Sapphire Fossicking in The Gemfields, QLD

💎 Guide to Sapphire Fossicking in Rubyvale, The Gemfields, QLD

Share It!

If you’re looking for a totally unique experience for kids and adults alike, embark on a Rubyvale sapphire fossicking adventure in The Gemfields – you won’t be disappointed! You will find this little pocket located about four hours west of Rockhampton, nestled in Central Queensland.

There are many ways to experience Rubyvale fossicking, from going to a Gemfields fossicking park, to taking a tag-along tour out into the dedicated fossicking lands. Either way, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a bag of sapphires to take home and might even find the big one for a piece of jewellery.

Before you even turn off the Capricorn Highway and head in towards the towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire, you will be inundated with signs for all sorts of shops and experiences.

“Visit Bobby Dazzler,” “Take the Underground Mine Tour” and “Come and see Pats Gems!”

Where do you even begin?

This full guide to Sapphire and Rubyvale fossicking within The Gemfields will take you through everything you need to know.

We are a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to ebay.com and other affiliated sites. We may earn a commission from your purchases at no extra cost to you. For more information, see our disclosures here.

Where to Find Sapphires in The Gemfields, QLD

There are a range of ways to obtain Sapphires in The Gemfields, with fossicking being just one avenue. In fact, it would be pretty difficult to leave The Gemfields without a Sapphire in your pocket! 

Fossick (verb)
To search for gold or gemstones typically by picking them over abandoned workings.

Here are all the different ways to find Sapphires in The Gemfields, Central QLD.

Gemfields Fossicking Parks

Fossicking Park, Miners Heritage, Rubyvale QLD
Miners Heritage Fossicking Park & Mine Tour, Rubyvale QLD

The easiest way to find sapphires in Rubyvale is at one of The Gemfields Fossicking Parks. Every fifth property has a spot out the front where you can do this – you won’t have any trouble finding one! 

Inside any of The Gemfields Fossicking Parks, you can buy a bucket of wash for $10 – $20. From there, the friendly staff will walk you through the entire fossicking process.

Pretty well everyone guarantees that you will find gems in their bags/ buckets, in fact, they make sure of it. There’s no need to worry about walking away empty-handed. 

Some of the caravan parks also have on-site fossicking, which makes it super convenient for travellers.

HOT TIP!
If the bucket of wash you’re going through has clay in it, then you know it’s genuine wash from a mine that hasn’t been previously sorted or tampered with – that’s the stuff you want!

Gemfields Fossicking Parks:

  • Pat’s Gems
  • Miner’s Cottage
  • Gemfields Fossicking Park
  • Miner’s Heritage

The first place we went to for Rubyvale fossicking was the Miners Cottage, purely because we’d heard that you get free scones and coffee while you fossick. You had me at scones!

The Miners Cottage is where we initially learnt all about Sapphires and fossicking.

Sapphire fossicking in Rubyvale, Gemfields QLD
Washing the sapphire wash in a Willoughby, Rubyvale QLD

How to fossick for sapphires with buckets of wash (dirt):

  1. Pour some of the dirt from the bucket into a special double sieve so you can shake the excess dust out
  2. Put the sieve into the dunking contraption called a Willoughby
  3. Spend some time washing the dirt and mud off your rocks
  4. Take your sieve full of rocks to the table and flip it over like a pancake
  5. Grab your tweezers and start pulling out the Sapphires

Sounds easy right? Nope! To the untrained eye, Sapphires in the rough can very easily pass for a bunch of gravel. No joke! 

Sapphire up to the sun, The Gemfields QLD
Hold potential sapphires up to the sun to check if they’re see-through

Anything shiny and see-through, when you hold it up to the light, is probably a Sapphire. 

So, we got to work and spent the best part of the next few hours pulling out a couple of sapphires and every piece of quartz in the bucket. To the well-trained eye, those two rocks are worlds apart! 

Luckily, they go through your rocks afterwards and pull out all of those gems that you’ve missed (and ditch the quartz). It can be hot, dirty, sweaty work considering that you need to be in the full sunlight to really see the ‘glint’ of the Sapphire.


Tag-along Tours

If you want a more authentic fossicking experience, head out on a Tag-along Tour. You will be taken out into the designated fossicking lands with an expert who will show you exactly what to do.

What’s included in a Tag-Along-Tour:

  • Dig your own dirt
  • Clean & sort the dirt
  • Find sapphires
  • Expert guidance
  • Fossicking equipment
  • Fossicking licence

Most locals and business owners in the area can point you in the direction of a good Tag-along Tour.


Designated Fossicking Lands

Designated Fossicking Lands, The Gemfields QLD
Graves Hill Fossicking Area, The Gemfields QLD

You can head out into the Designated Fossicking Lands yourself and try your hand at finding sapphires if you wish. I’d recommend doing a tag-along tour or going to a fossicking park first, just to learn the ropes.

You’ll need to buy a Fossicking Licence online, see the pricing table below.

Fossicking Licence Fees

PERIODINDIVIDUALFAMILY
1 month$9.02$12.92
6 months$34.24$43.92
12 months$57.66$77.03

Here’s where you can purchase your fossicking licence and get the map showing where you’re allowed to fossick. In addition, you can find all of the fossicking locations on WikiCamps

Never mine within someone else’s claim!
The perimeter of each Claim will be marked out with four white pegs – so always survey your surroundings before fossicking.

What you’ll need for DIY sapphire fossicking:

The main things you’ll need for Sapphire fossicking are a sieve, tweezers and some water. You can use your own sieve if you like, but having the proper one will make your job easier and ensure that you don’t miss any sapphires.

Alongside the sieves, you’ll need a bucket or drum of water to dunk the sieves in and out of so that you can wash the rocks.

The two sieves below are the proper ones specifically designed for fossicking. There is one with larger holes and one with smaller holes – you’ll need both.

Fossicking Sieves
Find proper Fossicking Sieves on eBay →

Camping on Fossicking Lands

If you wish to camp on the designated fossicking lands, a camping permit is required. The maximum stay in any one area is 3 months.

Fossicking Camping Permit Fees
Per night$4.31 per individual or family
Per week$27.16 per individual or family

Sapphire Specking

Specking for sapphires, Rubyvale QLD
Specking for sapphires, Rubyvale QLD

The act of picking up any Sapphires that you find lying on the ground is called ‘specking.’ Yep, it’s a real thing! 

You’ll often find people in The Gemfields walking along with heads down. Some amazing stones have been found literally laying on the ground – we found three this way!

Specking is best done right after a downpour of rain because that’s when you can easily see their little, shiny heads poking up.


Sapphire & Rubyvale Markets

Sapphire Markets, The Gemfields QLD
Sapphire Markets, The Gemfields QLD

If you haven’t had much luck with the digging, specking or fossicking while in Rubyvale, head to the local weekend markets where you can easily find affordable gems, already washed, cut and ready to go.

At both the Sapphire and Rubyvale markets, you’ll find a huge selection of cut, polished and set sapphires, ready for purchase. The great thing is that there are pieces to suit all styles and budgets.

The Gemfields Weekend Markets:

  • Rubyvale Markets – every Saturday morning
  • Sapphire Markets – every Sunday morning

Jewellery & Gem Stores

BIG Sapphire Ring, Sapphire QLD
Pats Gems Jewellery Store, Sapphire QLD

If you’re keen to walk away with a beautiful sapphire but didn’t find the ‘big one’ out in the field, don’t worry, there are plenty of jewellery stores in Sapphire and Rubyvale.

Many of the local businesses will have pre-cut and set stones ready for sale. The sheer range and quality available are absolutely stunning! You won’t have any trouble locating gem shops and jewellers as they are spotted everywhere throughout The Gemfields, just look for the signs.

Aus Line Break
Aus Line Break

What to Do with Your Sapphires

Sapphires found in the Gemfields, QLD.
Some of the beautiful raw Sapphires that we found

When you drive into The Gemfields, the prospect of fossicking for a whole bundle of glorious sapphires is alluring and exciting. By the time you leave, you’ll no doubt have a little baggy with bits and pieces. They’ll all be sapphires, but rarely will you find something big enough to retire off.

So, what exactly can you do with your bag of pretties, besides throw them in the back of a drawer and forget about them?

Sort your sapphires

Before you leave Sapphire and Rubyvale, make sure you get a professional to sort out your finds. If you fossick at a Gemfields Fossicking Park, the staff will go through your finds and make sure that you’ve sorted the quartz from the sapphires and will put all the ‘cutters’ (ones big enough to get cut) into a separate bag for you.

