Whenever we’re looking at precious stones, we’re always fascinated by their origins. Australia has been coveted particularly in recent years for the beauty, variety, and uniqueness of our precious gems. In far north Queensland you’ll find towns like Rubyvale, Emerald, and Sapphire that take their namesakes from some of the precious stones mined there. The infamous Argyle mine has made headlines in recent years for its forthcoming closure and the increased value of the spectacular pink diamonds it has produced.
Part of our ethos has always been to celebrate the untraditional and champion the unexpected and when it comes to stones native to our home we have an abundance of choice. From the multi-tonal Parti sapphires that have become an unsung hero of Australian precious gems to vibrant Emeralds filled with fragments and natural inclusions, the dark and streaked Lightning Ridge opals, and the lustrous and cloud-like South Sea Pearls. We’re fortunate that we have some of the world’s finest gems in our own backyard.
Currently, the most coveted stone coming from Australia is the Parti Sapphire. These contain a mix of green, blue, and yellow and are considered highly valuable due to their unique composition. The typical Australian sapphire is dark blue in color with a strong green dichroism, (the effect of light being split into distinctive streams of different colours).
Australian mines have produced more blue sapphires than any other source in history. Deposits are located in the gem fields at Anakie in Queensland, and the New England district of New South Wales.
Australian sapphires currently account for over 70 percent of global blue sapphire production, and demand for them is only increasing. This is partly because they are relatively hard—9 on the Mohs scale. So they have excellent toughness and longevity. This makes them a great choice for rings and pieces subject to daily wear and means they make a great alternative to the traditional diamond for a wedding or engagement ring.
Emeralds were discovered in Australia in 1890 in New South Wales. After accounting for only a small portion of Australia’s gem production and with yields waining, the mines were closed permanently. Since then Emeralds have also been found in Poona, Western Australia though only in small deposits.
Because of this Australian Emeralds are few and far between so when we come across one in the gallery it’s an extremely exciting moment. This was the case with Georgie Brooks’ ‘Textura Carezza Ring’ with a Torrington Emerald. Sourced from a retired fossicker and custom cut to Georgie’s specifications it’s a truly incredible find.
South Sea Pearls
The Australian South Sea pearl is the largest, rarest, and most valuable of all Pearls. Produced in the remote and pristine waters of the Kimberley, they are vastly known for their incredible lustre and unsurpassed quality.
They are cultured using a large, white-lipped oyster, hand-selected from the waters of the South Pacific. The oyster is about twice the size of an Akoya pearl oyster and produces much larger pearls. The more time the pearls spend in the water, the more coats of nacre they develop, which creates their lustrous look. On average, a South Sea pearl will require two to three years to develop and can produce up to three or four pearls over the course of its life. It is for this reason they are often more coveted and valuable.
South Sea pearls come in a wide range of colours, from elegant white and cream to radiant gold and dramatic black. While pearl colour does not on its own denote value, the rarer and more in-demand a colour becomes, the more valuable it will be.
e.g.etal artist Laura Eyles spent a 4-month residency in Broome working with and learning from the practices behind South Sea Pearl farming. This resulted in an incredible body of work from Laura including her ‘Keshi Pearl Ring #5′. Cradled in 18ct yellow gold, the warmth of the gold and the lustre of the pearl together are truly gorgeous.
Opals can be found worldwide however the largest supply of opals comes from Australia where we make up 95% of the international supply. Australian opals are also widely considered the finest in the world.
Thanks to the geological conditions in vast regions of Australia, Opals have been able to thrive. This is due to multiple locations where millions of years ago geothermal springs flowed. Slowly over time the minerals deep in the earth made their way to the surface and grew in bedrock cavities to form opal. The most prominent locations of opal production exist in Australian Opal fields like Lightning Ridge, Queensland, South Australia, Mintabie, and Yowah. White opal is found in South Australia, Black opal is found in Lightning Ridge, NSW, and Boulder opal is found in Queensland.
Anita Crowther’s ‘Portal Earrings’ are adorned with Yowah Nut Opals. As their name implies they look nut-like and are often cut in half to create a symmetrical pair. Anita is known for sourcing incredible opals and this one was no exception.
If you’re interested in creating something special with an Australian stone, contact us.