Digging up gems life ambition
SHOWCASING a rainbow of colour with the unique patterns of sapphires, Jim and Jenny Elliot of Coolamon Mining had two stands on display at Gemfest this year.
With one in the main festival at Anakie, the couple were also impressing locals and tourists with their high quality stones in sapphire at the Multi Purpose Centre.
The Elliots first started mining sapphires in 1984 and while home is Calliope, the Gladstone the couple has spent much of the past decades on the fields.
“We got involved helping with the rebuilding of Rubyvale Rd when we had our own construction management business, then we just became more involved in sapphire mining and it became our life,” Jim said.
Jim said they had been displaying their stones at Gemfest for about 15 years and he and Jenny handled the sapphires from the moment they were dug, to the moment they were sold.
“We believe anything you do to a stone from the moment it leaves the ground should be disclosed to the buyer,” Jim said.
“The reason we survive is because we guarantee authenticity and natural stones.”
Jim urged people to be wary of stones purchased in stores as very rarely were the origins and treatments of the stones disclosed.
“We’re trying to train people to ask the right questions,” he said.
The Elliots said they had stayed in the sapphire mining business for so long because of the relationships developed with clients and people.
“All of our bigger stones are cut by people here on the Gemfields,” Jim said.
“It’s all-natural colour in our stones and our patterns of sapphires show the variations you can find.”
The largest stones the Elliots had on display last week included an eight-and-a-half carat yellow sapphire and an eight-carat green sapphire.
Opposite the Elliot’s stand at the Multipurpose Centre, Dick Hawkins had some spectacular sapphires on display from the Willows.
Dick has lived at the Willows for the past 20 years, where he bought a claim and has been hand-mining sapphires ever since.
His most impressive stone on display was a 20-carat yellow-gold sapphire, with a 19-carat green sapphire following closely behind in the impressive stakes.
“Willows yellows are the best in the world,” Dick said.
He said while hand-mining the stones was hard work and a seven day a week job, “it’s a good life”.
“I do it for a living and it works out that you make about 25 cents an hour,” Dick said with a laugh.
“The hardest part about sapphire mining is selling them.”
The largest stone Dick said he had ever found was a 750-carat sapphire corundum.
And while he loved the mining life, Dick said he was thinking of finishing up soon.
“I’m going to retire in the next couple of years,” he said.