Emmaville Gem Museum boasts history

FOSSICKER'S DREAM: Ron Jillett has dedicated years to creating a little snippet of Emmaville history at the Mining Museum. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

FOSSICKER'S DREAM: Ron Jillett has dedicated years to creating a little snippet of Emmaville history at the Mining Museum. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

In the small village of Emmaville, behind the walls of what used to be the old general store, lies a treasure trove of history.

Millions of dollars of sapphires, tin, crystals and gems – as well as old items that tell tales of Emmaville’s past.

The man behind the magic, Ron Jillett, has a story to tell about each and every rock, picture and trinket.

HISTORY PRESERVED: Emmaville Gem Museum's Ron Jillett describes the old items that used to be available in Foley's General Store. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

HISTORY PRESERVED: Emmaville Gem Museum's Ron Jillett describes the old items that used to be available in Foley's General Store. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

“The Severn Shire Council bought us this building in 1997,” he said.

Two years in the making, Mr Jillett said Council purchased the building to house the Curnow Mineral Collection – by the late Jack and Jean Curnow.

“It’s a collection of minerals and photos of the town and area – mainly of the mining district,” he said.

“They discovered tin here in 1872 and it went right through until 1984.

“Before that this was all pastoral area – settled in 1838 by a man named Hugh Gordon.”

The area was known as the Strathbogie Run and went all the way to Tent Hill.

“In 1984 tin was $11,500 a tonne and the plant here was producing a tonne every eight hours,” he said.

It drove the Emmaville economy. 

“But one Wednesday we were told Friday was the cut-off for the sale of tin, and just like that there was no more sale for tin in Australia,” he said.

Just like that there was no more sale for tin in Australia. - Ron Jillett

Today, Mr Jillett tells the history of the tin mining town through his collection of the element.

“You can get all different colours of tin,” he said.

“We can say in Emmaville that we have a little thing called screw tin which has tiny little threads on it.

“It is the only place in Australia that they know of where screw tin has been found.”

The so-called screws are segments of the stems of marine animals called crinoids which resemble that of a sea urhcin. 

“It was found 3km down the road near our golf course at a depth of one metre,” he said.

“So it means the sea had to be here at one stage.”

Such interesting discoveries were what ignited Mr Jillett’s passion for geology, fossicking and collecting gems and stones from far and wide.

“At the moment one of my collections is worth $86,000,” he said.

“I’ve probably got another $60,000 of just my collections but you could easily say there’s $1 million worth throughout the museum.

“Some of the big amethyst geodes I’ve got – when I purchased two of those they were $8 a kilo, they are now $78 a kilo.

“So something I bought for $2,000 is now worth $10,000.”

Perhaps the gem trade is better than the share market – but either way, Mr Jillett isn’t in it for the money.

The museum also boasts a replica interior of an old miners hut, the Foley’s General Store, the nationally renowned Curnow Mineral Collection and over 300 photographs of mines, miners and the Emmaville community dating back to the 19th century. For more information call 6734 7025.

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