If you find Sapphires outside of a Fossicking Park (through specking or doing it yourself on the fossicking lands), take your finds into the Miners Heritage. The staff there are great and will happily help you sort the rubbish from the worthwhile.


Get the decent ones cut

Any sapphires that you find that are big enough and of a good enough quality, will be called “cutters.” Those cutters can be cut locally for $35 – $45 per carat.

“Cutters” are sapphires that are big enough to be cut

You won’t have to look too far to find a Gem Cutter, they’re everywhere out there! Try the Gemfields Fossicking Parks, jewellery stores and other businesses.

The bonus of finding a nice “cutter” is that you get to have it set right into a piece of jewellery during your stay and take it home with you without having to send it off or wait.


Send the tiny ones to Lambert Gems

Sapphire pendant
Tiny sapphires that I got cut via Lambert Gems & wear in a glass Pandora Locket

Some Sapphires are just too small to be cut by hand. They’re either too time-consuming for their size or they’re too fiddly.

All of The Gemfields’ locals send their tiny Sapphires overseas to a reputable company called Lambert Gems. They’re an American company who are based in Thailand.

At Lambert’s, the sapphires are cut with top-of-the-line cutting machines, making the process much more time and cost-effective. You can send your tiny sapphires to Lambert’s to be cut starting at just a few dollars each, as opposed to $35 – $45 each in Australia.

Be aware that there is the possibility that you won’t get your exact sapphires back from Lamberts though.

Every single one of the sapphires that you send over will be examined and categorised. Then they will be placed in with a bunch of other similar sapphires to be cut as a batch.

You can feel confident, however, that the sapphires you do get back will be of the same size, colour and quality as what you sent over.

I personally sent 75 small sapphires and a few zircons to Lambert’s for cutting and received them all back safely. I keep them displayed in a glass Pandora Locket Pendant (which you can find on eBay) and enjoy it as a beautiful everyday necklace.

You can check out the Lambert Gems website to find out how to send your sapphires to them. The process is pretty easy, but expect them to take about 3 – 6 months before having your sapphires back.


Display in Glass Jars & Bottles

Sapphires in a Glass Bottle

When you’re fossicking in Rubyvale and Sapphire, you’ll inevitably end up with some sapphire “bombs.” These are the sapphires that are full of cracks and can’t be cut, however, they are still sapphires nonetheless.

“Bombs” are cracked sapphires that can’t be cut

The best way to display your colourful “bombs” and other pieces that are too small to cut, is in a nice glass jar on a window sill that catches the sunlight.

Glass Bottles
Mini Glass Bottles (eBay) →

Summary of what to do with your Sapphires

What to do with your Sapphires
Decent-sized “Cutters”
(big enough to cut & set in jewellery)
• Get a local Gem Cutter to cut your sapphire (cost $35 – $45 per carat)
• Get your sapphire set into a piece of jewellery
Small “Cutters”
(too small/ expensive to cut by hand)
• Send to Lambert Gems to be cut by machine
Tiny Sapphires
(too small to cut)
• Display all the bright ones in a glass jar
• Put the really pretty coloured ones into a glass locket
Bombs
(have cracks & can’t be cut)
• Display in a glass jar on a window sill that gets sunlight
Aus Line Break

Exploring The Gemfields

Setting up camp first, then exploring second, helped us to get our bearings around The Gemfields.

Looking around we could see big piles of dirt everywhere along the roadside, accompanied by dug-out holes, so it seemed wise not to go wandering off the track. Clearly, those were old mining claims – didn’t they have to refill the mines once they were done? Obviously not!

The Gemfields Suburbs

The Gemfields in Central Queensland is made up of four suburbs, however, most of the tourist attractions are in Rubyvale and Sapphire.

📍 Rubyvale
📍 Sapphire
📍 Anakie
📍 The Willows

Getting to The Gemfields from Emerald:

  1. Drive west along the Capricorn Highway for 43 km
  2. Turn right onto Anakie Sapphire Road (which becomes Rubyvale Road)
  3. Follow the road for 11 km until you reach Sapphire
  4. Continue another 8 km along Rubyvale Road to get to Rubyvale

Rubyvale

The gorgeous little Rubyvale serves as the main hub for The Gemfields. We went for a wander and had a chat with a local who told us about some of the Tag-Along tours we’d be able to find during our stay.

