Every year a small “Gem Fest” is held on the Central Queensland
Gemields in Australia.
This year my wife and I visited after a few years break from going.
This area has towns such as Emerald, Sapphire and Rubyvale. The names
are not just decorative touches although Emerald was named by an early
exployer after the grass colour and doesn’t have any gems of that
type. Emerald is the large population centre of the area with a
population of 12000.
Anakie (38 kms from Emerald) consists of a Pub, Information centre,
ambulance centre, local hall and (may be) a dozen houses. This year
was its thirtenth Gemfest - physically this consisted of a large
Marquee Tent, The hall, and about seventy small stalls and tailgaters.
Gems in the rough as well as faceted and complete jewellery was
available in all price ranges from $1 to well err… $1 000 000.
A few items of interst that caught my eye.
An ex-electronics serviceman (now a Gemmologist) has started up a
cottage industry supplying and making lower cost Gemmology equipment.
Amongst other things, he makes “fibre optic” systems in a variety of
arrangements for examining, displaying, and photographing stones and
Most of these units have a standard dichroic 50 watt halogen lamp
for the light source (as used for household lighting). Mains powered
units were fan cooled and fitted with a light dimmer. 12 volt units
for field use were fitted with a 20 watt lamp and not fan cooled. The
fibre optic bundle was fitted with an alloy sleeve that was held in an
alloy housing on the case by a single screw.
A bundle about 10mm in diameter was selling well for people to
inspect rough stones (saphire rough was commonly being shown) for
inclusions and colour prior to cutting. Another bundle divided into
three forming two parallel straight line light sources a few inches
apart with a third forming a top point light source for photographing
with digital cameras. A ring light unit was available - formed at the
end of one of these bundles.
A low cost light source for refractometers used a couple of yellow
leds of very narrow bandwith. Whilst not monochronomic, it is close
to it: small, convenient, and able to be powered by batteries for
field use. It was demonstrated and tested by several people whilst I
was there and often was bought by the testers.
Polariscopes on display were made from camera polarising filters that
had the polarising material removed and better material retro-fitted.
He stated that the filter holders were ideal but demonstrated that the
new polaroid material was much better.
He had written two manuals in simplified language to help students
and non-technical persons - “The Effective Use of Gemmological
Instruments” and “Using Light Effectively with Gemmological
Instruments”. These were photocopied and spiral bound.
Lastly, he had a device on display that could distinguish "good"
diamonds from those “heat treated” for colour - I think I got that
right - I was more interested in the fibre optics. This unit could
also distinguish certain other gems that looked identical by checking
the UV light conducted through them.
All these items were cottage industry and lacked the polish of mass
produced or expensive items but they worked and at a fraction of the
A Foredom flex shaft clone was at another stand. I think this was
chinese made. Apart from the foot control this was a true “clone” in
apearance. The motor looked the same, and the handpiece was a close
copy of the number thirty handpiece. I didn’t disconnect it to check
but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it wasn’t interchangeable.
Going by appearances, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t truely
identical but made cheaper.
With the Australian Dollar at its current level, many people were
looking at cheaper equipment.
Well that’s my little report. If people want some more info then I
can supply some more and contact addresses. I DO NOT have any
financial or other interest in the companies supplying the gear
described, just a good curiosity.