Where to Fossick
can be found in areas of the soil known as the wash, the wash is close too or on the surface in some areas but mostly located less than 1 metre below the surface, averaging about 350mm; this of course varies considerably with the terrain. A good guide is to explore where others have been digging, if you find some virgin ground, dig there, your chances are improved by some areas being extensively worked as sapphire must have been found.
Fossicking Method: Where to Dig
For the Beginner, the most important step is to identify a preferred area to dig. In designated fossicking areas, this is easily identified. The Queensland Department of Mines and Energy has designated tracks of land where Sapphire can be found. Many fossickers who have been there previously have dug holes in productive areas. Choose a hole not occupied by others and clean it out or extend the hole leading toward virgin ground. To know if the hole is occupied, it is common practice to leave a bucket or similar in the hole. This is a well understood unwritten rule in this area.
At the face of the hole you will notice top soil which contains vegetation; the sub-soil that supports the top soil, and then a rubbly or friable band containing iron stones, small pebbles and maybe medium sized basalt rocks. This is known as the wash and is the remnants of an ancient creek or river bed. All of the above rests on a bed of clay. It is in the wash that the sapphire's are found. Experienced fossickers will readily identify the geology of the area and investigate other potential sapphire bearing wash.
Extracting the Sapphire
Extracting the sapphire relies on the principle that sapphire has a greater specific gravity e.g. is heavier for given size than all other stones except diamonds. The most common method is to remove the dust from the wash, clean the stones using the sieves and Willoughby, this is commonly known as the wet sieve method.
Once the stones are clean, flip the sieve upside down onto a hessian bag, or similar on a table positioned in the sunlight. Starting at the center, examine the washed stoned carefully for colour. The most likely colours will be blue, green, yellow, red and orange. Red and orange coloured stones will more than likely be zircon's. Examine the entire contents of each sieve keeping in mind that Star Sapphire's and other gemstones may also be found.
A major gravel road runs through the centre of the field a few tracks from this allow 2WD vehicles but mostly a 4WD is preferred, if it rains the area becomes very slippery and boggy very fast. Stick to major tracks and roadways If you are going to move at all. The soil dries out very quickly after rain, so it pays to stay put rather than try and move around the bush.