It’s time to shine the light on a hidden gem nestled away in the upper reaches of Caboolture. The Caboolture Gem Club is a sparkling treasure trove of knowledge, friendly faces, talented hands and winning success.
At the Queensland Lapidary and Allied Craft Clubs Association Inc. (QLACCA) end-of-year event in November, the Caboolture Gem Club came out on top, securing the prestigious title of Lapidary Club of the Year. But the accolades didn’t stop there. Two club members also nabbed special awards, with Donna Parker named Jeweller of the Year and Steve Somerville Facetor of the Year.
Club treasurer Leon Allen had the honour of accepting the Lapidary Club of the Year award on behalf of all the members.
“The last time we won this award was 10 years ago, so there’s been a bit of a hiatus in between trophies,” Leon says. “So for us to win it again, it’s a big deal for the club and we are really chuffed at the recognition. “However, the success of the Caboolture Gem Club isn't limited to the achievements of a few standout members. The club attributes its triumph to the collective efforts of all its members.
“It’s the combination of a lot of hard work and good work by a lot of people, as well as a lot of pride. The camaraderie from everyone has transformed the Caboolture Gem Club into a welcoming and joyful space, where individuals converge to pursue their shared passion for lapidary arts. The club's success story is a source of pride for the Caboolture community.”
For Donna, a big win like Jeweller of the Year has significant meaning as she was entered into the competition as a novice, having only been working with gems for the last five years. An interest in creating her own jewellery is a big part of why she decided to join the Caboolture Gem Club.
“I kind of grew up with rocks in my blood and I also pursued a career in geology,” Leon says.
“I’ve always loved jewellery, especially silver jewellery, but I couldn’t always afford to buy it,” Donna says. “So I thought, ‘Why not make my own?’ and now I’ve got so many of my own pieces that I can’t wear them all!”
Donna made a ring and a pendant using a natural stone that hadn’t been carved or faceted. While she doesn’t have a specific favourite stone to work with all the time, preferring “anything that’s pretty”, she does love boulder opal and enjoys the myriad of colours it produces.
Not only is Donna a silver teacher at the club and a competitor, but she also gets to see things from the other side as a judge.
“So judging is still fairly new to me and I’m learning a lot more with that,” Donna says. “It can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also great fun and you get to see so many pieces and gain ideas from them as well.”
Steve has been instructing now for 21 years and in that time he’s trained more than 400 people within the local area and some from even further afield. One of his latest pieces, a lab-grown garnet, which is set to go in an Australian competition, took him five days to finish and up to 15 hours per day. While it may seem like a lot of work for something so small, Steve takes great pride in each piece he creates.
“For me, it’s always about trying to do a better stone than one I’ve done before,” he says with a smile. “It’s all about bettering the last one. Yes, I do fail at times, but it’s also a learning curve that you take with you as you continue working on the next stone.”
Steve admits he’s seen a lot of change in his time at the club, both with the members themselves and the growth itself. But he relishes the opportunity to be part of such a large club, which has so much potential now and into the future.
“Here in Caboolture, we’re fortunate in that we have more equipment than a lot of the other gem clubs around,” he says. “We have 13 faceting machines and there’s 10 set up to be used and most clubs usually only have about three or maybe four at the most.”
Although Leon has only been with the club for about four years, his interest in rocks stems back to when he was a child, with family members working in the Broken Hill mines.
“I kind of grew up with rocks in my blood and I also pursued a career in geology,” Leon says. “I’m retired now, but being able to come into the club here, I still get the chance to play with rocks.
“I kind of like Broken Hill rocks and Broken Hill rocks in general don't lend themselves to lapidary that much. But being here, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake faceting and cabochon work.”
Leon admits that while it was a great honour for the club to win QLACCA Lapidary Club of the Year, it also came as a complete surprise.
“As soon as it was announced, I was taken back a little bit,” Leon says. “I got on the phone straight away and told our president and the secretary that we had won Club of the Year. It was definitely an exciting moment, one that we hope to achieve again.”
This year is already shaping up to be a big one for the Caboolture Gem Club with school groups coming through on excursions, Spirit Fest and their annual Gem Fest later on this year.
The current membership of the Caboolture Gem Club is more than 130 members and there’s always room for more! If you find yourself captivated by the allure of gemstones and jewellery or you find yourself fascinated by the intricate crafts of faceting, silversmithing or cabochon making, the Caboolture Gem Club could be just the place for you. You’ll discover them in the grounds of the Caboolture Historical Village, located at 280 Beerburrum Road.
The club is open Monday to Thursday until 2pm and welcomes both seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers alike. Become a part of this vibrant community and discover the wonders that lie within the artful world of lapidary.
To find out more visit their website https://caboolturegemclub.com.