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Crystal Formation in Sapphire

Posted January 27, 2007 By AussieSapphire

There are two main types of gem rough sold – facet rough which is suited for gemstone cutting and specimen rough which may be less suitable for faceting but more valuable to a collector in its natural form.

3887d.JPGWhile our main priority is supplying good facet rough to gem cutters all around the world, we are always on the lookout for interesting pieces of interest to collectors.  In this post, we look at a few pieces which show interesting crystal formation.

The crystal system for sapphire is trigonal (or sometimes described as hexagonal-rhombohedral) usually with a prismatic habit.  Sapphires often occur as tapering hexagonal pyramids with a barrel-shaped form as in the above photograph.

The next series of photos show an interesting yellow patch inside a blue sapphire.  The left photo is a thin slice of an Australia sapphire (by Richard Hughes) – sourced from Figure 6 in an article by Richard Huges for AGTA GTC Lab Update May 17 2005.  The centre and right photos show similar examples found at the Aussie Sapphire mine in recent years (sapphires in their rough form, not sliced).


The next couple of photos show some crystals fused together – both double and triple sapphire crystals – not suitable for faceting but interesting specimens.


sl-crystal.jpgSapphires crystals from some sources often have deep horizontal striations on the prismatic faces as seen in this example from Sri Lanka (source: Mineral Miners).  We have not observed any of these types of sapphire crystals at our mine at Glen Innes (New England, NSW Australia).

The well-formed crystals shown below are more typical of the types found in our region and are referred to locally as “dog tooth” sapphires. They may have clearly defined prism faces as in the example on the left or be very smooth in form as in the example on the right.


Hope you enjoyed this quick look at the wonderful variety to be found in sapphire – a great example of the fantastic world of gems and minerals.

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NOTE:  All photographs have been taken by Aussie Sapphire unless otherwise noted with a link to the source.

Australia Day 2006

Posted January 25, 2007 By AussieSapphire

animatedflag9.gifJust a quick post for Australia Day – Friday 26th January 2006.  Australia Day means different things to everyone but I quite like this definition from the Australia Day website:

Australia Day is the day we come together as a nation to celebrate Australia and being Australian. It’s about looking at our past, considering our present and recommitting to making our future even brighter.

Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th January in recognition of the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales and became the first Governor.  Of course, Captain Phillip did not claim an empty land but rather this day was the beginning of the dispossession and displacement of the indigenous inhabitants by the British colonists.  Most people now recognise that Reconciliation is an important issue for all Australians.

ab.gifflag_torres.gifThe reconciliation process with indigenous Australians is a long and continuing one – there is more work to be done before all Australians can move forward with a better understanding of the past and how the past affects the lives of indigenous people today.

We suggest the Reconciliation Australia website for more reading on this issue (flags above are the Aboriginal flag on the left and Torres Strait Islander flag on the right).

This Australia Day, lets all think about how we can make Australia a better place for everyone and wear the “Green and Gold” with pride.  You might like to read one of our past posts on Wattle Day featuring our national floral emblem.

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah (Aussie Sapphire)

seaofhands.gifEdited to add the Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation website.

Film Crew Visit

Posted January 20, 2007 By AussieSapphire

Since branching out in the online business, we have found ourselves doing lots of things that we hadnt dreamed of when we were full-time miners and farmers.  We can now add “being filmed for a TV documentary” to the top of this list.  While it was a bit nerve-wracking, it was certainly an interesting experience.

Over the past week, a film crew has been in the Glen Innes/Inverell district filming for a documentary about our local gems.  The program is being developed by GEMseeK as part of a documentary styled television series which focuses predominantly on gem stones and the people that seek them around the globe.

Filming has been underway over the past week with a professional crew overseen by Cliff Guy (CGP MEDIA www.cliffguy.com.au) of “Escape with ET” fishing and adventure fame.  These guys obviously knew what they were doing and I am sure the finished product will be great.


divin1.jpgHere is Andrew demonstrating the art of divining for sapphire.  The next shot is Phil, our excavator driver chatting to the presenter Alan Broadhurst about how to dig the sapphire wash.

pat.JPGandrew1.jpgThe crew covered the whole mining process from the hole in the ground to finished product of a faceted gem and fine jewellery.  As you can see from these photos, Patrick managed to worm his way into a few shots – we’ll see if he makes it into the final version.

The week of filming has produced many hours of footage which will be put together into a TV program over the next few months.  We were told that there is interest in showing the program on TV in the USA so to all of our American customers, keep an eye out for this from the middle of the year.  Subsequently, it is planned to produce a DVD which should be available for direct purchase.  Hope everyone enjoys it !!

