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Archive for August, 2006

Aussie Sapphire selling to the world

Posted August 16, 2006 By AussieSapphire

One of the really great things about selling on the internet is the chance to interact with people from all over the world.  We really enjoy this aspect of the business.  While most of our overseas customers come from the USA, we have made sales into many other countries.  However, the fact that our website is written in English may mean that some people may not easily discover us.

For those people, here are a few tools to help.  Please keep in mind that these are machine translations but hopefully this will help if English is not your native language.  Unfortunately, we only speak English so please use this in your emails. 

Regardez l’emplacement australien de saphir en français – vente en ligne de magasin rugueuse et coupez le saphir du notre propres mien, or et bijoux argentés et beaucoup plus de produits pour le fervent de pierre gemme.

Sehen Sie den australischen Saphiraufstellungsort auf Deutsch – das on-line-Geschäft Verkaufen rauh an und schneiden Sie Saphir von unserer eigenen Grube, Gold und silbernen Schmucksachen und viel mehr Produkte für den Edelsteinenthusiasten.

Opinión el sitio australiano del zafiro en español – venta en línea de la tienda áspera y corte el zafiro de nuestra propia mina, oro y joyería de plata y muchos más productos para el entusiasta de la piedra preciosa.

Osservi il luogo australiano dello zaffiro in italiano – vendere in linea del negozio di massima e tagli lo zaffiro dalla nostri propri miniera, oro e monili d’argento e molti altri prodotti per l’entusiasta del gemstone.

Please note that while Australian dollars is the default currency displayed on our website, you may select from US dollars, Canadian dollars and Euros in the Currency Box in the top right hand corner.  If you would like us to add other currencies, please let us know.  Prices in currencies other than AUD are estimates only and your credit card will be charged in AU dollars but we hope this helps when browsing our catalogues.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Opal Mining at Lightning Ridge

Posted August 9, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Part Two of the Lightning Ridge trip (remember to click on any of the photos to see a larger version):

plant.jpgMining techniques are almost as diverse as the people that do it – from full hand work similar to when the mining first started in the area to some very expensive underground gear along with large open cuts. This photo shows a large treatment plant.

open_cut.jpgTraditionally, opals have been mined underground and this is still common in the area. However, open cut mining has also been used. In this photograph, you can see where the open cut has exposed some small mine shafts in the centre-right of the image (visible through the wire fence).

We arranged a visit below ground with an opal mining acquaintance from my home town of Glen Innes. This miner who was kind enough to spare his time on us was up there with good underground gear, although he explained there is much better on the field. His mine was about 20km west of the Ridge – crossing a huge black soil flat I thought we would never find a mine. The flat is called The Lake and although it is farmed, our guides Chris and Bea told us that locals have water skied on the vast open area in wet times. Suddenly the more familiar camps came into view and I was glad I had a guide as, unlike at the Ridge, the car door signs were nowhere to be seen. Just what seemed like hundreds of tracks all leading somewhere no doubt very important to those that use them.

Once we got to the camp, the typical friendly, laidback nature was evident again. After several weeks mining, these hard working folks just wanted to talk – all interesting stuff so we listened and learnt. The camp was very clean and well built with two large caravans joined by a steel shed between them. After a cuppa, it was boots on and get to work which was a couple of miles away.


These areas have been worked for a long time and as we pulled up at the mine we were shown the basic layout of the underground workings below us. Down below at about 30 feet, there was an area of around 50 x 30 metres (see photo above right) that had been completely removed and propped, with another deeper level below (somewhat unusual as most is just narrow shafts) and tunnels that went all over the place, some linking to each other and some not. It’s quite easy to get lost in some of these networks and Chris told of some areas where you can walk underground for around 2 miles without turning around.

divining.jpgDivining the opal – we do this all the time with our sapphire and it’s got a strong following out there too. Same technique with some using rusty fencing wire like me and others using bought ones (made by a “secret method”). This photo shows David having a go with the divining wires after having been asked by a local to check his claim for him. Chris had painted marks up on top showing where he thinks a run goes and coupled with small pilot test holes to check for the location and more importantly check that the roof area is good and strong for safety.


