TVSN Kings Plains Sapphire Mine Visit
By Gavin Linsell
On Monday the 14th
October, Eli and I excitingly accompanied TVSN customers and their guests,
Michelle, Jen, Nicola, and Michele, on their very first Gem Adventure… a tour
of the Wilson Gems Mine, the home of Kings Plains Sapphire.
Located northeast of Inverell in New South Wales, it is a fourth generation mine-to-market family operation. Our winners of the Australian Gems Celebration competition, as well as a lucky mate, got to meet Jack Wilson, the principal miner, who’s been working Australian Sapphire fields for over 50 years. Also joining the group was Ali Mutch, TVSN presenter and a gemstone expert in her own right, as we discovered how this coveted Aussie gem is mined. Everyone experienced the rigors of Sapphire mining… from the extraction of alluvial gravels, to the washing and separation process. Getting muddy and wet, scaling slippery ladders, and using the water jet, they can now proudly say they have mined Sapphires!
Kings Plains Sapphires were discovered in 1854, and while Australia once yielded 70 percent of the world’s Sapphires, times have changed… for every ton of earth, only 1-2 carats of Kings Plains Sapphires’ signature Royal Blues are obtained. Royals, along with Cornflowers and Velvets remain the most esteemed of all Sapphire Blues but are increasingly scarce. Impossible to guarantee, we also got very lucky… in every scoop from the final washing tray, sparkling azure crystals enticed all with their undeniable beauty.
Aside from feeling good about seeing the Sapphires, we also felt good about seeing the mine… environmentally friendly, the mine has been benchmarked by the Australian Department of Mineral Resources for its excellent rehabilitation methods. With the severity of our ongoing drought painfully obvious, the extra income the mine provides cattle famers is essential, not to mention its water bores, dams, and recycling facility allowing parched bovines to quench their thirst. While bushfires prevented another TVSN customer and her guest, Carolyn and Emma, from joining us, their disappointment might be slightly lessened in learning the mine’s water reserves are always on hand to fight local fires.
Back to thirsts quenched, we finished the day with a fantastic lunch at an Inverell icon, ‘The General Merchant’. From the mine, to its glorious Sapphires, to the historic beauty of this famed locale, we all immensely enjoyed the ‘Sapphire City’.