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Gem Mining: Environmental Costs & Benefits

Posted March 31, 2007 By AussieSapphire

Came across this website recently discussing the environmental costs of gem mining around the world.  The website features research by Dr Ali and colleagues from the University of Vermont (Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources).

 Gems & the Environment – Balancing Benefits and Costs

One of the case studies is from Madagascar – a powerhouse of gem production but unfortunately, this has come at a price.  These photographs below show some of the consequences of unregulated mining (sourced from Saleem H. Ali, Ph.D., University of Vermont – see link).


The image at left shows a young girl sieving for sapphires directly in the river at Anbondromifehy (Madagascar) – the practice of sieving within the river causes siltation which harms aquatic plants and animals.  The centre photograph shows a degraded area of the Ankarana National Park (Andakorovato region, Madagascar) caused by illegal mining.   The third image (right) shows the effect of sapphire mining on the landscape with deforestation in the Sakaraha – Ilakaka region (north of Antsohamadiro, Madagascar). 

Please see the Gems & the Environment website for more photographs of gem mining around the world as well as an interesting discussion on some of the environmental issues.

Quoting from the website, the research focus is as follows: 

It is hoped that this research will result in direct resources that can be used effectively by communities where mining is taking place to improve their environmental health while securing their livelihoods.  In addition, the research will yield useful tools for policymakers, governments, environmentalists and companies to support sustainable development and promote environmental integrity through artisanal gemstone mining.

It was very heartening to see both Aussie Sapphire and our good friends at Wild Fish Gems mentioned as examples of where miners can extract gems in an environmentally friendly way.  As we have argued before, this issue is a complex one with no easy answers – people at all steps of the supply chain should consider how they can help improve the industry for everyone.  Ideally, we would like to see all miners profit from their hard work so that they can look after their families and the environment in which they operate. 

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah Lane (Aussie Sapphire)

New Sapphire Rough Listed

Posted March 21, 2007 By AussieSapphire

It’s been a while but we finally managed to find some time to list a new batch of sapphire rough.  While mine production has been a little bit interrupted this year due to farm work and weather, we have now managed to put together a good parcel of cutting rough for you to pick from.

New items are listed in our Rough Sapphire catalogue – look for numbers starting from #500 and upwards for the new items.  We should have something to suit every budget so we invite you to take a look.

Just a few small pictures to whet your appetite – there is definitely something to suit everyone in this lot.

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah (Aussie Sapphire)
Head down in the office listing sapphire cabochons and other goodies now… 

Emmaville Sheep Races

Posted March 17, 2007 By AussieSapphire

Took the afternoon off today to attend the Emmaville Sheep Races – something a bit different to our usual hours in the office grading gems.  This annual event is one of the main fundraisers for the Emmaville Mining Museum so we like to support their efforts.

pub.jpgThis day is an absolutely classic event for those who want to experience a bit of real Australian country life.  The day kicked off with a BBQ breakfast and the action continued all day. 

Mind you, since the venue was just outside the local pub, a steady crowd was ensured.

yabbies2.jpgmuseum.jpgWhile the highlight of the day is the sheep race, the yabby race (see left) must come a close second in popularity.  Local school children entertained the crowd with a choir performance outside the museum (photo at right) watched on by friends and family.

The yard dog trials were keenly contested and had a large number of onlookers.  This is a different type of trial to the usual sheep dog trials with 3 sheep in a large field. Yard dog trials are designed to more closely resemble the kind of work done by sheep dogs every day – the course is extremely challenging and it takes a good dog to control the sheep and complete the course quickly.

dogtrial.jpgPictured is Kay Schroeder with her dog Sally pushing the sheep through the course.  With many of the audience very familiar with the frustrations of working sheep, most spectators could appreciate just how good these dogs were at their job. 

Well done to all dogs and their handlers.

Funds raised went to support the operation of the Mining Museum – a great spot to browse the mining history of Emmaville with some fantastic gem and mineral collections on display.  Highly recommended for anyone visiting Emmaville (open Friday to Tuesday).

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire
(back to the grading bench tomorrow)

St Patrick’s Day

Posted March 15, 2007 By AussieSapphire

patch.jpgSt Pat’s Day is a popular day for all those who like to celebrate everything Irish.  With our very own Patrick in the family (see photo), this is one holiday close to our hearts.  And as Glen Innes is known as the heart of Celtic Country, we have lots of excuse to wear the green on March 17th.

