History - Central Queensland

The Central Queensland Sapphire deposit was discovered in 1875 by Mr. Archibald John Richardson the assistant Government Surveyor. Mr Richardson found red zircons that he took to be rubies and he showed little interest in the accompanying sapphires at that time. In 1881 a Mr. Blair commenced mining the sapphire deposit on behalf of Mr. Richardson. 

The following are some interesting excerpts from the 'Central Queensland Sapphire Fields Historical Diary' compiled and written by Terri Baker & Pat Villaroya 2001

The Early Days        1920 to 1965          Since 1965

1880 to 1915

  • 1882 Freehold mineral selection No 3022  80 acres purchased for 120
  • 1887 Anakie township gazetted
  • 1893 Sapphires valued at 9,000 were produced
  • 1892 Robert Logan Jack Government Geologist reported a ton and a half of washdirt
  • 1897 At the Queensland Mining Court International Exhibit exhibit 365 was 'Uncut Sapphires, Green Sapphires (Oriental Emerald), and Yellow Sapphires (Oriental Topaz), from area No:-50, Retreat Ck Anakie
  • 1900 The Mining Wardens report noted sapphire production at 150lb valued at 900. population 34 miners and 15 women and children.
  • 1902 B Dunstan's Geologicial Report Published in the Queensland Mining Journal. He wrote "Let it be known that the field is a large one, that the extent of the sapphire wash is second to none in the world, and that a constant supply of stones could be maintained."
  • 1908 The estimated value of the years yield of sapphires
  • 1912 June  'Mr Buker gem buyer ,is visiting the field. Mr Buker belongs to Idar, Germany, where most of the gem buyers associated with this field come from...'
  • 1912 The Assistant Government Geologist  Mr Lionel C. Ball B.E.  stated ' there was
  • 1915 The war has hit hard the value og gems mined has dropped to less than

1920 to 1965

  • 1920  The Paris company , Messrs Bazanger and Co., had two buyers on the field.
  • 1922 It was estimated that there was 2000 residents on the fields.
  • 1930s The depression hits many leave the fields
  • 1934 Only three men where actively mining at Sapphire
  • 1946 Several large gems found this year, a 225carat golden yellow at Big Bessie, a 211ct  yellow at the Willows, a 105 ct yellow at Glen Alva and a 326.55 ct blue at the Willows
  • 1950 Only about 12 miners left on the fields
  • 1953 A quantity of sapphire was sent to Germany and 21 men are now engaged in mining.
  • 1960 The Gemfields start to attract tourists and gem collectors. An increase in the price of sapphire has sparked a renew interest in mining.
  • 1964 Television stories and newspaper reports raise the profile of the gemfields as a tourist destination.

Since 1965

  • 1965 Interest in mining is at it highest for many years.
  • 1965 First known use of a bull dozer in mining on the fields
  • 1965 a 2 ounce green Sapphire was found by schoolboy
  • 1966 There are now 75 permanent miners on the fields 
  • 1967 Mr John Huie  a gem buyer from Bangkok visits the Gemfields 
  • 1967 Increased demand has seen the price for top grade blues rise to $800 an ounce.
  • 1967 Over 1000 tourists are reported to have visited the Gemfields over the Easter Weekend
  • 1968  Almost 150 square miles of sapphire bearing country was set aside by the Queensland government for the  sole use of small miners, prospectors and gem collectors.
  • 1970  the birth of Machinery mining on the Gemfields 
  • The early days of machinery saw much controversy and many heated arguments between the small miners, the machinery miners, tourism groups and the State Government. The end result being a raft of controls over the areas that could be mined with heavy machinery. Most of the richest sapphire bearing ground can still only be mined by small scale hand miners. The machinery miners have opened up vast area of sapphire bearing ground the would not have been viable under any other method of mining.
  • The boom of the early 1970s ended with a bust in the late 70's that lead to many of the machinery miners leaving the industry.
  • Since then Tourism has grown considerable but a core of machinery miners as well as a number of hand miners remain and produce a significant quantity of sapphire. Economic necessity has lead to many of these operators value adding to the product buy keeping and cutting there best material themselves instead of selling it as rough sapphire.
  • The Central Queensland miners have become leaner and more efficient operators and many have start to play a part in the marketing of the beautiful gem.

genuine sapphire - made by nature


An Information Resource on the Australian Sapphire Industry