One of my friends announced to me recently that she is going on vacation to Australia for three months. Crikey! Going on walkabout for three months! She’ll be a fair dinkum sheila by the time she gets back !
Knowing that I am something of a stone aficionado, she asked what stones she should look for down there. So I consulted my books and found that Australia is rich in both precious and semi-precious stones. A lot of these stones, such as diamonds, emeralds and topaz are found in many places in the world. For this blog, I decided to focus on the the stones that are either associated with Australia or found only in Australia, with a couple of surprises in there, too.
Probably the stone most associated with Australia is the opal. It was declared to be the national stone of Australia in 1993. There are many types of opals in Australia including boulder opal, matrix opal and precious opal. Precious opal is the really juicy stuff, with black precious opal being one of the rarest stones in the world. Opal is also a very soft stone with a hardness of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. Because of its softness, it can be carved, but care needs to be taken when setting it as it is sensitive to pressure. It also has a high water content and can dry out and crack over time if not properly cared for. Synthetic opals are a great substitute, both in price and durability. However you choose to set it, let the opal be the star of the show. With their flashes of colour, they are truly stunning.
Sapphires in Australia came as a bit of a surprise to me. I had never heard of Australian sapphires before, so I was especially intrigued to read about parti-coloured sapphires. Parti-coloured means that there are areas of different colours within the same stone. Somebody told me that she had bought a stunning green sapphire with blue corners when she was there. Regular sapphires come out of there as well, especially blue ones. For more extensive information on sapphires, see the blog previous to this one that also talks about myths and the chakras associated with blue sapphires.
Mookite is a stone that is found only in Australia. This beautiful jasper occurs in shades of purplish-red, orange-red, mauve and yellow with some white, all swirled together. It is a beautiful stone and like other jaspers is ranked at 6-7 on the Mohs scale. It comes from the Carnarvon Basin in Western Australia and is named after the Mooka River. Mooka is an aboriginal term meaning “running water”, and refers to the many springs that feed into the area. Because the stone is so decorative, I would be inclined to choose simple, clean-lined settings to show it off to its best advantage.
Another surprise for me was finding out that chrysoprase is mined in Australia. Chrysoprase is a vibrant green form of chalcedony that gets its colour from small amounts of nickel. It has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and is durable enough for just about anything you can think of. This lovely green stone is reasonably priced and easy to obtain. Here again, I think silver shows off the clear, cool colour to best advantage, but if you prefer, go for for the gold!
Last but not least, is nephrite jade. Yes, I know, this is the same kind of jade that is mined right here in B.C. The difference is that the Maoris in New Zealand carve it into amulets or hei-tiki. There are many different designs, each with its own meaning and they are all lovely. One of the most beautiful designs is a graceful spiral that represents the unfurling New Zealand fern. It is a symbol of growth, new beginnings and awakening- a perfect symbol for entering a new phase of life. Just remember- don’t call a New Zealander an Australian unless you have a death wish! They are two separate countries even though they’re close together.( kinda like Canada and the U.S.!)
So, if you ever go down under, these are the stones to look for. G’day, mate!