Having tried fossicking for Sapphires at Oberon & not getting anywhere, we decided to head out to the gem fields of Sapphire, Rubyvale and other areas nearby in Queensland whilst touring through there.
We had heard that you needed a fossicking licence which is a regulated activity in that state, so purchased them for us along with the double layered sieve pan used but this does not apply when you are trying your luck at tourist mines and similar sites that charge a fee for entry.
You also do not need a fossicking licence to hunt for treasure or lost items using a metal detector but should check with the local council for any rules about accessing public beaches and other areas for this purpose
This licence allows you to search for and collect fossicking materials for recreational, tourist and educational purposes only & definitely not for a full-scale mining operation.
Somebody had told us about the Rubyvale Miners Cottage so proceed there to try our luck. What a pleasant surprise. We were greeted by the friendly owner, Gae & her team, a lovely couple who venture out there every year to help during the tourist season, usually from Easter to the end of the school holidays in September & have done so for many years.
We were asked if we had tried fossicking previously and were given some quick lessons on what to look for when we advised that we had but had not known what we were looking for.
Raw Sapphires come in a variety of colours from blue, green, red, orange & yellow so the ones that we had thought were not gems, might well have been so. First mistake.
Whilst panning through our buckets of dirt that we purchased for $20 each, which by the way included a delicious Devonshire Tea afterwards, we were advised to put aside anything that we thought might have been a gemstone & they would go through them afterwards to help us ascertain if they were indeed Sapphires. Then we were let loose to look for our fortunes with a guarantee that each bucket contained at least one Sapphire.
Very civilised indeed as you did not have to dig to fill the buckets but could sieve the dirt from any gems, with the use of water. The double layered sieve pan has different size mesh to allow the dirt to sift through trapping the larger rocks. These are constantly washed by immersing the pans into a 44-gallon drum (sorry 200 ltr ) filled with water by a lever attached to a spring., hopefully exposing the valuable Sapphires contained within the soil. Honestly, this is very addictive as we bought bucket after bucket, remembering to put aside anything that we thought might be the sort after gemstone.
After having gone through numerous buckets each and hording anything that remotely looked like a reasonable prospect, we approached Gae who sorted out our stash. Well obviously, Vicki had been paying attention as she only had a small pile off potentials, whereas I on the other hand was not going to have a repeat of what I did at Oberon, so I merrily put aside anything that even remotely had the hint of glittering in the sunlight. “Good to see you being too serious” but …. Anyway, the big pile was quickly sorted through leaving a tiny one, which was then reorganised into No, Maybe & Yes. These were again sorted, finally narrowing down to about a dozen pieces that can be cut and made into jewellery.
They even do Take away bags of dirt that we purchased & carried back home, these have yet to be sorted through, who knows we could be sitting on a fortune but do not know it.
This incredible experience is definitely one to put on your bucket list. It is loads of fun for all the family & very addictive. Both of us are extremely keen to try our luck again and with the country opening up again , it could be real soon.