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Precious Gems

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 30 May 2012 | Views [962]

"Skying" a sapphire, Rubyvale

There are no emeralds in Emerald.  But it is a good place to stock up for travel north on the Capricorn Highway.  And Emerald is home to the world's largest copy of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, a billboard-sized reproduction next to the information centre.

Sapphire, on the other hand, does have sapphires.  Rubies and zircons, too.  So does Rubyvale, a small town with more than its share of eccentric looking miners cum jewelers, some of whom are now millionaires.  Until the 1970s most of the world's sapphires came from this area and the underground mines are still producing.  John, the proprietor of Main Street Gems, filled us in on the history of Rubyvale, some of its more infamous characters and a whole lot about sapphires.  Some of his tales may even be true!  Like smuggling dark blue sapphires into communist Russia where he traded them for diamonds which he then sold in Amsterdam.

Everyone we spoke with had a similar story.  They don't make much of a living but they love the life.  Hope springs eternal....


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