Queensland Sapphire

The birthstone for September, Sapphire is a truly mesmerizing gemstone with a rich history, potent symbolism, and popularity spanning over 2,500 years. Few people realize that Australia is actually one of the world’s major Sapphire sources. During the late 80s, Australia was the leading producer of Sapphire, supplying 70 percent of the world market. While times have changed, recent mining at the Anakie Gem Fields in Queensland’s remote Central Highlands Region, has revitalized global interest and availability of beautiful Queensland Sapphires. Environmentally and socially responsible, FURA Gems is a leading mine-to-market operation. Since 2020, they’ve mined and globally marketed Queensland Sapphires, beautifully regaining this historic Antipodean gem’s former glory.

Hardness 9
Refractive Index 1.762 - 1.788
Relative Density 3.95 - 4.03
Enhancement Heat (Standard/Traditional Heat)


Displaying gorgeous, deep, midnight blues with a dark saturation (strength of color) and tone (lightness or darkness of color), Queensland Sapphires have an intense transparency, with excellent brilliance for their opulent hue’s rich shades.

Optimal cutting is critical, every Queensland Sapphire is carefully faceted by experienced lapidaries in a manner that doesn’t sacrifice brilliance for weight, with a superior mirror-like polish that results in a beautiful luster. Featuring an eye-clean clarity (the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones as determined by the world’s leading gemological laboratories), they’re carefully orientated to maximize their colorful brilliance, as well as an attractive overall appearance (outline, profile, proportions, and shape).

While both Ruby and Sapphires are classed as Type II gemstones (gems that typically grow with some minor inclusions in nature that may be eye-visible), Sapphires are usually cleaner (and larger) than Ruby, with an eye-clean clarity (no visible inclusions when the gem is examined approximately six inches from the naked eye) being the typical standard.

Sapphires are pleochroic (different colors visible from different viewing angles), but this is not usually a concern. Gems with table-up pleochroism that detracts from their beauty will be priced accordingly. As usual, the visibility of pleochroism is determined by crystal orientation during lapidary. The aesthetic impact of color unevenness due to zoning (location of color in the crystal versus how the gem is faceted) or excessive windowing (areas of washed out color in a table-up gem, often due to a shallow pavilion) is also an important value consideration. Finally, pay attention to how transparency and inclusions affect Sapphires’ color beauty and subsequently, value. As with all gemstones, assuming everything else to be equal, size matters for Sapphires, and one 4 carat Sapphire will always be far rarer (and more expensive), than four 1 carat Sapphires.

Fine microscopic inclusions (called ‘flour’, ‘milk’ or ‘silk’) in some Sapphires can impart a ‘velvety’ or ‘sleepy’ appearance that boosts both beauty and value. Once you’ve settled on a color you like, look for a good shape and overall appearance (finish, outline, profile and proportions). While ovals are most common, Sapphires are available in other shapes and cuts. As stated previously, optimal cutting is absolutely critical for Sapphire.

Like all famous gemstones, Sapphire features in mythological and religious stories. Whether these really referred to what we know as Lapis Lazuli or blue gems collectively during antiquity is uncertain. According to Greek mythology, the first person to wear September’s birthstone was Prometheus. While Persians believed Sapphire’s reflections gave the sky its colors, Sapphire is mentioned in the bible: Exodus (24:10), the throne of God is paved with Blue Sapphire of a heavenly clarity, it is also one of the 12 ‘stones of fire’ (Ezekiel 28:13-16) set in the breastplate of judgement (Exodus 28:15-30). As one of the 12 gemstones set in the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem (Revelations 21:19), Sapphire is also associated with the Apostle St. Paul. Sapphires have long symbolized faithfulness, innocence, sincerity and truth, so it’s not surprising that for hundreds of years they were popular engagement ring gemstones. Apart from being one of the world’s favorite hues, blues are also psychologically linked to calmness, loyalty and sympathy.

While Sapphire’s popularity as an engagement gemstone has been somewhat upstaged by Diamonds since the 50s, they are making a comeback. For example, in 1981 Prince Charles gave Lady Diana an engagement ring set with a stunning 18 carat Ceylon Sapphire and more recently (2011) Prince William tied the knot with Kate Middleton using the same engagement ring.

Defined as any process other than cutting that improves a gems’ appearance, durability, value or availability, 90 percent of all gemstones in the marketplace have been enhanced in some manner. As these processes have become an important part of the modern gem industry, enhancements are acceptable as long as they are disclosed, permanent, and stable. While gemmologists can often spot indications of gemstone enhancements, advanced scientific testing is frequently required for confirmation and absolute certainty.

Becoming malleable around 1900°C and melting at 2030°C, Sapphires can withstand incredible temperatures.  Sapphires also have no cleavage (i.e. very high toughness), allowing them to endure high temperatures with an acceptable breakage risk.

