It’s sort of like gambling, you just know that if you keep on digging, it will all eventually pay off eventually.
It’s the hope of a real life rags to riches experience that brings people from all over Australia, and in fact, from all over the world to Rubyvale in outback Queensland. It’s a tight knit community here, everybody knows everyone. Yet there is still an element of mystery in the town itself, most miners don’t want to brag about their finds, lest someone else cast an interested eye at their plot of land.
But stories of amazing finds do still get made public.
We met John at the Anakie Caravan Park. We had simply stopped by to say a quick hello to the owner, when he invited us to come and see the latest big find. Almost every business in town sells bags, or buckets, of unwashed and unprocessed gravel from commercial mining sites for guests to buy at a nominal fee. It’s fossicking but without the digging. The cost of a bucket varies, but they are generally less than $20.
John is a grey nomad from New South Wales, who is caravanning around Australia with his wife. They were staying at the Anakie Caravan Park when John bought the last $8 bucket from the park – lucky last he called it. Inside that bucket of dirty and dusty gravel, John found himself a 16 carat yellow sapphire, with an estimated value of $10,000.00 – or more! Now that’s what I call a return on investment.
As we drove through the dusty streets we wondered about the people who lived such simple lives, in such simple homes. Some people lived in their caravans, while others had constructed crude corrugated iron shacks.
Our guide Peter explains: One of the stipulations of leasing a claim here, is that you are not allowed to build a permanent structure. He adds, it may look like these people are not doing well for themselves, but you can bet yourself that they all have fancy cars and flat screen TV’s in their shack, and possibly a good stash of sapphires hidden somewhere on the property as well.
We stopped at Pat’s Gems to grab some lunch from their cafe. Pat’s Gems is a gem and souvenir store/ cafe/ fossicking park. This is yet another place in town where you can try your hand at sorting through some buckets, and hopefully find something sparkly. Here you can also admire the golf ball sized sapphire which was simply picked up off the ground earlier this year. Giant sapphires like this 753 carat one are rare, but there are still stories of them turning up. “What are you going to do with this one,” we ask the manager of Pat’s Gems. We refer to it as “superannuation” (a retirement fund), she explains.
If you want to learn about the different ways in which you can try your luck out in the gem fields, then stay tuned for our next post, “How to: Make your Fortune Fossicking for Sapphires”, which will be published on Saturday.