Those of you who have researched the various world sources of sapphire will realise that Australian Sapphire has a very poor reputation. What many do not realise is that Australia does produce some very fine quality sapphires - a secret known only to some in the gem trade.
But at last the secret is out - Reddestone Creek sapphire has been appreciated and sought after by expert gem dealers for decades but unfortunately, in most cases, the real origin of this sapphire has been lost or misrepresented.
Australia has long been a major producer of commercial grade and fine sapphire. In 1994/94 the New England district produced 55 million carats of sapphire valued at $16,900,000 (Queensland production is not included in this figure). Production has decreased in recent years but buyers now have the advantage of being able to buy direct from the source - world class quality sapphire at very reasonable prices. Don't pay a premium based on a false origin (read more about this below) - buy direct from the source and appreciate these fine sapphires on their own merits.
Tradtionally, the most desired sapphires origins are Kashmir, Burma (Mogok), Sri Lanka in that order. Premiums are paid for sapphires from these locations leading to a temptation for many dealers to re-label stones in order to gain these premiums. Sapphires from other locations such as Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Nigeria and China tend to be iron-rich, and of darker colour. These sources provide much of the commercial grade sapphire used worldwide but what should be remembered is that every single mine produces low grade gems along with their best. The unfortunate thing for Australian sapphire is that it has only ever been judged on its commercial grade stone with the best types re-named as coming from more desirable locations.
If you are looking for these fine quality Australian sapphires, they are found in the New England region of NSW and in particular, the Reddestone Creek just west of Glen Innes. This source is known for producing a higher percentage of "blue-on-blue" sapphire where green tones on the secondary axis are largely absent - these gems show fine blue colour from both axes of the crystal. Colour tends to be rich with medium to dark tone and good saturation. In larger sizes, the medium to sky blue of a classic Ceylon sapphire are not found but a good Reddestone Creek sapphire will not be over dark. In smaller sizes, the New England source produces a range of great colours with fantastic life and sparkle - sometimes a problem with the very pale, washed out stones from some other sources.
Terry Coldham (Sapphex, Australia)
Colored Stone July 2001 article, The Australian Sapphire Blues: "The Thais ended up representing Australian sapphire on the world market, he continued, and the result didn't favor the Australians. "As we all know, in selling, perception is everything. Unfortunately, sapphire sold as Australian does not sell as well as sapphire sold as Thai, especially in Thailand. So over the years, a situation quickly developed where the darker, greener, and black sapphire was sold as Australian, whilst the finer blues were sold as Thai, or even as Pailin."
Richard W Wise (author of "Secrets of the Gem Trade")
From Chapter 22: "By the early 1980s sapphires were mostly from Australia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.... Thai dealers often bought the best of the Australian stones, heated them, and sold them labeled Ceylon in the Bangkok market — and still do."
Vincent Pardieu (AIGS, Field Gemology)
GemologyOnline expert chat: "Australian sapphire is easy to distinguish from Ceylon but not easy to separate from Pailin or Chanthaburi and nearly impossible from Kanchanaburi."
Richard Hughes (author of "Ruby and Sapphire")
Pricescope conversation: "Reddestone Creek, my understanding is that this is the best stone in Australia....Thanks to the kindness of Terry Coldham of Sapphex in Sydney, I had a chance to tour most of the major fields in the New England District, along with Sapphire/Rubyvale in Queensland, so I am somewhat familiar with the production. I was most impressed with the blues from Reddestone Creek, but really fell in love with the fancies from Queensland."
Source: Ruby-Sapphire.com: "A small quantity of fine sapphires are found in Australia, and it would be far better to have a fine Australian sapphire than a poor piece from Kashmir or Burma"
Dr S. Pecover (geologist)
Letter to the Gemstone Forecaster: For the sapphire produced from the New England gemfields, this situation has been made much worse by the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of fine Inverell blue sapphire has been acquired over the past 30 years, by visiting and resident Chinese/Thai gemstone buyers, at very low prices. These stones have been routinely taken back to Thailand, and then re-marketed to the US, Japan and Europe as top Thai, Cambodian or Ceylon sapphire. At the same time, Thai gem merchants have engaged in a concerted campaign around the world to promote the view that Australia only produces dark inky blue, very low grade sapphire. This campaign has been so successful, that everywhere in the gemstone world today, Australia is regarded as the home of cheap dark junk sapphire, even though the Inverell - Glen Innes area has produced literally tonnes of very fine Pailin and Ceylon quality equivalent blue gem sapphire.