Australia's Gemstone and Jewelry History and Interesting Facts
Australia has one of the greatest gemstone markets in the world and thus, most Australians have a deep sense of appreciation for fine gemstones and jewelry. Perhaps it's owed to the strong and growing Australian economy and the result of increasing high standards of living, or maybe even perhaps due to the fact that Australia produces some of the most outstanding gemstones, including diamonds, opals and sapphire.
The massive Argyle diamond deposit in Western Australia was first discovered in 1979 and by the late 80's, Australia was the world's largest source for natural diamonds; providing approximately 1/3 of the entire world's diamonds production, Australia dominated the market. However, nearly 50 percent of the production was suitable only for use as industrial-grade diamonds, typically to included or brown to yellow material of little-to-no value to the gemstone trade. About 45% of the yield was considered to be 'near-gem' quality, which could be suitable for various lower-end jewelry and a mere 5% of the find was of actual high gem-quality diamond. Australia is also quite famous for its supply of high-value rare pink diamond, as well as 'champagne' and 'cognac' diamond. These are exceptionally popular for use as melee stoned and they can still be very expensive, especially in sizes over 1/3 carat.
Since the early 20th century, sapphires have been exported and mined from Australia's New South Wales and Queensland and by the early 1980's, Australia had become the largest producer of commercial grade sapphire. Most Australian sapphire was considered dark and often exhibited color zoning with a strong greenish dichroism. The quality of them was not even close to those from Asian and African mines, so the market opportunity and demand for Aussie sapphire was quite limited. But despite the limited market, during the 60's, Thai gemstone dealers had conjured a way to lighten the color through heat treatment and more recently, a process known as Be treatment. 'Be' or beryllium treatment is a diffusion process which is quite stable and yields more desirable color. Be treatment is typically used to create other colors, but also for blue sapphire as it is known to especially reduce bluish tones, this bringing deep blue color down to an attractive medium level of intensity. Australia's sapphires through Thailand's production process all of sudden became more and more saleable. However, by the mid-1980's Australian sapphire was surpassed by higher quality sapphire from Thailand itself, as well as Madagascar; and since then, Australia's production of sapphire has severely declined. As of today, large scale sapphire mining is no longer a major contributing economic for Australia, but Aussie Sapphire can be seen in jewelry around the world.
Today, Opal is Australia prize and fame. When it comes to opal, nobody does it better than Australia - Australian Opal lead both quality and quantity and believe it or not, until more recently, Australia produced and supplied nearly 95% of the entire world's supply of opal, and they were the onlysupplier for black opal. Nowadays, Ethiopia is becoming a significant opal supplier, as well as areas of US and South America, but none of these origins come close to the quality and superiority of Aussie Opal. Most common opal, or 'potch' is mined from South Australia, including Andamooka, Coober Pedy and Mintabie, but Black Opal is mined primarily from famous Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. In 2008, a major discovery Ethiopia's light-base opal gems posed a small threat in regards to competition, because Ethiopian opals were prices much lower than Aussie Opal (about 30% less in price per carat). However, the stability and quality of Ethiopian Opal justified the reduced prices and even today, when it comes to real quality opal, true gem collectors aren't concerned over a little savings - the demand is still for Fine Australian Opal.
Other Gemstones of Australia
Australia is also a top provider for other various semi-precious colored gemstones, such as Chrysoprase, zircon, amethyst, sodalite, chrysoberyl, Chrysocolla and coral. All of these gems are extremely popular in the jewelry world. In fact, most of these gems from Australia are so well-known and popular, that unlike many other gem types, they can mostly be found in your local friendly neighborhood jewelry shop.
Buying Australian Gems for Jewelry
Today, many Australians are savvy gem and jewelry buyers and they're demands as gem collectors require only the finest high quality gemstones and jewelry. Previously, buying gems online was unthinkable, but now, many Australians purchase gemstones online, primarily from trustworthy Thai gemstone suppliers. The main reasons are the savings of buying from the source for rarer gems and the vast selection of gem types that can be found. Many are shocked to find that some Australian origin gemstones may even be less expensive in Thailand, because the costs for processing (treating, cutting, and polishing) is much cheaper in the 'Land of Smiles' than in Australia. However, even with prices being lower online, many Australians import Thai gems simply because many popular gem types, such as ruby, tsavorite garnet and tourmaline, simply cannot be found in Australia at all -- unless you're fortunate to have the time and money to take a quick buying holiday to the Dominican (Larimar), Tanzanite (Tanzanite) or Canada (Ammolite)! So, next time you're ready to make some fine jewelry, thank Australia for its fine supply and also, if you are Australian, think about buying Aussie Gems! Even though you're buying online from another country, you're still supporting Australian miners and their families, because in the end, it's the local miners that thrive no matter where the gems are bought and sold from.