Most of the mining is done underground with hydraulic diggers and vacuum pumps or suckers to lift the rock and dirt up to ground level into the trucks. Here Chris is seen scraping the rocks towards the suction pipe – any pieces that wont fit up the 10″ pipe need to be broken and much of the product dragged by hand into the suction. Although this type of mining is mechanised, it still involves very hard work.

truck.jpgagitators.jpgThe rock is loaded into a waiting truck and then taken for processing in an agitator – cement mixing trucks are used for this job. Here is a line up of agitators (this photo shows only half the mixers on this site). Chris aims for one truck load per day which is usually around 4-5hrs digging.

The truck load of rock and dirt are fed up a conveyor (more hand work as although they use tippers, the larger rocks block the trapdoors). This is then agitated for 8 hours on average to break up lumps and wear them away while feeding water into it all the time to remove the silt.  Artesian water is used as the water supply, with an open bath on site for the workers, although there is another hidden bath most use (this is hot and dirty work so an on-site bathtub is handy). On completion of the washing, the ore that remains is fed into a tray where any opal or possible opal bearing pieces are simply hand picked.

The price for Opal is all over the place with small attractive pieces ranging from around $20/ct to tens of thousands per carat for that one special stone. It’s the kind of town that lives on dreams and once someone hears that you are involved with mining (and perhaps a possible buyer), all sorts of people come up to you and produce bags of opal for you to consider.

I recommend anyone interested in a completely different way of life to visit Lightning Ridge one day.  One important local tourist site is the natural Bore Baths where hot water straight from the Great Artesian Basin can soak away your aches and pains – mineral spa baths with hot water at 40 degrees Celcius – free of charge anytime.

bottles.jpgcottage.jpgThere are also two houses made from glass bottles and one we didn’t see made from tin cans.  Lightning Ridge can get pretty hot in the summer so drinking all the beer in those bottles was probably not a difficult task for a thirsty miner. The photo on the right is a typical old miners cottage.

Hope you enjoyed this short story and photos about Lightning Ridge – we certainly enjoyed our trip out there.  Back to work now – have just listed some great new sapphire rough and will now spend a little time looking through the opal rough I managed to get my hands on while out west.

cheers for now from Andrew (Aussie Sapphire

Fossicking & Rockhounding

Posted August 9, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Aussie Sapphire is an online shop specialising in gems from our own mine on the Reddestone Creek near Glen Innes in NSW Australia.  Many of our customers are also keen fossickers and rockhounders.  It seems that many people interested in gemstones also love the chance to get out there and go digging for themselves. 

foss11.JPGThis activity goes under a variety of names – fossicking in Australia, rockhounding, gem mining and prospecting in many other countries.  Whatever you call it, fossicking is great fun for anyone who loves the great outdoors and the opportunity to find your own treasure.

 As a free service to our customers and website visitors, we also provide information on fossicking and rockhounding in our local area.  See below for links to specific areas of this section on our website:

Please note that the site list is still under development with new sites and information being added all the time.  Comments are always welcome if you can help with this section.

And remember the fossicking motto – “the more you dig, the luckier you get”.

Thank you for your interest from Aussie Sapphire

Lightning Ridge: WHAT A PLACE!

Posted August 6, 2006 By AussieSapphire

I really didnt know what to expect as we drew slowly nearer to the Ridge. I had certainly heard many stories prior but the hours of long straight road leading to the town certainly gives one time to think. Much of Australia has been in prolonged drought and the stock reserves from Moree right through were thick with very large mobs of hungry sheep and cattle competing for what appeared to be very little grass.  Good rain fell just days before we arrived so hopefully some of the many farmers and drovers camped along the road can soon take their stock back home.

As we passed the old Cement Mixer which welcomes you to Lightning Ridge, I was surprised at the lack of visible mines.  I left my better half at home to look after orders so it was myself, Andrew, and my cousin David that spent the next 5 days at Lightning Ridge for the biggest week in the small town’s year – their annual Opal Show. 

