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Rubyvale, QLD

The three towns - Rubyvale, Sapphire and Anakie - are known as the "Gateway to the Gemfields" - this is ruby and sapphire gem-fossicking country.

Anakie, Rubyvale and Sapphire are, as the latter two names suggest, settlements specifically designed to facilitate the search for precious stones. They have a certain wildness that comes with gem fossicking. The fossickers are more interested in finding gems than establishing a neat suburbia and consequently the streets, the gardens, the houses, the social activities, the sense of community run a distant second to discovering gemstones. The entrepreneurial spirit of Rubyvale and Sapphire is an integral aspect of the ambience of the towns. Sapphire is little more than a playing field, a caravan park, a few isolated homesteads, a general store and a few shops selling gems. Between Rubyvale and Sapphire are the large-scale sapphire operations where heavy equipment and major digging creates huge mullock heaps and lagoons.

Location

Rubyvale is located 332 km west of Rockhampton on the Capricorn Highway. It is 891 km from Brisbane via Roma and 941 km via Rockhampton.

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Origin of Name

Who knows for certain? It is claimed that Anakie is a corruption of a local Aboriginal word meaning 'two hills'. Rubyvale and Sapphire were named, rather unimaginatively, because of the precious gems in the area.

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Things to See and Do

Getting Orientated
There are three "settlements" in the Gemfields - Rubyvale (the most substantial of the villages), Sapphire and Anakie. All are dedicated to searching for gems and there are a number of places where non-serious seekers can experience the process. These places include:

The Bobby Dazzler Mine in Rubyvale
One of Rubyvale's major attractions is the Bobby Dazzler Mine. It is a commercial tourist operation which offers guided mine tours, a fossicking park where you can try your luck, a gem shop, a mini museum and a cafe. For more information check out http://bobbydazzlerminetours.com.au or book a tour at (07) 4981 0000. It is not open during the summer months.

Rubyvale Gem Gallery
Located at Rubyvale (easily sighted from the main road), the Rubyvale Gem Gallery is a symbol of the way the whole Gemfields area is changing. It is a beautiful, solid building offering a cafe, a gem gallery and accommodation. The gallery's very classy website explains: "Our gallery displays sapphires mined from one of the world's largest sapphire fields located on the Tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland, Australia. We mine and cut the sapphires, then design and manufacture unique sapphire jewellery. If you are interested in an investment gem, piece of exclusive jewellery, or just curious about sapphires; we welcome you to our gallery." For more information check out http://www.rubyvalegemgallery.com or tel: (07) 4985 4388.

Fascination Gem Fossicking
Fascination Gem Fossicking offer a "Self Drive - Day Tour for the Serious Gem Fossicker". The brochure explains: "Be prepared for this unforgettable highlight of your visit to the Central Queensland Gemfields. You will experience first hand the unforgettable thrill of digging and finding sapphire in its natural state. Dig, sieve, wash and inspect your very own diggings, under expert tuition from an experienced underground and surface hand miner. We supply all the equipment and water to enjoy a lifetime experience." They are located at 72 Kellambete Road Rubyvale. Tel: (07) 4985 4675.

The Big Sapphire Ring
Located in Sapphire outside Pat's Gems this unusual, but appropriate, artefact was dreamed up by Stan Mitaros who wanted the ring to be outside his Magic Jewellery Shop in Rubyvale. He asked Victor Saunders to build the ring and it took nearly three months to complete. It was erected in 1984 but the building that housed Magic Jewellery burnt down in 1987. Pat Vine, who runs Pat's Gems, bought the ring and had a new fibreglass blue sapphire made. She installed it in 1989.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Sapphire/Rubyvale Designated Fossicking Land
The Queensland Government has a dedicated website dealing with Fossicking in Queensland. It identifies two areas around Anakie which are suitable for fossickers. The Sapphire/Rubyvale area is well described (complete with a downloadable map) at https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/fossicking/central-qld/rubyvale-saphire. Check it out as it offers warnings about moving onto mining leases and offers detailed information about the gemstones that might be found in the area. In total there are nine listed fossicking areas in the Gemfields.

