a mining claim. Mining claims are easily identified. They are 30M x 30M and have a white peg in each corner with a number and name painted on it. If there are buckets or fossicking equipment near or in a hole on the surface, do not enter. The person digging it has left that gear there because they will be coming back. Once upon a time you could leave everything there but nowadays, sadly they tend to disappear so a bucket is sufficient to reserve your hole. You probably won’t get shot at but you will find trouble if you choose to ignore this rule.
You are allowed to camp on the Designated Fossicking Area. It will cost you $3.30 per night for an Individual or Family (Camping Permits available from us). You must be a self sufficient camper as there are no facilities. Our Gemstone Fossicking and Camping Tour is flexible with times for arrival and departure. You could also stay at Rubyvale Holiday Units or the Rubyvale Caravan Park and take our Gemstone Fossicking Day Tour over a couple of days or longer. The Designated Fossicking Area that you will be camping in is abundant in wildlife, especially birds. It is part of a Cattle Property so you are just as likely to have a herd of cows wandering through. It’s probably a good idea to consider this possibility when camping and don’t leave uncovered buckets of water or food out. Do not approach the cattle.
When you have finished fossicking for gemstones and you are not sure what you have found please bring them to us and we will sort and assess them. Due to the increase in visitors requiring their stones to be sorted we have had to start charging $5 to take the time to sort and assess them. This fee is refundable if stones are subsequently left to be cut and polished. This Gemstone Sort and Assess service is included in our Gemstone Fossicking Tours. We charge $35 per gemstone for Round Brilliants, $45 per gemstone for Fancy Cuts and $25 per gemstone for Star Sapphires. Prices quoted are per gemstone up to a carat. Once the weight of finished gemstone is over a carat it will be charged at per carat weight instead of per gemstone. Once the gemstones have been cut and polished we will contact you for payment via credit card or direct deposit and we will send your gemstones via registered mail. Postage is included in the Gem Cutting Fee.