A Beginner’s Guide to Fossicking for Sapphires in Rubyvale

Fossicking for Sapphires in Rubyvale

If you’d like to try your luck and find a sapphire head to Rubyvale in Central Queensland. You can pop into the Rubvale Gem Gallery and buy a cut gem or a piece of sapphire jewelry but unearthing your own rough sapphire will make your holiday souvenir even more precious.

Here’s a beginner’s guide to fossicking for sapphires.

1. Head to the Sapphire Gemfields of Central Queensland

You can drive to Rubyvale from Brisbane in about 11 hours but if you’re short on time it’s a one hour flight from Brisbane to Emerald and then a one hour drive from Emerald to Rubyvale.

Make sure  you check out the big easel and Van Gogh reproduction as you drive out of Emerald.

emerald big easel

2. Get the right equipment

You can buy or hire everything you need for a day of sapphire fossicking including a permit in Rubyvale but if you’re a true beginner it’s best to go on a fossicking tour because you’ll get a professional guide. I took a fossicking tour with Karen and Michael at the Little House of Gems.

rubyvale little house of gems

3. Michael showed us how to hoe, dig or pick into the soil and fill your bucket with dirt you hope will have a sapphire hidden in it.

rubyvale michael fossicking

4. Now sieve the soil to get rid of all the dust.

rubyvale michael fossicking sieve

5. Pour the sieved soil into another sieve ready for washing.

rubyvale michael fossicking water

6. Spend a couple of minutes tapping the sieve in a bucket of water to clean the soil thoroughly and let the heavy sapphires sink to the bottom and sides.

rubyvale michael fossicking water 2

7. Turn out the washed soil onto a table top.

rubyvale michael fossicking turnout

8. If you did it right any sapphires should be lying on top or round the sides when you remove the sieve.

Can you see the little green number here? Sadly it wasn’t a great specimen and not good enough to do anything with but one of the other budding fossickers on my tour found a sapphire big enough to cut and make into one earring – or a nose stud.

If you do get lucky and find a big sapphire you can get it cut locally by Karen at the Little House of Gems.

rubyvale michael fossicking turnout 2

9. We only spent a few hours fossicking but all that digging, lifting and sieving is hard dirty work. Leave time to head back to your campsite or accommodation for a shower. When you’ve cooled off and cleaned up head to Policeman’s Knob just outside Rubyvale to watch the sunset.

rubyvale ploicemans know

rubyvale policemans knob tree

10. You can whet your whistle and dine in the New Royal Rubyvale Hotel which also has cabin accommodation.

rubyvale pub


So that’s it! Fossicking for sapphires is easy if you know what you’re doing. Would you like to give it a go?

Sapphire Fossicking Tip: After heavy rains sapphires wash down the creeks and are often found nestled around washed out tree roots. So if it rains while you’re visiting Rubyvale you may not even need to do any digging, just walk around with your eyes trained to the ground!

Rubyvale Travel Guide

Rubvale Gem Gallery – Accommodation, food and gem gallery. The hero image of the big yellow sapphire at the top was taken at the Rubyvale Gem Gallery. It’s a 25 carat sapphire with a value of $95,000. Now wouldn’t that be a nice find?

Little House of Gems – Fossicking tours and gem gallery.

New Royal Rubyvale Hotel – Pub, food and accommodation.

Gratuitous selfie of me on a horse taken early one morning in Rubyvale:

rubyvale selfie on a horse

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  1. Annie October 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Timely story! We just returned from Sovereign Hill, and the obligatory panning for gold, at which we were not very successful. And my husband said we should go looking for sapphires (which I don’t believe to be very abundant in SA). And now I know how its done – and I think it MUST be easier than panning for gold!!

  2. Craig October 9, 2014 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Fossicking sounds like a lot of fun, unfortunately I don’t think there are many (if any) places to do it here in the US. I’ll have to try it out the next time I’m in AU. Love that sunset too

  3. Megan Blandford October 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    SO much fun!

  4. Linda ~ Journey Jottings October 11, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    A true bushy experience :)
    Miles from civilisation and while its a great opportunity to get close to nature, there’s still that possibility of hitting the jackpot :)

  5. SheetStirer May 16, 2015 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Found loads of nice ones at Rubyvale. I don’t have a permit, just sneak out and start fossicking. Best I found was a nice 14.2ct beaut parti colour sapphire.

  6. Jon May 25, 2018 at 12:31 am - Reply

    Heading up to rubyvale in a couple of weeks. 2nd trip after a long break. I will be looking to just have some fun and maybe find a nice place to spend a few months every year. Cya then. Jon

  7. Cheryl July 29, 2018 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    WOW how fabulous we usually mine Opal at Lightning Ridge Thought lets look at the Sapphire and Ruby areas .It is fabulous too walking with a friend and I found an amazing Sapphire just lying on the track It wasn’t obvious till I saw a sparkle after I had stepped over it Give it a go anyone I happy with my find $300 worth having it made into a pendant It is theVirgo gemstone ?

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