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


Relay for Life

Posted January 15, 2007 By AussieSapphire

Glen Innes will be holding a Relay For Life very soon – this uplifting event also aims to raise money for cancer research and vital services for people with cancer and their families.

relayforlife1.jpgRelay For Life is a fun, outdoor and overnight fundraising event where teams of 10 to 15 people take turns to walk around a local oval.  The event honours those whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Celebrate life and create hope by joining your friends, family, cancer survivors and their carers in the common goal of defeating cancer.  We ask you to please support the fundraising activities of Relay for Life – every little bit helps.

Our own family has been touched by cancer and we are extremely grateful that our loved ones have benefited from the wonderful work done by cancer researchers and doctors. 

relay_for_life_donation.jpgAussie Sapphire is very proud to donate a beautiful sapphire and diamond 18k gold pendant as part of the silent auction fundraiser for 2006 Relay for Life – Glen Innes.  This piece is complemented by a 9k solid gold chain donated by Schmidts Jewellers.  The pendant and chain has been valued at $3,700 (the insurance valuation certificate is included).  Click on the image here to see larger size – this is an absolutely beautiful piece of jewellery and you would be supporting the wonderful work of the Cancer Council of NSW.


Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire


More on Garnet

Posted January 7, 2007 By AussieSapphire

The birthstone for January is generally acknowledged to be Garnet. Unlike some other months, there are few alternative stones for January although some sources list emerald as the “mystical stone” for January.  However, garnet is a very versatile gemstone in its own right with a beautiful range of colours available.

tsavorite_suite.jpgSince we have already covered Garnet in our usual “Gem of the Month” format, we will explore some of the varieties of garnet in this month’s article.  An example of one of the more unusual varieties is tsavorite seen in the photo at left from Palagems in their Tsavorite Buying Guide.

Garnet is a group of minerals with similar chemical composition, physical properties and crystal structure.  There are six species of garnets recognised although many gems lie on a substitution scale between species making a positive identification somewhat challenging in many cases.  See the Garnet Factsheet on Mineral Miners for more discussion on garnet species and how to distinguish them.

  • ALMANDINE:  Colour is typically a deep, rich red – less valuable specimens have more brown.  Sources:  Brazil, India, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, U.S. in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Arkansas and Kentucky.
  • PYROPE:  Colour is usually deep, rich red or variations on this.  Sources:  Australia, Czechoslovakia, South Africa – Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
  • SPESSARTITE:  Colour is ideally bright orange but ranges from reddish orange, red, reddish brown, to brown.  Sources:  Brazil, Namibia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, US.
  • ANDRADITE:  Colour usually ranges from green, yellowish green to greenish brown and may occur in black.  This species includes the highly sought after demantoid garnets.
  • GROSSULAR:  This species ranges widely in colour from colourless to black with almost all colours in between (red, green, pink, yellow, etc).  This species includes the rare and valuable tsavorite garnets.
  • UVAROVITE: This quite rare species of garnet is dark green and often found as fine crystal clusters (sometimes referred to as drusy because of the small crystal formations).

For more reading on this, I recommend the Garnet page on the Gemology Project – this is a new resource associated with the Gemology Online forum so it is highly recommended for anyone interested in gems.

Due to the complexity of the garnet group, there are quite a number of individually named gem varieties.  Here are just a few:

  • HESSONITE: this garnet falls into the grossular species and occurs in yellow, orange and brownish colours.
  • RHODOLITE: This rose-red to purple garnet is part-way between Almandine and Pyrope – closer to pyrope than the Mozambique type garnet which is also a pyrope-almandine garnet of a deep red shade.
  • TSAVORITE: Medium, intense green to slightly yellowish green.  This rare and valuable gem is found in Kenya around the Tsavo National Park area for which it is named.
  • DEMANTOID:  Another highly sought after gem – the best examples will show intense green colour and “horsetail” inclusions.

The commonly found red garnet (likely of pyrope-almandine type) are very affordable and used in jewellery all around the world.  A range of these in calbrated sizes are available in our online shop for those looking to use them in jewellery at the more budget end of the scale.  A little higher up the scale is rhodolite and spessartite.  Spessartite in particular is becoming very popular and with a current shortage of rough, they are certainly not a cheap option.  For those who want only the best, we suggest you consider the more rare varieties of garnet such as demantoid, tsavorite or colour change garnets (including the new blue varieties from Madagascar).

demg107.jpg A classic example of a demantoid garnet from the Ural Mountains in Russia – clean except for the diagnostic “horsetail inclusions” and available from Mineral Miners.

spess-b.jpgThe picture at right shows some spessartite cabochon cut from rough we sourced from Nigeria.  We have spessartite rough available online now and we hope to list some of our faceted and cabbed gems as soon as possible.  These gems can show some real fire and make fantastic pieces of jewellery.

I hope this article has inspired you to consider garnet for your next gemstone purchase – there is certainly something for everyone in this fantastic range of gems.