There are three main things you
need to know to be successful at fossicking for sapphires.
1. What does a sapphire look like?
2. Where do I look for them?
3. What do I need to find them?
Also, what should I bring and when is the best time to come fossicking at the Gemfields? Read below.....
Sapphires formed in a six-sided crystal formation deep in the Earth. It is generally believed that they were spewed out of volcanoes and then tumbled along watercourses. Because of the tumbling effect on the stones, and the flaws in some of the crystals, many of the pieces broke apart. Sapphires that are still in their original six-sided form are often refered to as a "dog's tooth". Many pieces can be found showing some of their original sides although on some pieces none of these sides are clearly visible. Rough sapphire generally looks very dark but some light colours, like yellow, can be seen without holding the stone up to the light. Generally, you look for dark pieces of stone that usually have some sparkle as you turn them in your hand, and when held up to the light can show blue, green, yellow or some combination of these.
Sapphires are found in a layer of gravel refered to as "wash". The depth of the wash layer varies from one area to another, from being right on the surface to as deep as twenty meters or more. The Government Fossicking Areas, like Big Bessie, have been specifically put aside for tourists because the wash layer is shallow to dig. Although many people have dug in these areas there are still many spots with original, untouched ground to dig and also many of the old mullock heaps are worth sieving again because firstly, everybody misses stones and secondly, many of the old diggings were sieved without water which made it extremely hard to find all of the stones. Once the topsoil has been removed to expose the layer of wash, you dig out and sieve the wash using a willoughby to make the job much easier. The action of the sieve plunging up and down in the water brings the heavier stones like sapphires and zircons to the one spot in the center of the sieve. From there, the stones are easy to find either by flipping the sieve upside down on a sorting table or just working through carefully from one side of the sieve to the other.
From this, we can gather that some of the essential tools you will need are a pick and shovel, a sieve, a drum of water, preferably a willoughby, and as an optional extra, something for a sorting table (all available for hire from Blue Hollow Mine). Also, depending on the ground you are working, a throwscreen or shaker can be useful to get rid of excess loose dirt before the sieving process. If all this is sounding too difficult don't despair! It is possible to simply go for a walk over the old heaps and pick up a nice little (or somethimes big) gemstone that someone else has missed and the rain has exposed in their old heaps.
- Most importantly, WATER. Because of our hot, dry climate you can very quickly dehydrate. You must drink plenty of water (not tea, cordial, softdrink, etc, although you could have these as well) while you are out fossicking.
- Wear old clothes. You will want light clothing that will protect you from the sun and that won't matter if it gets very dirty. Covered shoes are much more suitable and comfortable for fossicking than thongs or sandles.
- You could bring a picnic lunch. It is often more time efficient to eat your lunch where you are digging. This saves you having to pack up your gear to go in search of food and gives you more of a chance to find a gemstone. However, there are many places where you can buy take-away food if you prefer.
Most people take advantage of the cooler months from April to September with the height of the tourist season being from June to August. If you are planning on staying at a caravan park during the peak season or during school holidays, you should book ahead to avoid disappointment. There is always plenty of room for campers in the designated Fossicking Areas.