Finding gems …

At some point in your life or maybe many points in your life you are going to have to just grit your teeth, suck it up, and stick to it in a difficult situation.

One of our children was recently expressing a little discontentment with a situation he/she found herself/himself in — enter Anne and her inspirational speech mode — but before I subject you to it, first allow me to give you a little context.

Last school holidays we did a road trip to Emerald to visit my husband’s parents. Now if you know Emerald at all, you’ll know it’s quite close (the kids didn’t really think so) to the gem fields, so a trip to the gem fields was expected – mostly by me. I was hoping for an amazing piece of jewellery without the bank balance to go with it! At least one of the teens had visions of finding an amazing gem 💎 another expressed skepticism in the whole endeavour – “they’ll just be giving us stuff they’ve looked through with nothing in it” … “what a scam to pay for a bucket of dirt that has nothing in it”. We as parents were hoping that at the least, all those hours invested in Minecraft were at last going to pay off … but I digress..

We visited the first gem field and wandered around the shop for a while. I quickly discovered that with our holiday budget, if I was going to find the Australian version of the heart of the ocean, I was going to have to purchase a claim and find the sapphire myself. Unfortunately time would not permit this, so we decided to buy a bucket of gravel/dirt/sand and start panning.IMG_5570.JPG

We headed out to the hot sun (as the only one who forgot to take a hat it’s important I mention the heat of the sun at this juncture because, should you decide to hit the fields you’ll want to take a hat) and were talked through the process.

For the more procedural amongst you I’ve laid it out below:


one bucket of gravel

two sieves

one wheelbarrow

one water trough

two sorting tables

two scrubbing brush

a few tiny little ziplock bags to house the treasures (I was a little concerned – the heart of the ocean wasn’t going to fit in this.)

We were then talked through the method:


1. Pour dirt/gravel from bucket into sieve. No .. not all of it. 

2. Shake sieve over wheelbarrow to remove excess sand etc 


3. Move to the trough.

4. Put sieve into trough and move sieve up and down – this will move heavier pieces to the bottom – and hopefully remove clay etcIMG_5585.JPG

5. Remove from trough – let water drain out.

6. Over to the sorting table.

7. Now the for the trickiest part of the exercise – the sieve needs to flipped and the contents emptied on to the table (not the ground)

8. At this point it’s time to start searching … the gems should be sparkling on the top of the heap.


Yep, that’s a sapphire!


9. The trick at this point is telling the difference between gems and sparkly rocks.

I’d like to say we nailed it … we didn’t …

We had two helpers for the first go – a guide probably in her 60s and a girl who was maybe 10 years old. They were spotting gems like experts … mainly because they were experts. But we didn’t have our “gem” eyes in yet.

We were not professionals, we found a few that’s for sure … but there was no heart of the ocean hidden in that bucket .. maybe were too far inland?

My lecture to the unfortunate child who had expressed discontentment was, sometimes you have to go searching for the gems – it’s going to take work … it’s going to take effort, you will need to go looking for them – they can be hidden in the mundane, in the dull, in the dusty, and in the grimy places. But in everything you should be able to find them – every bucket at that place has an assortment of zircons and sapphires some blue, some green, some yellow. You’ve just got to focus, and look for that glimmer, sometimes it’s oh so faint. In our every day, day to day, the glimmer can be found in a person, a conversation, a moment of peace in an otherwise busy day, a smile, a cheery hello, a moment that you would not have experienced had you been elsewhere.

At this point the hapless teen nodded with some enthusiasm and expressed agreement to the analogy I was labouring, and I think, probably hoped that it was one of my shorter lectures so he could get on with his day.

After we’d panned the contents of the bucket we went into have our haul inspected by the jeweller. 

We thought we’d done well – she was slightly less impressed – she thought we would/should have found more than we did, guess there were a few we threw away.

Then with her practised eye, her loupe (yep I looked that one up – though I’m not sure that’s what she is wearing in the photo below) a mirror and light source she got to the business of separating our haul into two groups.

    IMG_5594.JPG     IMG_5595.JPG     IMG_5635.jpg

One was the precious stones and the other a pile of what she called “pretty rocks”. At the end of the process our slightly crestfallen faces told the tale that’s been told time and time again, while searching for gems we’d been distracted by pretty rocks.

From that I took a few things away; one was how offended we were when she asked us if we wanted the pretty rocks … of course we didn’t … didn’t you just say they were worthless … honestly how silly do you think we are..!!!

Another was that one of the key things that helped her to distinguish a gem from a rock  — was how well it reflected light. When placed on a mirror did the light shine through it, or not?

Sometimes I think we throw the gems out with the rubbish because we don’t recognise them, we don’t spend enough time training our eyes to look for the Light.

From our experience on the gem fields we learned that the rocks and sand and clay are easy to find. And sometimes life is the same, all you have is clay and dirt, dust and gravel …. you search for the gems but the circumstances are such that maybe there aren’t even any pretty rocks to attract you, you’re holding it all up to the Light but there are no gems to be found. 

You could, on those days, try to keep hope, convinced that the precious things must be somewhere — but all the panning, rinsing, searching in the world isn’t drawing those gems to the top. Maybe on these days, and those days will come, maybe on those days … it’s you … the gem is you. Maybe you’re the one who’s been turned over and you’ve had all of the clay and sand and dirt washed off you, and you are the one the Light is shining through.



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