Rubyvale Facilities:

  • Pub
  • Jewellery stores
  • Cafes
  • Post Office
  • Laundromat
  • Playground
  • Service Station
  • Food Store

Sapphire

The township of Sapphire is a bit more spread out than Rubyvale. The two towns are only about 10 minutes drive away from each other, making everything nice and close.

Sapphire Facilities:

  • RSL
  • Post Office/ Chemist
  • Service Station
  • Op Shop
  • Jewellery stores
  • Take-away shops 

Anakie

This small Anakie township is a bit further away, being on the other side of the Capricorn Highway. The pub there has closed down, which really only leaves a caravan park there now. 

Take a wander to the Anakie Train Station and look at the tree next to the platform. On that tree is where troops used to place their mark as they went off to war. It’s obviously grown a lot taller since those days!

An annual attraction for Anakie is Gemfest, which is the biggest festival in the region, dedicated to gemstones. Gemfest is held in Anakie every August.

The Willows

The final part of The Gemfields is The Willows. It’s fairly removed from the other three townships and is the least convenient place to stay as a tourist. There is a caravan park with a fossicking park on-site, plus a service station nearby.


The Mining Claims

Mining Claims, The Gemfields QLD
A typical mining claim in The Gemfields, QLD

While visiting The Gemfields, I highly recommend going for a drive around the local streets including the Mining Claims. You will get to see first-hand, how the miners actually live – it really is an entirely different world! 

Spotted around are plenty of ‘DO NOT ENTER,’ ‘DANGER’ and ‘MINING CLAIM’ signs at every turn, so be sure to stick to the road. 

How the Mining Claims Work

Anyone can lease a plot of land (called a ‘claim’) from the Mines Department for a set amount of time, such as 10 years. During that time you are free to mine your claim as much as you like, as long as you stick within the current mining laws. 

At the end of the lease, if the claim isn’t renewed, then the tenant has just 48 hours to vacate the site and put a large percentage of dirt back into the mine to get their bond money back.

In other words, the less stuff you’ve got (in the way of housing and machinery), the easier it is to strip the block back. This is the reason that you’ll see a whole spectrum of temporary dwellings, such as caravans, sheds, containers, lean-to’s and make-shift ‘houses’ put together using scrap materials.

Aus Line Break

Accommodation in The Gemfields

Sapphire Free Camp QLD
Sapphire Reserve Fee Camp, Sapphire QLD

To be honest, we felt really overwhelmed when we first pulled into The Gemfields, with no clue about sapphire fossicking. We decided to head straight to the Sapphire Reserve Free Camp, where we set up ‘home’ and were able to take stock. 

The vibes were good and we felt comfortable enough to unhitch the van, so we did just that. Our first afternoon was spent going for a drive to have a look around the local area of Rubyvale and Sapphire in order to get our bearings.

Below is a list of accommodation options available throughout The Gemfields.

THE GEMFIELDS ACCOMMODATION
Free Camping• Sapphire Reserve Free Camp
Low Cost Camping• Designated Fossicking Lands
Caravan Parks• Blue Gem Caravan Park
• The Gemfields RSL (for veterans)
• Sapphire Caravan & Cabin Park
• Gemini Caravan Park (over 50’s)
• Rubyvale Caravan Park
• Gemseekers Caravan Park
• Anakie Gemfields Caravan Park
• Willows Gemfields Caravan Park
• Gem Air Village Caravan Park
Motels & Cabins• Gemseekers Caravan Park
• Rubyvale Motel & Holiday Units
• Sapphire Caravan & Cabin Park
• Blue Gem Tourist Park
• Anakie Gemfields Caravan Park
• Willows Gemfields Caravan Park
• Gem Air Village Caravan Park
Aus Line Break

More to Do in The Gemfields

The Gemfields, Anakie QLD

From mining tours to climbing an extinct volcano, there are plenty of other things to do in The Gemfields beyond sapphire fossicking.

Things to do in The Gemfields:

  • Australia’s Largest Underground Sapphire Mine
  • The Thong Tree
  • Anakie Bottle Tree
  • Wild camel spotting
  • 6 Big Things in The Gemfields
  • Explore Mining Claims
  • Wander the Wetlands and more…

Here are 20 top things to check out in The Gemfields while you’re having your Rubyvale fossicking experience in Central Queensland.