Heating Sapphires to improve clarity or develop color has been used in some form for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Likely practiced in the sub-continent over 4,000 years ago, heating is one of the earliest known gemstone enhancements. Early references to the heating of gemstones include Pliny the Elder in his ‘Naturalis Historia’, c. 77 AD and two Egyptian papyri dating to the third or fourth century AD. The scientist Abu Rayhan al-Biruni not only developed the specific gravity scale, using it to identify many gemstones, but in his book, ‘The Book Most Compressive in Knowledge on Precious Stones’ (c. 1048 AD) he describes in detail the 1100°C heating of Corundum to remove dark colored areas. Interestingly, this is basically one of the same methods still used today.

Referred to as ‘traditional’ or ‘standard’ heat, modern ‘low’ temperature enhancement involves heating Sapphires to 1200°C – 1700°C for anywhere up to an hour to 36 hours, often repeating the process to achieve the desired results.

While almost all Sapphires are heated, this is not always a simple ‘traditional’ process that originates in antiquity, with new techniques continuously being developed (e.g. heating with pressure, c. 2009). Often a sophisticated process that has taken experienced specialists’ decades to perfect, high temperature heating can significantly change a Sapphire’s original appearance (and value). For example, modern electric and gas furnaces can heat Sapphires to 1800°C (close to their melting point) for up to seven days, sometimes with this being repeated numerous times. These high temperatures allow the incorporation of additives, such as glass (filling cavities and cracks) and coloring agents (e.g. beryllium bulk diffusion to dramatically alter color). As these enhancements radically change the color and clarity of arguably inferior gemstones, Sapphires that have been heated with additives should be disclosed, and not simply described as ‘heated’.

Sapphires embody a gem’s quintessential ideals: breathtaking beauty, genuine rarity, and everyday durability; making it one of the world’s most coveted gemstones. Ruby and Sapphire are color varieties of the mineral Corundum (crystalline aluminum oxide), which derives its name from the Sanskrit word for Rubies and Sapphires, ‘kuruvinda’. Trace amounts of elements such as chromium, iron and titanium, as well as color centers, are responsible for producing Corundum’s rainbow of colors. Sapphire’s name is derived from the Latin, ‘sapphirus’, which in turn comes from the Greek ‘sappheiros’, meaning blue. This name is believed by some to originate from either the Hebrew ‘sappir’ (precious stone) or the Sanskrit ‘sanipriya’. Used to describe a dark precious stone, ‘sanipriya’ means ‘sacred to Saturn’ and this entomology is lent credence by the fact that Sapphire is regarded as the gem of Saturn in Indian astrological beliefs. Historically, ‘sappheiros’ usually referred to Lapis Lazuli rather than Blue Corundum, with the modern Sapphire probably called ‘hyakinthos’ in ancient Greece. Believe it or not, Sri Lankan Sapphires were reportedly used by the Greeks and Romans from around 480 BC, which provides evidence of the ancient trade routes used by our ancestors.


Australian Sapphires’ main sources are the New England (Kings Plains) fields, in northern New South Wales (NSW), and the Anakie fields, in central Queensland.




Starting with the chance discovery of Sapphires by gold miners in Queensland in 1851, circa 1873 – 1875, Archibald John Richardson, a State Government Surveyor, found Sapphire near Anakie approximately 50 kilometers to the west of the town of Emerald, eventually becoming a partner in a Sapphire mining company. According to local folklore, ‘Emerald’ was named because Green Sapphires found near the town were originally thought to be Emeralds.

While the Anakie area was officially proclaimed a gem field in 1902, sporadic mining started in the 1890s with most Sapphires sold to Tsarist Russia via German buyers. Mining consisted of sinking shafts or digging shallow pits, then washing the rough with sieves. By 1913 two tons of Sapphire had been extracted, with the small towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire appearing to service miners. The advent of World War 1, the collapse of Imperial Russia, and the elimination of German buyers brought mining to a virtual standstill. Despite a short boom at the end of the war, following the Great Depression, interest in Anakie Sapphires waned from 1930 – 1960, partly due to harsh conditions at the fields, with high temperatures and little water resulting in limited mining. For example, only USD100 of Sapphires were mined in 1957!

In the 60s, the burgeoning demand for rough Sapphire throughout Asia saw mining at Anakie resume and by 1969, the Anakie fields were being mined via large-scale, fully mechanized operations. The towns of Anakie, Emerald, Rubyvale, Sapphire, Tomahawk and Willows in central Queensland quickly became global Sapphire havens. Since the 80s there has been a steady decline in output, mainly due to the depletion of commercially viable areas and mounting operational costs. Many artisanal surface mines as well as small, semi-mechanized underground operations now run alongside the large, heavily mechanized workings.