Green is the colour for Saint Patrick and in the world of gemstones, there is a wealth of choice.  In honour of Ireland, “the Emerald Isle” we should probably put emeralds at the top of the list.  Other gemstone alternatives in green include peridot, sapphire, tsavorite, chrome diopside, demantoide garnet and tourmaline.

emeralds3.JPGGreen tourmaline from Aussie SapphireCurrently we have faceted tourmaline and peridot listed online and we also have some emerald (faceted gems from Zambia and rough from Nigeria and Torrington) in stock.  We also have some green tourmaline and parti sapphire in stock which show varying shades of green.  NOTE: update from 2014 – we have much reduced stock of gemstones now so previous statement may not be strictly accurate.

If you want to celebrate St Pat’s Day with a nice green rock, just give us a call.


See these websites for more information about St Patrick and his Day:

stpatrick2.jpgSaint Patrick is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland.  Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland (as seen in the image at left- sourced from the Saint Patrick Centre).  However, since there are no snakes in Ireland, it is thought that this legend originated from the rise in popularity of Christianity over paganism due to the work of missionaries such as Saint Patrick.  Serpents were often associated with sin/evil or used as symbols by the druids.

Saint Patrick is also credited with using the shamrock (or three-leafed clover) to explain the concept of the Trinity and to this day, people wear the colour green or shamrocks to celebrate the day.

Although Patrick is widely known as a saint, he was never actually canonised by a Pope (source: Wikipedia) as in the early days of the Christian church, canonisations were often done at a regional level.  However, it is probably true that this day is one of the most popular on the calendar.

March 17th is believed to be the day that Saint Patrick died and is celebrated as his feast day.  Now, the day has gone beyond its religious meaning and has become a celebration of the Irish culture by people all over the world.  And so, using the words of the Irish:

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit

or “Happy St Patrick’s Day” to you from Aussie Sapphire

Minerama 2007

Posted March 11, 2007 By AussieSapphire

Wow – What a Weekend !!

This year’s Minerama was an outstanding success with an estimated 3000 visitors across the 3 days.  Crowd numbers were up especially on Saturday with brisk trading and some outstanding gem finds from the field trips.

toro_emerald.jpgSome highlights from the week of fossicking include two massive blue sapphires over 30 carats and several more in the 5-10 carat range – most we saw were good cutters.  One spectacular find of a beautiful emerald from Torrington weighing an amazing 30 carats had all the dealers buzzing with excitement with several keen to buy this one.  With an estimated value of over $5000 at least, the lucky owner decided to keep it in his own collection for now.

Many other finds of sapphire, zircon, garnet, topaz and other gems/minerals were reported over the weekend.  While many visitors to town were old hands at fossicking, there were many visitors very new to the hobby.  One visitor found a huge corundum crystal weighing 200 carats on his very first day of fossicking – not quite gem quality but a rare specimen nonetheless.

Support from the town was much appreciated and it was great to see so many friendly local faces browsing all the stalls.  The Shop Window competition was won by Stocks Camping & Outdoor supplies – a worthy winner who always puts on a great display.  VIP guests included local MP’s Richard Torbay (Member for Northern Tablelands) and Tony Windsor (Member for New England) and Mayor Steve Toms (Glen Innes Severn Council) who selected Crystal Encounters inside the Club and Pat & Maureen O’Brien from the outside dealers. 

Crystal EncountersFrank & Lynda Cheshire of Crystal Encounters and Fossils.com.au had some spectacular items on their stall with some valuable and beautiful fossils among the treasures on display.  If you missed them at Minerama or would like another opportunity to browse their collection, we recommend you check out their websites for more great items. 

patobrien.jpgThe outside stall prize went to Pat and Maureen O’Brien – well known on the gem show circuit and great supporters of Minerama since its inception some years ago.

The fundraising raffle prizes were drawn on Sunday afternoon with Sandra Ingram winning first prize of a sapphire gold ring.  Second prize went to Elaine (? surname).  All prize winners have been notified by the committee.

The Minerama committee is already planning the next festival to be held in March 2008 with the focus on Quality Fun in Celtic Country.  Don’t miss it – as always, updates will be posted here so check back regularly for any news.

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah – Aussie Sapphire