While we are in Emerald, Qld we must visit the gem fields. Anakie, Sapphire and Rubyvale are only 44kms west of here. Woody suggests that we check out the Sunday market as miners like to sell their finds at these. Sure enough there is only one stall of fruit and vegetables and many stalls (if you can call an ironing board a stall) selling gem stones in a variety of settings. Now I’m sure you’re wondering how people could be selling expensive jewellery from an ironing board without any security…but I haven’t mentioned the dogs. Big ugly dogs, almost as ugly as the miners themselves and chained to anything solid. One wouldn’t want to haggle over prices with these scary blokes.
The town blocks in Sapphire seem to have border issues. There is no mistaking where the boundaries are. Electric fences, keep out signs and more guard dogs. One guy even has a fence around his property made of cattle truck gates. Most blocks have a mine and a rough shanty/house.
Rubyvale on the other hand looks positively civilised. It is only a few kilometres north and on the other side Tropic of Capricorn. The houses are more permanent, more respectable and there are shops! And a pub.
Out of curiosity we follow a sign to Willy’s Wash and spend $15 for a bucket of ‘wash’ or should I say gravel. A bubbly lady called Karen shows us how to wash the gravel wash in a Willoughby. Which is a big blue dunker that sluices your colander of gravel wash. We upend the colander of wash on a hessian bag and set to with a pair of tweezers to sort through the pile of now clean gravel to find the sapphires. I am eternally grateful to Karen for showing us what to look for because all of the pretty stones turn out to be rubbish and the stuff that looks like bits of black road gravel are actually tiny sapphires. Thus an hour or more passed as we washed wash and picked at tiny bits of gravel. I was so engrossed with this fossicking that I didn’t even notice that the mine was actually beside us and Karen’s partner was working the mine below and sending up more buckets of dirt.
Did we find any of that ‘black gravel’? Sure did and when you hold them up to the light they sparkle, blue, green and orange. I think I could get hooked on this too but I doubt that our ‘gems’ would even cover the cost of our lunch at the pub.