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state library of queensland


By Fiona Dixon | 3 September 2014

A great bonus for librarians helping people with their enquiries or research is that we come across some fascinating facts, intriguing tales about people and families, and amazing stories from around the world.

One of our librarians recently assisted a client with some research on the Black Star of Queensland, which is the world’s largest gem-quality star sapphire, originally weighing in at 1165 carats. The stone was reportedly found by 12-year-old Roy Spencer in the mid-1930s in the Queensland gem fields near Anakie. Roy showed the stone to his miner father, Harry, who assumed that it was merely a large black crystal. Not realising the value of the stone with its rough exterior, the family used it as a doorstop in their home for over a decade, until Harry took a closer look and discovered the gem hidden within.

The sapphire was eventually sold to the Kazanjian brothers, jewellers in Los Angeles, who painstakingly shaped it to a smooth convex oval of 733 carats. As the stone was revealed and shaped, a perfect asterism, or six pointed star, was revealed in its centre – a phenomenon formed by the reflection of light from matter that was trapped in the stone when it was created millions of years ago. When the stone is viewed under a light source, it produces an illusion of a floating star in the black stone. This quirk of nature made this already valuable stone the largest star sapphire in history, and one of the most exquisite jewels in the world. It has been displayed in Europe and the USA, worn by Cher, and has been the subject of ownership disputes. It is now privately owned by an unidentified person.

The remarkable sequel to the discovery of the Black Star of Queensland came just a few months after the stone was cut and exhibited, when a woman stubbed her toe on a stone a mere few hundred yards from where the Black Star had been found. Picking up the offending stone, which was said to be the size of a turkey’s egg, she discovered a deep blue sapphire weighing an enormous 1996.5 carats. This incredible gem was also bought by the Kazanjian brothers, who fashioned it into a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s head weighing 1318 carats.

It was fascinating looking back through articles and reports from around the world about these discoveries. This week we also recounted this story in a radio segment on 4BC. Each Monday at 10.20am we will be sharing some of the interesting stories that come to us, talking about how we have been able to help people unearth facts and uncover their own gems.



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