DIGGING IT: Tash Kernahan and daughter Hannah, 8, try their luck fossicking at Gemfest in Lismore.
DIGGING IT: Tash Kernahan and daughter Hannah, 8, try their luck fossicking at Gemfest in Lismore. Mireille Merlet

Thrill of the hunt captivates at Lismore Gemfest

SOME love the craft of cutting that perfect gem, others come to find the right "energy" in the stone while many are simply addicted to beautiful objects.

Whatever their passion for stones, they were able to indulge it at Lismore's annual Gemfest at the weekend.

Now in its 25th year, the event is the biggest gemstone show in the country, attracting more than 5000 lapidary enthusiasts from near and far to seek gems, fossils, meteorites, jewellery and other minerals from various hotspots across the globe.

Keen buyers had an extensive variety of alluring objects to fawn over.

There were multi-kilogram raw amethyst stones, pin-sized rubies worth $1000, 350 million year-old fossilised squids, and even fossilised dinosaur poo.

Organiser Bruce Copper of the Lismore Gem and Lapidary Club said his passion for gemstones was fuelled by the thought of finding something in the natural environment and transforming it into a wonderful piece of jewellery.

The club provided first-timers with the opportunity to sieve for seeded treasure in a pre-made pebble mix and watch gem cutters practise their craft.

Tash Kernahan and daughter Hannah, 8, from Dunoon said they had expected to be sieving stones for just a few minutes but were still transfixed almost an hour later.

Hannah's patience was rewarded with a good-sized handful of precious-looking stones.

"I might make some jewellery out of them," she said.

Meanwhile in the main pavilion Andrew Wright from Lismore bought a hypnotic obsidian crystal ball, a meteorite, and a thumbnail-sized lapis lazuli.

"I believe there's an esoteric value as well as an aesthetic value, that there's an energy about crystals that science can't fathom," Mr Wright said.

"There's a lot of people out there who believe crystals can heal."

Cut-gem stallholder Jim Flaherty travels around the world to indulge his passion for precious stones.

"You don't go fossicking to make money, you do it for the love of the hunt," Mr Flaherty said.

On the same day he proposed to his wife, Mr Flaherty found one of the best sapphires he has laid eyes on virtually sitting on the dirt. It naturally ended up on his beloved's wedding ring.

He encouraged young people to get out there and take up the passion.

"Any kid can go out and have a scratch and find something special," he said.



The colours of different varieties of sapphires (and all other gemstones) are caused by trace impurities.

Sapphires can be yellow, blue, pink, colourless, green or completely black (due to too much iron).

Sapphires are 400 times rarer than diamonds. Diamonds are only more expensive because their market is monopolised and millions of dollars is spent on marketing them.

Blue sapphires are blue because they contain equal amounts of iron and titanium in trace quantities.

The rarest colour of sapphire is orange pink, known as padparadscha - A Sri Lankan word due to the fact they are mainly found there.

Cut sapphire ranges in price from $50 a carat (one carat = one fifth of a gram) to around $4000 a carat.

Cutting a gem into a jewel results in an average of 75% of the original stone being discarded, hence the much higher price (along with the hours of labour).