Australian Sapphires: A Gemstone's Journey
Australian Sapphires are renowned worldwide for their unique characteristics and exceptional quality. These gemstones, with their vibrant hues and remarkable durability, have carved a niche for themselves in the global gemstone market. The history of Australian Sapphires is as captivating as the gemstones themselves, tracing back to the late 19th century when they were first discovered in New South Wales. Since then, Aussie Sapphires have been making their mark, not just in Australia, but across the globe.
What Makes Australian Sapphires Different
The uniqueness of Australian Sapphires lies in their diverse colour range and superior gem-quality. Unlike sapphires from other regions that are typically blue, Australian Sapphires come in a spectrum of colours, including green, yellow, and the rare and coveted parti-colour sapphires that display multiple colours in a single stone. This colour variation is due to the unique geological conditions in Australia, which result in sapphires with distinct and attractive colour zoning. When compared to sapphires from other regions, Australian Sapphires stand out for their intense colours and high clarity.
Sapphire Jewellery: A Timeless Elegance
Sapphire jewellery holds a special place in the world of gemstones. Known for their vibrant colours and exceptional durability, sapphires have been cherished for centuries. From royal crowns to modern engagement rings, sapphires add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any piece of jewellery.
The Allure of Sapphire Jewellery
The allure of sapphire jewellery lies in its versatility and timeless appeal. Sapphires come in a rainbow of colours, from the classic blue to pink, yellow, and even white. This variety allows for a wide range of jewellery designs, catering to different tastes and styles. Whether it's a deep blue sapphire pendant that evokes the depth of the ocean or a delicate pink sapphire ring that exudes femininity, there's a piece of sapphire jewellery for everyone.
Australian Sapphires in Jewellery
Australian Sapphires, with their unique colours and high quality, are particularly sought after in the jewellery industry. The blue sapphires from New South Wales and are renowned for their rich, velvety colour, while the parti sapphires, displaying two or more colours, offer a unique twist to traditional sapphire jewellery.
In addition, the rare sapphires from Tasmania are admired for their intense colours and brilliance, despite their smaller size. These Tasmanian sapphires are often set in intricate designs, showcasing their vibrant hues.
Sapphire Jewellery Designs
Sapphire jewellery comes in a variety of designs, from classic to contemporary. Traditional designs often feature a single sapphire as the centrepiece, surrounded by diamonds or other gemstones. These pieces highlight the sapphire's colour and brilliance, making it the star of the show.
On the other hand, contemporary designs experiment with different shapes and settings, creating unique and modern pieces. These designs might feature multiple sapphires in various colours, or combine sapphires with other gemstones for a vibrant, eclectic look.
Caring for Sapphire Jewellery
Sapphire jewellery, while durable, still requires proper care to maintain its beauty. It's recommended to clean sapphire jewellery regularly with mild soapy water and a soft brush. When not in use, sapphire jewellery should be stored separately to avoid scratches.
In conclusion, sapphire jewellery, with its vibrant colours and timeless elegance, is a cherished addition to any jewellery collection. Whether it's a classic blue sapphire ring or a modern multi-coloured sapphire necklace, these pieces are a testament to the beauty and allure of this remarkable gemstone.
Value and Worth of Australian Sapphires
The value and worth of Australian Sapphires are determined by a complex interplay of factors that go beyond just their captivating beauty. These factors include colour, size, clarity, and cut, each contributing to the gemstone's overall appeal and market price.
Colour is one of the most significant factors influencing the value of Australian Sapphires. The most valuable are the blue sapphires, known for their deep, intense rich royal blue hues. The unique parti sapphires, which display multiple colours in a single stone, are also highly prized for their rarity and distinctive beauty. Teal sapphires, which exhibit equal parts of blue and green, have recently grown in popularity adding to their value.
Size also plays a crucial role in determining the worth of Australian Sapphires. Larger sapphires are rarer and, therefore, more valuable. A high-quality Australian Sapphire that is larger than one carat can command a premium price in the market.
Clarity, or the absence of internal and external flaws, is another important factor. Australian Sapphires with high clarity, meaning they have fewer inclusions or blemishes, are more valuable. However, it's worth noting that some inclusions, like the needle-like rutile inclusions in star sapphires, can enhance the gemstone's value.
The cut of the sapphire can also significantly impact its value. A well-cut Australian Sapphire will reflect light beautifully, enhancing the gemstone's colour and brilliance. Skilled cutting can also minimise the appearance of inclusions, further increasing the gemstone's value.
The market price of Australian Sapphires can vary significantly, with high-quality specimens fetching thousands of dollars per carat. However, it's important to remember that the market price is also influenced by factors such as current fashion trends and the economic climate.
Other factors that can influence the value of Australian Sapphires include the gemstone's origin and treatment status. Sapphires from certain locations, like the New England region in New South Wales, are particularly sought after. In terms of treatment, untreated or naturally coloured sapphires are more valuable than those that have been heat-treated or otherwise enhanced.