Lightning Ridge is famous for its Black Opal and it is a place that will amaze. The people there are hard to describe – mostly very hard working (and hard playing) genuine folk with a very diverse ethnic background. 

walkin1.jpgwalkin3.jpgOur first afternoon after setting up our show site were spent in tourist mode with a walk-in mine our first stop. Great for families with easy access and a short interesting film while underground.  The guide advised us he gets around 20,000 visitors a year.

streetsign.jpgLightning Ridge has a very interesting approach to signposting their streets – this handpainted sign on an old car door, which we were advised should be Holden only to fit in with town planning, is typical of the sense of humour in this outback mining town.

After this we pulled up in the main street and asked a long bearded old gentlemen where the nearest mines were, he looked at us a bit strange but I guess he was somewhat used to dumb tourists so sent us the right way. shaft.jpgDriving just a few hundred metres further along the main street and turning east I was amazed when we found them.  Just metres from the town there were open shafts scattered everywhere along with hundreds of small mullock heaps.  This photo shows a typical mine shaft roughly fenced off with just a couple of loose strands of barbed wire.


There is a diverse range of dwellings in the town – some very unusual indeed.  The last picture (above) perhaps is more typical of many of the camps.  All these are within a 1 mile radius of the main street.

oldminer.jpgThis photos shows a miners shop near the open cut – this old miner operates the shop most days while his son mines.  They live in an old double decker bus which has a sign on the front “the fun bus”.  He told that they bought it with his wife’s superannuation money which used to be in BHP shares – he reckons if they still had the shares they would be worth over $75,000 now so considers his home quite valuable. 

stall.jpgWe had a good 4 days of trading in the Bowling Club but most of our proceeds went on opal – just couldnt resist.  Keep an eye on our online shop – there just might be a few nice pieces of opal appearing there any day.

flyingemu.jpgOur accommodation was great – small rooms but good quality with a bistro and bar onsite.  We stayed at the Lightning Ridge Hotel which is easy to find – just look for the “Flying Emu”.

underground.jpgNext post is about our day down the mine – we couldnt miss the chance to see some real mining before we left. 

Cheers for now from Andrew (Aussie Sapphire

Geology of the New England Gemfields

Posted August 4, 2006 By AussieSapphire

The gemfields of the New England region of northern NSW are noted for their diverse geology and rich mineral resources.  Minerals found include granite-related cassiterite, tungsten, molybdenum, gold, silexite and silver-rich lead, zinc and copper as well as alluvial deposits of tin, sapphires and diamonds.  Commercial gemstone mine production has concentrated on sapphire but there has been mining and exploration activity focused on emerald and diamond.

For those interested in learning more about the geology of this region, just came across a very interesting article on the geology of the region.  Published online in the latest edition of the Geological Survey of NSW (No.121, July 2006), this article by RE Brown (NSW DPI) reports on interpretation of new airborne magnetic and radiometric data covering the Inverell and Glen Innes area.

Inverell Exploration NSW geophysics – new data for exploration and geological investigations in the northern New England area of NSW

While this article is quite lengthy and very detailed, it has some very interesting information on the geological processes responsible for the mineral resources in the area.  This airborne survey provided high resolution geophysical data of the Inverell-Glen Innes region – preliminary interpretation of the data has resulted in a range of significant conclusions that have contributed to improved understanding of the geology, geological history and prospectivity of the area.

The article covers most of the major geological formations of the area and discusses importance for prospecting and exploration of various minerals.  The section relating to sapphire is toward the end of the article.  Previous hypotheses about the Maybole volcano (south-west of Glen Innes) and the Swan-Brook/Kings Plains vent complex as the sources of the richest sapphire deposits have been confirmed by this more detailed geophysical data (see page 29 for interesting diagrams of sapphire occurrence).  The new information has also given some suggestions on new areas for diamond exploration – previously concentrated around the Copeton area of Inverell.

Non-geologists may find this article heavy-going (we certainly found it a challenging read), but hopefully might be worth a skim through for anyone interested in how these fascinating gemstones and minerals have come to be found here.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire
(Lightning Ridge article coming up next)