Glenalva Fossicking Area
Located 20 km from Anakie, and one kilometre from the Capricorn Highway, Glenalva, according to the Queensland government website (see https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/fossicking/central-qld/glenalva) has camping facilities - you can camp there for three months - and "Glenalva has produced a wide variety of stones, predominantly greens or blue-greens and yellows, with occasional black star sapphires, particolours, blues and pinks. The rare blues, and a fair proportion of the greens, are of high quality.
"Although much of Glenalva has been hand-mined to some extent, there is still sufficient virgin wash to provide opportunities for fossickers. Areas that may yield sapphires are in the tops of gullies that drain off the central wash-capped ridge. These areas are good for specking, particularly after rain."

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by people from the Gayiri Aboriginal language group.

* The discovery of gemfields in the area occurred in 1875 when Archibald John Richardson found zircons at Retreat Creek.

* In 1876 a prospector found sapphires in the region.

* By 1881 commercial mining operations had commenced.

* The railway line reached the district in 1884.

* By 1887 Anakie was proclaimed a township.

* Anakie Post Office was opened in 1894.

* In 1902 (the year the Anakie Hotel was built) the Anakie Sapphire Fields were officially proclaimed a mining area.

* Between 1902 and 1935 the three settlements of Anakie, Sapphire and Rubyvale grew to meet the demands of the miners.

* In 1903 the Kitchener Hotel was removed from Comet to Sapphire.

* A school was established at Rubyvale in 1905.

* A boom occurred from 1906 when the gold miners from Clermont moved west to try their luck. That year saw a Post Office open in the town.

* In 1907 over £40,000 worth of gems were mined.

* World War 1 saw many miners leave the fields.

* By 1921 Rubyvale had a population of 630.

* In 1922 the Queensland Government stepped in to stabilise the sales of blue sapphires.

* After 1935 the fields began to decline.

* In 1938 a twelve-year-old local named Roy Spencer found a huge sapphire, the Black Star of Queensland weighing 1165 carats (it was the largest black-star sapphire in the world) near Reward Claim. He took it home and his father, not recognising its value, left it at the back door.

* By 1953 there were only 21 full-time miners working in the area.

* The school in Rubyvale closed in 1963.

* The fields experienced a new lease of life from tourism in the 1960s.

* Major miners arrived in the early 1970s, with heavy machinery in tow. They started to exploit the fields commercially, selling the best gemstones to dealers from South-East Asia.

* It is indicative of the harshness of the area that electricity only arrived in 1977.

* The Rubyvale Hall burnt down in 1979. It was subsequently replaced.

* A multipurpose centre was built in 1994.

* In 1998 the towns got reticulated water.

* Today the fields are a combination of interests with individual operators, tourists and companies all vying for the stones.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information in Anakie, Rubyvale or Sapphire. The nearest is the Central Highlands Visitor Information Centre, 3 Clermont Street, Emerald, tel: (07) 4982 4142.

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Useful Websites

The University of Queensland site - Queensland Places - has a useful and detailed history of the area. Check out http://queenslandplaces.com.au/sapphire-and-anakie-gemfields and http://www.digthetropic.com.au/experiences/strike-it-rich/sapphire-gemfields/ is useful.

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2 suggestions
  • Today we visited the Miners Cottage in Rubyvale. For $30 (2 adults) we had the best fun with a bucket each of wash from which between us we found 40 carats of stones some of which were pretty good, we’re told. Also thrown in was morning tea with a scone. Very helpful & friendly staff. A whole morning’s entertainment for little expense!! Don’t wear your best clothes though!

    Barbara MacKenzie
  • Is “The Willy Wash” still in Rubyvale?

    beryl maskrey