Hidden gems


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 sapphire hunting

Despite the heat, cold, hard physical labour and boots full of water, Dr Hamish Baron, an owner of The Unusual Pet Vets with locations across Australia, loves sapphire hunting.

“I initially started sapphire hunting to find a sapphire for my partner’s engagement ring. I knew it would be difficult as most Australian sapphires are only two to five millimetres across. They’re so small, the stones aren’t worth getting cut.

“Over the years, I’ve had a few good finds and Lu, my partner, owns a few rings adorned with my sapphires. Generally, anything above four carats in the rough can be cut into a really nice stone. Any rough stones above 20 carats are rare. The largest sapphire I’ve found is 35 carats. If it was a high-quality stone, it would be worth serious money but it’s probably worth about 10 grand. Even though it takes years to find a stone like that, I was happy Lu eventually got her engagement ring.

“When I moved to western Sydney in 2013, working as a vet meant long hours and consistently being called in on weekends. I hardly knew anyone there, but a Google search revealed there’s a river near Goulburn that has sapphires in it. I liked the sound of that immediately. I bought a shovel and some sieves and headed out for a weekend. I didn’t find any sapphires, but I did discover there was no phone reception. Perfect!

 sapphire hunting

“I began to get a better understanding of how the river flows and where heavy material collects after flooding. When sapphires get caught in a flood current, they tend to end up behind rock ledges or at the bottom of little waterfalls. I knew that river very well but now I’m based in Melbourne, I have to travel to Tasmania to hunt for sapphires.

“Australian sapphires are generally a green and blue colour and it takes persistence and determination to find them. Spotting that glassy glint among the rocks is a real skill. I keep all my smaller sapphires in a jewellery box and each one has a story. Likewise, the rings with my sapphires are unique and very personal. Each piece has its own story and memories.

“When I’m sapphire hunting, I love the thrill of the chase. I camp in the bush for a night, spend the day digging in the river and it’s rewarding. Well, potentially rewarding, I guess. You put in a day’s toil and sometimes you go home with nothing but other days, you go home feeling like a legend. You never know what you’re going to find but it’s always fun.”


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