Aus Line Break

Travel Planning Tools

Travel Checklists
Planners & Guides
Budget Spreadsheets

Pin It!

Sapphire Fossicking PIN
Guide to Sapphire Fossicking, The Gemfields QLD - PIN

Share It!

34 thoughts on “💎 Guide to Sapphire Fossicking in Rubyvale, The Gemfields, QLD”

  1. Hi Emma, i found all your information very informative.
    I wondered could you tell me the going rate gir each person for the tag along tours ?..

    1. Hi Lisa, I’m honestly not sure of the rates. It really depends on who’s out there doing the tag-alongs at the moment and what they’re charging.

  2. Hi Emma. When displaying sapphire “bombs” in a glass display container would you emerse the “bombs” in any fluid? If so what would you suggest? Thanks Jenny.

    1. Hi Jenny, no you don’t need any liquid. The trick is to place the glass jar on a window sill that gets direct sunlight because it’s when the sun shines through the stone that we’re able to see the beautiful colours.

  3. Hi Emma,
    Thanks for your post:)
    We have just been to the gemfields and fossicked some small sapphires… we had them graded too to send to Lamberts, but noticed there are quite small. Did you have a size limit you sent over? Were you happy with the cut result? I noticed Lamberts website wasnt working so not sure if they are still opperating.
    Thanks in advance for your help 🙂
    Tiffany

    1. Hi Tiffany, I sent all of my sapphires to Lamberts that were cuttable. Even if they seemed too small, I sent them anyway. Most of them were sent back cut, I think there were only 3 or so that couldn’t be cut. I’ve put a bunch of my tiny ones in a glass locket pendant and wear it all the time – they look beautiful in there! A tip with the locket, make sure you get one where the chain will go through and hold the locket closed, so that it doesn’t accidentally open and you lose all of your gems. I’ve checked the link and you’re right, it’s not working. You can find them here (I’ve updated the link in the article) – http://www.lambert.co.th/

  4. I have just bought a house in Willows, and the missus and I are quite keen to get stuck in and hopefully finding some good sapphires. There are diamonds and rubies there to I believe

    1. Oh nice. You’ll have heaps of fun fossicking, it’s quite addictive. I believe diamonds are super rare there, but not impossible to find. We found a few zircons as well.

  5. This is such a full and intensive guide! I used to love finding fossils with my grandparents as a kid so I would love to try this!!

  6. I love gemstones and precious stones and even wear it too. This sounds very exciting tour to check minesfield and hunt some gemstones. Good to know about some towns which are famous for these precious stones and you have mined a good number of stones. I am adding this to my list when I visit Australia.

  7. Specking and fossicking … I just learned two new words, thank you. Added bonus! You get free scones and coffee (do they have tea too?) whilst you fossick. Of course, I’d probably get my hands so grubby, eating a scone might become a bit of a gritty affair. 😉 Sounds like a fun adventure.

  8. Oh, that’s not just exciting for kids! I would have gone there in search of fossils, rare stones or other treasures. I think you always learn something about these actions and they are fun too.

  9. This looks like such a fun little adventure! Sifting through the ground and finding gems is fun for everyone of all ages – especially children. Its the perfect way to do something you all enjoy that has a super cool outcome.

  10. What an interesting adventure to actually go looking for gemstones. The process to get the sapphires did sound easy. But I am sure lots of shiny things really were not gems. Although it was good to know that almost everyone will leave with a sapphire. And so cool to know that you might find sapphires on the ground as you walk. This might be a fun thing to plan to do.

    1. You’re spot on there. Not every shiny thing is a sapphire. We spent our first few hours picking our loads of quartz thinking it was ‘something,’ but it wasn’t.

  11. So, funny story, I had to read this article twice. First, while overlooking all of the important details for discovering sapphires and other gems while I was preoccupied with what on earth is “fossicking.” Then, after I finally broke down and Googled it, to get the tips you share here. As a bonus, I plan to use fossicking at least once per day here in the American Midwest. That should throw people for a loop! 🙂

  12. I wouldn’t mind getting a little dirty to find some gems on my own. This sounds like a great activity for both adults and kids. I also never heard of Mining Claims before so it was interesting to read about leasing a plot of land. I can’t imagine leasing it for 10 years tho!

    1. It’s another whole world. People visit The Gemfields for a few days and find themselves still there a few years later. Sapphire Fossicking can become very addictive!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top