The Willows Fossicking Area is 11 kilometers off the Capricorn Highway. The turn is 24 kilometers pass the Anakie/Sapphire crossroads and about a 45-minute drive west of Emerald. The Willows is a popular fossicking spot as very little machinery and no corporate mining has been permitted in the past. The ‘Willows’ in particular is known for yielding unique fancy colored Sapphires. Some of the world’s most famous Sapphires have been found at the Willows, including a 332 carat Yellow Sapphire crystal, aptly named the ‘Golden Willow’. Artisanal hand mining and/or fossicking involves digging from old creek beds, now underground, and sieving it to separate out the sand and oversized rocks. It’s then washed before the Sapphires can be hand sorted from the other heavy gravels.

Great Northern Mining worked the Subera area near Anakie in the 90s, with gems being sent to Sri Lanka for heating and cutting, but suspended operations in October 1995, reportedly due to poor yields. The field was then leased by Richland Resources, a company listed on the London stock exchange and the owners of Tanzanite One (C Block), with them commencing operations at the Capricorn Sapphire Mine in April, 2015. In June, 2016 Richland Resources updated their resource estimate for the mine.

Founded in 2017, FURA Gems is a leading global gemstone mine-to-market company mining the big-three (Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire), through subsidiaries in Australia, Colombia, and Mozambique. FURA employs environmentally and socially responsible mining practices, a clear and scientific grading mechanism, guarantee of provenance, and complete traceability. In 2020, FURA purchased Capricorn Sapphire and Great Northern Mining. The 73 Sapphire mining licenses of Great Northern Mining are a continuous block of 15 square kilometers and share a boundary in the east with Capricorn Sapphire’s 3 mining licenses (5 square kilometers), allowing FURA to scale up the combined mining operations. According to FURA, these open-pit mines have a minimum 15-year duration, and their ongoing resource evaluation indicates the existence of additional resources. Since 2021, FURA is actively marketing Queensland Sapphires with an intent to regain their former glory on the global platform, rebuild the market, boosting the interests of Queensland and its people. Some of FURA’s community activities include, aiding artisanal miners, community newsletter, encouraging art/sports, fossicking activities, healthcare, lapidary training, meals on wheels, and upgrading technological infrastructure.

The vast majority of gem-quality Australian Sapphires, approximately 90 – 95 percent by weight, occurs in various shades of blue. The Anakie fields produce darker Blue Sapphires, and purer green and pure yellow gems than the NSW deposits due to Anakie Sapphires’ crystallizing in a more iron-rich environment. Ranging from pastel through to midnight blue, most Queensland Sapphires are blue, with the second most prevalent colors teals, followed by greens, goldens, and yellows. Most Queensland Sapphire crystals range in size from a grain of sand to the size of a pea, typically yielding small accent to two carat gemstones. Larger gems are rarely found.

Some of the most beautiful gems of the entire Corundum family, color banding is relatively common in Queensland Sapphires, and more prevalent/better developed than in Sapphires from other deposits. Coarse to very coarse banding of blues, greens and yellows results in the uniquely beautiful ‘Particolor’ (Parti-color) or ‘Particolored’ (Parti-colored) Sapphires, commonly referred to as ‘Parti Sapphire’. When the bands are wide enough to give a clear color separation, the effect is quite beautiful, but this is dependent on the gem being correctly orientated during lapidary. Currently hugely popular, Queensland Parti Sapphires display a natural cocktail of banded teals, which are very attractive, extremely scarce and highly valued.

Named for Australia’s national floral emblem, Wattle Sapphire displays a gorgeous blend of green and gold, Australia’s national colors. Wattle, called mimosa in many countries, has a yellow to gold blossom with green to olive-green foliage. Queensland Wattle Sapphires are the most attractive and valuable of all Australian color-banded Sapphires; only representing approximately less than three percent of Australian Sapphires, they’re exceedingly scarce.

While Blue, Golden, Green, Parti, Teal, Wattle and Yellow are usually available calibrated, Orange, Pink and Purple are only occasionally available free-size. Queensland Star Sapphire is also sometimes found, usually black or bronze gems very similar to those from Bang Kha Cha, Thailand, but also rarely in blue, blue-grey, and very occasionally green and gold.

Durability & Care

The world’s second hardest gemstone, Queensland Sapphire is an excellent choice for everyday jewelry (Mohs’ Hardness: 9). Queensland Sapphire should always be stored carefully to avoid scuffs and scratches. Clean with gentle soap and lukewarm water, scrubbing behind the gem with a very soft toothbrush as necessary. After cleaning, pat dry with a soft towel or chamois cloth.

Map Location

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