“Australian and New Zealand Gemstones: How and Where to Find Them” edited by Bill Myatt (1972)

This large hardcover book was published in 1972 by Paul Hamlyn – it measures only 24cm by 19 cm but its 511 pages makes for a thickness of 5 cm. It had a nice sized font which makes easy reading, is well-illustrated and well-written, and is a mine of detailed information written for the interested layperson (only some of which is dated).

Aust NZ Gemstones cover

I obtained my second-hand copy, in excellent condition, from K-books in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, through online retailer Abebooks, for just over NZ$50 (shipping included), with only 2 weeks between ordering and arrival.

The book is made up of four main sections: “General Information” pages 9-59, including fossicking methods, mining law and making jewelry (there is great advice on fossicking in the Australian outback, where safety considerations are significant); “Geology” pages 61-137 (with pages 123-130 being on New Zealand); “Gemstone Identification” pages 139-283 (very readable text on the major types, with only the rare black and white photo but with a 32 colour plate section showing many rock types in their natural form); “Gemstone Localities” pages 286-503 including 35 high quality colour map guides to main gem-bearing areas. New Zealand localities are discussed in pages 430-448 and 497-503, sections written by A. Niethe (“New Zealand Gemstones”), W.F. Heinz (“Gold”) and M. Jepsen (“Thermal Regions”). There are entries on the following areas: Coromandel Peninsula, East Coast, Northland, Canterbury, Dunedin, Greymouth, Invercargill, Nelson, and Oamaru. Detailed comments are made of where certain types of rocks have been found, as well as on very practical topics such as road conditions and accommodation in these areas. Of course, most of this information is now out-of-date, written over 40 years ago, but it provides great starting-points for the contemporary rockhound as well as much interesting historical material.

The publisher aimed to produce “a comprehensive book on Australian and New Zealand Gemstones, suitable for the ordinary reader”, with the Localities section presented as “the most detailed account ever attempted”. Lapidary, Gem and Mineral Clubs contributed significantly to the book, as did academic and technical experts on geology and minerals – the result was outstanding and much of its value has not been lost over the decades.