Australians are having high standards when it comes to ethical and environmental practices; their good working conditions and environmental awareness all make it possible to market ethical sapphires.
Some of our Australian sapphire are coming from Inverell, a small town in New South Wales. This city of just over 11,000 people is about 320 km southwest of Brisbane.
Our gemmologist partners had the chance to meet John Wilson who operates one of Australia's largest sapphire mines, which lays about 20 km from the city in the middle of cornfields and wind farms.
The mine employs a dozen people who operate trucks, excavators and other machinery.
Below are the different stages for the extraction of sapphires
1. The first step is to dig the black soil on the surface in order to reuse it once the process is complete.
2. The sapphires are quite close to the surface, about 6-7 meters deep. They were carried over by rivers hundreds of years ago. We find them mixed with clay.
3. The shovel digs the clay that contains sapphires and dumps it over into a truck.
4. The truck empties the material on a large plate, or a conveyor, where the pieces of clay are separated with the help of a powerful water jet. The clay must undergo several steps in order to separate.
5. Large sieves then sort the rough in three different sizes.
6. The sorted rough sapphires are automatically transferred to a large padlocked box that the owner empties at the end of the day. They are then shipped to Thailand to be cut.
7. All the used water is filtered and discharged into a large pond for reuse.
8. After the process, the remaining mixture of soil and clay is reloaded into a truck and returned to the hole that was initially dug. The black soil is then added back onto the surface.
9. The field is thus ready to welcome new seeds. As the land has been turned, it is more fertile and the new crops are even better.