AUSTRALIA AS A GEM PRODUCER
One important advantage favoring Australia’s own jewelry trade is that the country is a prolific producer of gems. Most precious stones, except
diamonds, are found in Australia, and it is, therefore, useless to export to Australia jewelry containing such gems. Mining for gems is not carried
on systematically, nor does any large amount of capital appear to be invested therein; nevertheless a great number of valuable gems are constantly being brought by individual prospectors to Melbourne and Sidney and sold to jewelry establishments at prices which, to those engaged in jewelry trade in America, would seem astonishingly low. In fact, the favorable prices at which high-class gems may be secured have attracted attention in the United States, and several leading American jewelry houses are now represented by their own buyers in Australia.
The gem most sought after is the Australian black opal, which is found nowhere else in the world. lt appears in limited quantities in the matrix of ironstone and sandstone in the Lightning Ridge district of New South Wales. It is estimated that since 1890 opals valued at over $5,500,000 have been found in the State of New South Wales. The State of Queensland also produces many opals, the production up to the present time amounting to nearly $1,000,000. Sapphires rank next among Australian gems in value of production. They are found in New South Wales and in Queensland, chiefly in the latter state, in the gravel or creek beds.The gems show excellent fire and luster, but the color is darker blue that the Oriental sapphire. In Queensland the present production amounts to about $75,000 per year, the total output to date being about $700,000. Other precious gems found in different parts of Australia include emeralds, turquoises, topazes, zircons, garnets, rubies, amethysts, tourmaline and beryls. Diamonds are found to a limited extent in New South Wales and in South Australia.
In the latter state the total production up to date has been somewhat over $500,000. The diamonds found locally are used mostly for glass cutting, while South African diamonds are mostly used in the jewelry trade. Pearls found in pearl-shell fishing along the northern coast of Australia are usually small, but their aggregate value is probably considerable. The quest for pearl shells is perhaps the most important industry of the northern part of Australia.
Source: The Enterprise - 1st July 1911