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Archive for September, 2006

Gem of the Month: Agate

Posted September 7, 2006 By AussieSapphire

The modern and traditional birthstone for September is Sapphire – covered in a previous article.  While sapphire is our primary interest, we also enjoy and appreciate the many alternative birthstones for each month.  The mystical birthstone for September is Agate – a stone of amazing variety and colour.

Gemmology Matters:  Agate is the name given to a very large family of quartz gemstones of which Sardonyx – subject of our last Gem of the Month article – is a member.  Agate is a type of chalcedony or fibrous cryptocrystalline quartz (SiO2) and is found in a variety of colours, may be translucent, transparent or opaque and has a hardness of 6.5 to 7.

Agate used for ornamental or in jewellery is often treated by dying to enhance or alter colour.  Since quartz is a very abundant mineral on Earth, agate is quite inexpensive.  Some particularly attractive and unusual varieties may command a higher price but this stone is still a great way to start an affordable gem collection.  Moss agate and Plume agate are two varieties which are priced higher due to beauty and demand.

Agate is found throughout the world in a huge variety of form.  Probably every country has a particular area that yields stones of a particular type of beauty and Australia is no exception.  Here in Queensland, there is an area (surprisingly called “Agate Creek”) which is rich in these gems which are available for anyone to find for just the price of a fossicking licence and a few hours of digging.

Mythology and Lore:  The name agate derives from the Greek for stones found on the Achate river in Sicily.  Agate has been used for thousands of years – examples have been found with other Stone Age relics dating back to as early as 20,000 BC.  Agate was also used by early civilizations for talismans, amulets, seals, rings and vessels.

People in medieval times wore agate to bring God’s favor, enhance persuasiveness, increase courage and strength and protect against danger.  Agate was also used to promote pleasant dreams and cure insomnia.  Early Greeks made amulets of agate for protection from the elements of the sea.

Agate is associated with the zodiac sign of Gemini and for those born in the month of May.  Agate may also be given to celebrate the 12th wedding anniversary.

qldagate1.jpgAlternatives for Agate:  Due to the extremely wide variation in colour and form, there is really no alternative for this unique gem.  Added to this, the fact that it is very affordable, there is no excuse for you not to have at least one attractive piece in your collection.

Links of Interest:

  • Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry – article on Agate
  • Mineral Miners – Fact sheet on Agate
  • Wikipedia article on Agate
  • Agate on Mindat.org – Minerals Database
  • Agate Creek area – Australian Gem Gallery
  • Fossicking information for Agate Creek – Queensland

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

And remember, if you are looking for the traditional September birthstone of sapphire, we can give you lots of choices in our online shop.

New Listings

Posted September 5, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Just a quick announcement to let customers know we have a number of auctions running at the moment.  A few of our regular customers are already on to these but there are a few days remaining so get your bids in now so you dont miss out.

Dont forget we have many more items in both our Ebay Store and the Main Website so please check out these great products as well.

Click here to see our current auction listings including some excellent sapphire facet rough, some good spessartite, zircon and a special item containing one very nice pink tourmaline and a good fanta orange spessartite.

As a promotion, we have listed two items in the UK – please feel free to bid on these also. If you win items from separate Ebay sites, we cannot automatically combine them due to currency differences but you are still entitled to combined shipping so make sure you only pay one lot of postage ($6 AU within Australia or $17.50 AU for airmail anywhere in the world).

Good Luck
Cheers from Aussie Sapphire

Wattle Day

Posted September 2, 2006 By AussieSapphire

pycnantha.jpgIn honour of National Wattle Day yesterday (1st September), this post is largely about our National Floral Emblem – Acacia pycnantha or the Golden Wattle.  Australia has over 900 species of Acacia (or wattle) with some yet to be described – there will be some species flowering almost through the whole year but the distinctive yellow of the wattle flower is most apparent in Spring.  The bush in our area is ablaze with yellow right now – just in time for Wattle Day.

com-coat-arms.jpgWattle was incorporated into the design of the Australian Coat of Arms on the recommendation of the Rt Hon. Andrew Fisher, Prime Minister of Australia, when the Commonwealth Armorial Ensigns and Supporters were granted by Royal Warrant on 19 September 1912.  Although wattle was largely accepted as Australia’s national flower for most of the 1900’s, it was not officially proclaimed as the national floral emblem until 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary.  In 1992, the 1st September was formally declared “National Wattle Day” in recognition of the importance of this plant as an Aussie symbol.

The genus Acacia belongs to the family Mimosaceae and is found in Australia, Africa, Madagascar, the Asia-Pacific region and in the Americas. With almost 1000 species, Acacia (commonly known as Wattle) is the largest genus of vascular plants in Australia.

Acacia cultriformis showing globular inflorescence - Photo M. Fagg A3457The wide distribution of different species across the variety of habitats in Australia has resulted in great diversity of form, flower and foliage type.  Individual flowers are arranged in inflorescences that may be either globular heads or cylindrical spikes. Flowers mostly vary in colour through cream, pale yellow to gold and may perfumed.  Foliage colour ranges from light or dark green to blue or silver-grey and ranges in shape/form from true leaves to highly modified phyllodes

Wattles make excellent garden plants. They range in habit from prostrate and low-growing species to larger shrubs and shade trees.  Acacia are a good source of pollen making some species popular with bee-keepers and the seeds are also an important source of food for birds.

Various Acacia species have been or are used by people.  The seeds from some species provide a valuable food source.  Various extracts from the bark and the leaves have been used by Australian Aborigines for a wide variety of medicinal purposes.  The wood of various species has been used to make clubs, spears, boomerangs and shields. Some species are used to make fine furniture while others were used as early building material hence the term “wattle and daub” huts.  As a leguminous plant, wattles are also important for improving soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil.

Links of Interest:

What does all this have to do with gems or sapphires ?  Not much really except to point out that Australian parti sapphire with its mix of yellow and blue-green colours is a great way to wear the “Green and Gold” wattle colours all year round.

a206a.JPGa326s.jpgThe photo at left is a particularly lovely golden yellow sapphire set in a simple solitaire white gold setting.  The photo on the right was a real challenge and we didnt really succeed in capturing the distinct yellow and blue zones of this parti (bicolor) sapphire which looks great set in yellow gold.

Hope you all had a enjoyable Wattle Day – it was a beautiful start to Spring in our neck of the woods so here’s hoping for a great season for everyone.

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire