I run a mineral processing laboratory near Herberton which is the centre of a tin mining area.  The Palmer River gold fields are a couple of hundred kilometres to the north and I do a lot of cleaning of gold concentrates and smelting of gold bars.  An exciting part of the job is that prospectors bring in all sorts of minerals for identification or analysis and I see a lot of unusual stones. Besides topaz and agate there are not a lot of gemstones in our area so I have to travel to add to my gem collection.

I have had a passion for gemstones since being a teenager. I spent my early years in Namibia on mineral exploration teams where a large range of gems were found, my favourite being tourmalines from the Karabib area. Aquamarine from the skeleton coast and large garnets south of Swakopmund were good fossicking areas. Syd Pieters shop, House of Gems, in Windhoek was a favourite haunt and I started my facetted stone collection buying from him in the late 60’s. Pietersite was named after Syd who owned the Neu-Schwaben tourmaline mine near Karabib. I visited his mine several times and always came back with fine crystals of green and blue tourmaline.

My wife and I emigrated to Australia from South Africa in 1974. I worked at a tin mine at Ardlethan as a chemist before moving to North Queensland. I worked at several gold mines in Fiji and Papua New Guinea and tin mines near home in Herberton. Holidays were spent in the early days hand mining wolfram ore at Bamford Hill and Wolfram Camp which was very profitable and enabled me to slowly expand my gem collection.

My wife and I have visited Thailand and Burma many times seeking rare gemstones and we built up a lot of contacts with people who produced many gem varieties from mines in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Scott Davies of American Thai Trading in Bangkok was instrumental in upgrading my collection by locating and cutting many fine and rare gemstones for me. His website is worth a visit and his shop in Bangkok is a must see. In Sri Lanka Ahmed Shareek of Crescent Gems spent a week with us introducing gemstone sellers to us and we found many top class gems through him. Ahmed’s guided tour around the Sri Lankan gem fields is a must for gem lovers. Ahmed has also arranged to have several stones set in 18 carat gold rings for my wife at very reasonable prices. We visited Ahmed again in February 2017

Other people who helped me build up my collection were John Bradshaw of Coast to Coast Rare Gems, Brad Payne of The Gem Trader and Nini, a fine lady from Rangoon who sourced some excellent rare gems for me.

I am slowly getting all my gems photographed and will be adding new stones throughout 2016 and 2017

Some gems are just not photogenic and are very difficult to get the colour and brilliance right to be instantly attractive. A lot of the stones look better in person than in the photos so a note is made in the stone description when this is the case.

Though I still run my laboratory, I am now semi-retired and it is time to sell my collection.  I had many years of fun building it up, enjoyed the overseas gem hunting trips and had the pleasure of looking at my gems and appreciating their beauty. It is time for others who share my passion for gemstones to obtain gems, the bulk of which have never been traded before.

Tony King