A 14-year-old boy was walking behind the local post office on his way home from school when he discovered a hidden gem.
It was 1979 in the Central Queensland gemfields and young Serli “Smiley” Nelson had just discovered what became known as the largest gem-quality sapphire in the world.
The Centenary Sapphire, which weighed in at 2020 carats, was stolen in 1983 from an exhibition but was recovered a few years later.
It is believed that the rock was then sold to a New York jeweler, who cut and re-sold it for about $AU1.87 million.
The Centenary Sapphire is just one of many famous stones found on the Sapphire gemfields.
Secretary of the annual Gemfest event, Linda Drake – a gemfields local (or ‘Gemmie’ as they’re affectionately known), said some of the discoveries held international significance.
“In America they have a collection of very large sapphires that are carved into the presidents’ heads. They regard these as their crown jewels, including Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington plus Martin Luther King and another huge star sapphire carved into the Madonna and Child,” she said.
“They used to reside in the Smithsonian Institute, but are now domicile in the Oval room of the White House.”
The “Pride of Queensland”, the largest cut yellow sapphire in the world at 169 carats, and a large blue-black sapphire known as the “Black Star of Queensland” were also found in the area.
The “Black Star of Queensland” was found in 1938 by 12-year-old Roy Spencer.
The stone, which was recently put up for sale at $90 million, wasn’t always held to such high value. The palm- sized stone, weighing 1,156 carats, spent nine years as a doorstop in the Spencer family home.
The “Autumn Glory” was an orange sapphire found by a fossicker in 1993.
The owner turned down an offer of $100,000 for the precious rock with hopes of finding a higher bidder overseas.
The sapphire “disappeared” on its journey and the owner’s dreams of riches were lost.
In 2000 a tourist found a sapphire weighing 200 carats and named it “The Millenium Sapphire”.
The owner placed the sapphire for tender at the annual Gemfest the following week, when it was snapped up for $85,000.
In 2014, a local man discovered a 753-carat sapphire and named it the Sapphire Princess.
- The 2016 Gemfest will be held from August 11 – 14. More at http://gemfest.com.au/