Join the search for buried treasure

Fossicking for gemstones is becoming an increasingly popular pursuit among the growing legions of grey nomads. And it’s not hard to see why. Basically, there’s a half decent chance you might actually find something of value!

We all know about the opals of Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge but there are literally hundreds of other places out there where you can find all manner of sparkling and non-sparkling things. They include: (and try reading this lot out in one breath) Topaz, quartz, diamonds, zircon, alluvial gold, muscovite, tourmaline, jasper, amethyst, calcite, thunder eggs, crystals, citrine, petrified wood, magnetite, prehnite and microline … (and there’s probably a load more but I was worried you would run out of breath and keel over!)

This stuff can be found and, best of all, you don’t have to be an expert or fantastically well equipped to find most of it. You just need some determination, some patience, a reasonably good eye … and perhaps, a bucket, a good supply of water, a sieve, and a spade. Really, it’s only when looking for gold underground that you need an expensive high-tech metal detector.

There are plenty of fossicking opportunities all over the country and – although there are different regulations in each state – if a permit is required, it is generally easy to obtain and surprisingly inexpensive. Almost inevitably, most of the good fossicking is to be done in fairly remote areas and free camping areas have sprung up around many of them.

Don’t be put off when you pull up at a site and see a collection of grubby looking characters staring up at you … they’re probably not as frightening as they look! It’s amazing how gemstone fever seems to afflict people from all walks of life with equal intensity. Former high-flyers who are travelling in a super luxury rig and probably have a small fortune in the bank, will find more joy in unearthing a decent sapphire than they ever did in closing a multi-million dollar deal.

There’s something raw and primitively satisfying about physically digging something out of the ground yourself and then following it through to becoming a piece of jewellery. Some fossicking trail veterans have even acquired their own gem-cutting materials and skills.

Oh, and don’t be too put off if everyone you meet says they’re not finding anything. It’s the oldest trick in the gemseeker’s book. Would you want the world and his wife to know that you were pulling out some real beauties from a particular spot? Just ask yourself … why do they keep coming back day after day to dig if they’re not finding anything? Exactly. Mind you, I’m not sure what the person who really isn’t finding anything should tell you!

Just get out there and dig. It really is a lot of fun and, at the very least, you’re guaranteed to meets some genuine characters.

Top fossicking spots

  • Inverell region, NSW
  • Harts Range, NT
  • Anakie Gemfields, Qld
  • Beechworth region, Vic
  • Weld River, Tas

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