Types of Australian Sapphires
Australian Sapphires are a treasure trove of colours, each type possessing its unique charm and allure. These gemstones are categorised into several types based on their colour, with each type offering a distinct palette of shades.
Blue Sapphires are the most common type and are highly prized for their vibrant hues. The colour of these sapphires can range from a deep, inky blue to a beautiful teal colour. The intensity of the blue colour is often a significant factor in determining the gemstone's value. The most valuable blue sapphires are those that exhibit a rich, velvety blue that is neither too dark nor too light.
Yellow Sapphires, often referred to as "Golden Sapphires," are another popular type of Australian Sapphire. These gemstones exhibit shades from light lemon to intense golden yellow. The best yellow sapphires are those that display a bright, canary yellow colour. These sapphires are often associated with prosperity and wealth, making them a popular choice for jewellery.
Green Sapphires, though less common, are prized for their vibrant hues. These sapphires can range from a light, minty green to a deep, forest green. Green sapphires are a unique and refreshing alternative to the more traditional blue and yellow sapphires.
Parti-colour Sapphires are a unique type of sapphire that displays two or more colours in a single stone. These sapphires are uniquely Australian and are highly sought after by gemstone connoisseurs. The colours in a parti sapphire are distinct and separate, often in bands or zones. The most common colour combinations are blue and yellow or green and yellow. The unique colour play in these sapphires makes each parti sapphire a one-of-a-kind gemstone.
Where Australian Sapphires are Found
Australian Sapphires are found in multiple locations across the country. The New England region of New South Wales, particularly around Inverell and Glen Innes, is a significant source of these gemstones. The Central Queensland Gemfields, including Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire, the Willows, and Glenalva, are also notable for their sapphire deposits.
Interestingly, sapphires have also been recovered from old tin workings along the Weld River in Tasmania. In addition to these, the most significant occurrence of ruby is near Gloucester, near Mount Barrington, an old volcano. Rubies have also been found near the Macquarie and Cudgegong Rivers and near Tumbarumba.
In Tasmania, the northeastern region, particularly around the areas of Weldborough and Gladstone, is notable for sapphire mining. The island state is known for producing sapphires of various colours, including blue, green, yellow, and purple. Although the Tasmanian sapphires are often smaller than those from other locations, they are admired for their intense colours and brilliance, making them a popular choice for jewellery making.
Commercial mining of corundum (including sapphire and ruby) still occurs at the Anakie and Lava Plains placer deposits in Queensland, and the New England area of New South Wales. Open pit mining is used to extract the corundum ore from the gravels. In many cases, the mining operations are small and the pits quite shallow. Tools used might include jack hammers, excavators, or shovels.
It's worth noting that in the 1980s, Australia was the source for about 70% of the world’s sapphires, mostly from New South Wales. However, mining with machines became more common in other countries, so Australia’s share of the market dropped to about 20-30%.
Mining Process of Australian Sapphires
The mining process of Australian Sapphires involves several stages, each requiring a high level of expertise and dedication. Here's a more detailed look at the process:
Extraction: The first step in the mining process is the extraction of sapphire-bearing soil. This is typically done using heavy machinery such as excavators or shovels, although in some smaller operations, manual labour may be used. The soil is then loaded onto trucks and transported to the processing area.
Washing: Once the soil has been transported to the processing area, it is washed to remove the lighter materials. This is typically done using a wash plant, which uses water to separate the heavier gemstones from the lighter soil and rock. The wash plant consists of a series of screens and jigs that sort the material by weight and size.
Sorting: After the washing process, the sapphires are sorted by size, shape, and quality. This is often done manually, with workers carefully examining each stone to determine its value. The sapphires are then divided into different grades, with the highest quality stones being set aside for cutting and polishing.
Cutting and Polishing: The highest quality sapphires are then cut and polished to enhance their natural beauty. This is a highly skilled process that requires a great deal of precision and expertise. The cut and polish of a sapphire can greatly affect its value, so this step is crucial in the mining process.
Marketing and Sales: Once the sapphires have been cut and polished, they are ready to be sold. This often involves marketing the stones to jewelers and other buyers, both domestically and internationally. The sapphires may be sold as individual stones, or they may be set into jewelry before being sold.
The mining process of Australian Sapphires is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the miners. From the extraction of the sapphire-bearing soil to the final sale of the polished gemstones, each step requires a high level of skill and expertise. The result is a beautiful, high-quality gemstone that is sought after by buyers all over the world.
Australian Sapphires, with their unique characteristics, diverse colour range, and exceptional quality, hold a special place in the global gemstone market. Their journey from the mine to the market is a testament to Australia's rich gemstone heritage and the enduring allure of these remarkable gemstones. So, whether you're a gemstone enthusiast, a jeweller, or someone who appreciates the beauty of nature's treasures, we invite you to explore more about the fascinating world of Australian Sapphires.