Australia Sapphire Mining Guide
The mines of Australia have produced more commercial-grade blue sapphire than any other source in history. Deposits are located in two main areas on the eastern part of the continent: the gem fields at Anakie in Queensland, and the New England district of New South Wales.
Australian Territories Sapphire Mining
Gold mining efforts revealed the first instance of discovering sapphires in Australia. In 1851, a report was issued of finding sapphires during gold mining on the Cudgegong and Macquarie rivers in New South Wales. Other major discoveries followed in 1854 and 1875, pushing the development of a sapphire mining industry further.
Much of the early stones from Australia made their way through the German market and sold into other European countries. This is due to the Russian miners who worked throughout the Central Queensland gem fields in the latter half of the 1800s. As a result, many jewels of Imperial Russia are set with Australian sapphires.
After the late 1970s, sapphire production in Queensland declined as new sources were developed in Thailand and Madagascar. However, renewed interest in mining the area developed after the 2004 resolution of the Native Title Agreement, which allows for direct negotiations between indigenous landowners and miners.
Many of these agreements outline particular undertakings that may address employment and training for indigenous populations, environmental or cultural heritage site protection, or compensation for land use. Allowing these negotiations to occur directly between the parties opened up mining activity that was often stalled by the court systems.
The typical Australian sapphire is dark blue in color with a strong green dichroism , and color zoning . The most famous types of stones coming from Australia are parti-colored. These stones contain a mix of green, blue, and yellow and are considered highly valuable due to their unique composition.
Many Australian sapphires are heat treated to lighten and improve their color and make them more transparent. Beryllium treatments have also been used to make huge adjustments to the color of stones. Crystals average about three carats in size and are usually cut quite shallow to make the stones appear lighter as well.
Today, Australian sapphires account for over 70 percent of the global blue sapphire production, and demand for them is only increasing. Global jewelry brands have turned to Australian sapphires to meet their commercial needs, and the Australian government and mining industry are consistently working together to enact environmental protection legislation to protect the native land.
Rounding out the major sapphire mining regions in the world, we finish with Sapphires In Montana.