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Fossicking for Mooralla Quartz Crystals

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by Andrew Burton (subscribe)
I am a Freelance Writer-Photographer and Novelist. I travel to find inspiration, wherever the distant horizons lead.
Published March 3rd 2016
Dig your own gems and marvel at nature
2 days worth digging 60cm deep.
A weekend's collection
Years ago, gem collectors joined gem clubs, and roamed the countryside in search of precious and semi precious stones. We are blessed to have a wide array of gems across Australia. Some are fairly easy to find, and like anything good, you have to work for it. These days there is more general interest in gems, and holistic shops carry a fabulous assortment from across the globe. There is not so much information or knowledge about where to find your own. After an article about Beechworth and the many varieties that can be found there, I think a quick word about a farm area to the South West of the Grampians is timely. I found an article from a 70's gem magazine that outlined the area, and have made several visits to find Mooralla smokey quartz. The area is a world renowned locality for black quartz appearing as exceptionally well formed crystals. These beauties are often formed with points or terminations at both ends. Technically it is morion, as smokey quartz looks more brown than black. The colour is judged when light is shone through a crystal.

Mooralla gem field, western Victoria.
Mooralla gem field, western Victoria
The most easily found, range in size from about 1 cm to 4 cm from end to end. I have not heard or seen of any longer than about 7 cm, and they are of a short, stubby, prismatic nature. The amazing facts are the perfection of the crystals and the clarity, although black in colour they are not always opaque and often have exceptional clarity in fine specimens. There is an assigned fossicking area and was marked out by rough tree-logs, but these have been used as fire wood over the years. The area is about 300 metres square and is set in a serene eucalypt woodland near the shores of Rocklands Reservoir. In spring there is a fine array of native orchids that flower and make the area a stunning place. Birdlife and animals will delight nature lovers too.

Wallaby and joey near Mooralla gem field Victoria.
Note the joey peeping from mum's pouch
When you arrive, find the newest looking 'dig' that has been 'back-filled' and if rains have washed the ground, all the crystals missed will be staring at you. You will know because you will find many on the ground if no-one has been past since the hole was filled. Try for maybe an hour in the morning and evening, the suns position makes different stones easier to spot-it does make a difference. Next, find a patch that has not been dug. Each year a gem clubs spend a month here and the club members dig 5 or 6 meter pits and fill them in with a tractor. It can be difficult these days finding fresh ground.

Annual creek Mooralla gem field, Victoria.
Andersons Creek after good rains
In addition you will occasionally find lilac coloured amethyst, rock crystal and citrine. Citrine is more rare here, and often iron filled fissures in a stone will make it look yellow or orange like citrine. There are thunder eggs with agate and chalcedony inside and these are usually found at depths and small low quality pieces litter the ground after a big dig. The larger morion quartz crystals found at depth are often enclosed in a geode-meaning a cavity that the crystal grew inside underground, from a long slow supply of silica bearing solutions.

Finding the turn-off is quite easy, but the last few kilometres are tricky. Find the Henty Highway from Cavendish in the southern Grampians or from Horsham in the northern Grampians. You will find Mooralla on google maps, and travel west on East-West Road for about 9 kilometres. Check out the road view here, to see the gravel road north. It is usually passable in 2 wheel drives, but you may feel better in a 4 wheel drive. After heavy rains the road can be boggy, but it is a dry area most of the year. You must take a right, left and right to find the camp area which has a fire place, and a pit-toilet. Be self sufficient for everything else-including food, water, cooking equipment and utensils and don't forget a fossicking license, and pick and shovel. The Department of Primary Industry do check sometimes. The co-ordinates for your GPS are; 37 degrees 20.813 minutes south and 142 degress, 03.105 minutes east, and that is decimal instead of seconds, courtesy of my GPS. Convert the decimal into seconds of arc if necessary.

A common native orchid in the Goldfields
Native orchids carpet the ground in spring
Horsham, Dunkeld and Cavendish have most services, and Horsham is the largest of the 3 towns. Discovery is always exciting, especially when finding shiny gems bore from the depths of the earth. Enjoy the peace, and serenity of the area too.

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Why? Find world renowned quartz crystals.
When: All year round.
Where: Mooralla district western Grampians.
Cost: Camping is free, a fossicking licence is $20.40.
Your Comment
That's a real surprise. I come from that area but had no idea you could fossick for gems there.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9506) 2088 days ago
im plaining on going to morella to find smokey quarts this month November.Is
thtat good time ...or very croweded at the camp site..
by belin (score: 0|2) 753 days ago
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