What a place for a rock hound, and what a name for a town. ‘Anakie!’ and sapphire mining! Well when I first set eyes on the place back in 1968 it sure well described it. Sapphire miners in old bombs (Aussie slang for a clapped out car). 44 gallon drums everywhere loaded with water. Large and small piles of gravelly dirt everywhere. Holes in the ground. It was a pretty rough looking place but at the time before I found the Australian Opal fields it was totally fascinating. And the fact that anyone could set up a little ‘show’ on a tourist claim and search for sapphires, was an inspiration. We stayed there a week and by the time we had worked for a few days, had found a satisfying number of the little blue, green , or yellow, and sometimes ‘party’ colored stones which were a combination of all three colors. It was a stimulating experience to have your best stones cut and later set into rings. The rock hounding bug had left a very large wound on this collector after the sapphire experience.
This is the second of 3 rockhounding articles:
Yowah and Koroit opal fields
The bite turned into a gaping wound at Yowah opal fields. When I first laid eyes on one of these amazing stones, mixture of boulder ironstone and precious opal, as many a rock hound in the opal fields does. I could immediately see the potential. We lowered ourselves down a hole at the public tourist claim and immediately found signs of boulder opal matrix sparkling from the roof of the ‘ballroom’ as opal miners describe an area where the small hole or tunnel you use to find the level ‘bells out’ into a larger area. Later, upstairs in another part of old Yowah, there was a guy on a little Ferguson tractor with a rake on the back, filtering through the old diggings looking for signs of opal that had been missed by the old opal miners. That was an experience I will never forgot.
The Koroit opal fields, closer to Cunnamulla and not too far from Yowah also held a fascination, although at that point they were abandoned. A lot of holes had been dug, indicating that the old opal miners had found some good opal traces but at this point in history, everyone had given up. Somewhere I have a picture of myself sitting forlornly at the top of one of these shafts, looking down longingly at the potential which at the time I never realized. Many years later I returned to these fields and did some digging with an old back hoe but even then I did not find anything much, except one really nice boulder opal which we had set in 9k gold with diamonds. My mum in law wore this till the day she died and now my sister in law has it.
Koroit and Yowah opal fields today
We had no idea back then of the wealth that lay beneath the ground in these opal fields. Some very perceptive and hard working Italians pretty much started the ball rolling along with other Australians and Germans and it wasn’t long before millions of dollars worth of precious opal was taken. Today both these opal fields are alive with action and from all reports are getting more attention than other opal fields in Queensland.
Koroit and Yowah Opal and Public Perception
It took the public a little while to get used to wearing a gemstone that combined precious opal with ironstone. The Scandinavians and Germans in Europe as well as the Americans were the first to see the amazing potential of this stone, because of it’s uniqueness and often likeness to other images in nature. You see, even though gems such as sapphires, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, peridots, garnets, topaz, amethysts and numerous others, are really beautiful stones, basically, if you have seen one diamond for example, to the average person, they all look pretty much the same. But opals, particularly boulder opals are all unique and this is where there appeal remains.
A Rock Hound in the opal fields sniffs out some rocks
You only have one lifetime in this current world system and to tell you the truth, you could make a study of all the varieties and types of opal for many lifetimes and not come to the end of it. But of course that pretty much applies to all the amazing creations that surround us. The same applies to the rock hound experience. If you wanted to you could focus on just one field of rocks and probably do that for the rest of your life as many have done. And that of course is what I’ve done. I’m an opal rock hound through and through.
This series for the avid rock hound is concluded in: Rock Hounding For Opal