The Big Pick, Shovel and Sieve
The Big Pick, Shovel, and Sieve are symbolic reminders of mining activities in Sapphire, a rural locality in the Central Highlands Region of Queensland. This set of three large traditional mining tools sit outside the Blue Gem Store Van Park.
The town’s name derives from its once-famous sapphire mining activities. Sapphire is also among the three towns under The Gemfields locality. The other two include Anakie Siding, where sapphires were first discovered, and Rubyvale, best known for its rubies.
A Brief History of Sapphire Mining in Sapphire
Sapphire mining in the region dates back to the 19th century. At the time, mining was done using picks and shovels, while sieves were used to separate the gems from dirt.
These precious stones attracted the royals and the wealthy because of their beautiful and rare range of sparkly colors that made unique jewelry.
Most miners in the Gemfields were of Russian origin who also had access to the European markets. As a result, gems mined from Sapphire made their way to some renowned and wealthy Russian and European royal families. To date, these precious stones can be traced to jewellery and crowns owned by some members of the Russian Nobility.
Mining activities in Sapphire slowed down in the mid-1900s after the Russian Revolution. Some miners returned to Russia, while others remained in Queensland, where they practiced mining on a smaller scale.
Today, tourists exploit Sapphire fossicking from several designated locations in the region. Several gemstones galleries and stores also sell or make pieces of jewelry with the gems.
In addition, a number of Big Things have been purposely built to commemorate sapphire mining activities that once boomed in the Gemfields region. Examples include:
- The Big Miner in Rubyvale
- The Big Sapphire in Anakie
- The Big Sapphire Ring in Sapphire
Sapphire mining aside, other Big Things of Australia build to celebrate mining activities include: