Hot on the Australian Jewel Trail

You can just imagine on a baking hot day the fatigue of mining. Whilst we try to stay out of the sun, in conditions up to 55c, uncomfortable and life threatening 100 years ago, Miners mined. Dehydrating from lack of water, chipping at the hard soil, in the middle of the glowing barren red landscapes and1000km to the nearest town are the legends and images that give the mining industry the reputation of being a very isolating business.

If your eyes sparkle for real glitter and stones of many colours, why not hit the Jewel trail on a trip around Australia. Whether visiting the colours, night stars and beauty of the outback landscapes of South Australia, Kimberly in the West or near Yowah Queensland, there are working mining sites and stone galleries to visit.

The Opal or Rainbow Stone, as named by the aboriginal people, is the Queen of the Gems.

A call from the outback lures the opal miner in search of a gift of Blue or a stone that can expose an infinite number of colours. In Coober Pedy, South Australia ( )

Opal is still mined today. The underground town in more than worth a visit for its sheer uniqueness. Whilst opals today are found by aerial photography that identifies faults in the landscapes, there are traces of the original mining methods. A trip around Coober Pedy is not only fascinating because of the local real estate but also to hear the yarns of legends gone by. An alternative visit to Coober Pedy is Yowah Opal Mines in Queensland.

There are 2 types of opals mined in Australia: The Seam opal (unattached and free in the ground) and the Boulder opal (attached to or within a host ironstone or sandstone rock). The Opals can be further categorised according to colour: Black Opal, which is dark grey, blue or black in body colour. Crystal Opal, is translucent to semi transparent without a grey or milky background. Light Opal, is more subdued with colours ranging from a white, a light to milky background.

Value: The value s all about the colour and pattern. Greens and blues are more usual. Milkiness, cloudiness or greyness detracts from the value. Fiery red as a blazing sunset, violet, crimsons and oranges are much sought after as these are the most colourful gem. When colour is arranged in a block pattern, the more value is added. The compassion is between the tiny pin sized dots of colour (pinfire) to one large sheet of colour (broadflash). The "Harlequin" is the ultimate in form and very rare.

Shapes of the finished opal vary considerably according to the nature of each stone. Boulder Opals are cut in baroque or free form whereas Seam Opal is presented in Cabochon (domed) form.

South Sea Pearls
The mystique lustre of the pearl found in Broome, North of Western Australia, captures the romance of the sea. A treasure hunt for oysters in crystal waters surrounded by white sand and beauty makes Broome a visitor’s magnet. Like all of nature no 2 pearls are alike, each is special. Pearls are categorise with 5 qualities considered: lustre, size, shape, colour and surface.

Pink Diamond
Icy white diamonds, Australian Champagne, cognac and the rarest of all is the pink. Intensely coloured, pink diamonds like wine, sparkle light rose to full bodied purple-reds and vary in shape and size. They are processed according to the intensity of colour. Mined in the Argyle Diamond Mine, the world’s leading volume producer, which has been in operation in remote Kimberley in WA since 1986.

Shopping for Jewels

Ask advice when choosing and if buying unset, consider the way the stone will be worn. Some are better worn in a pendant and broach and others flat in a ring setting.

By Sarah M.

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