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What if the gold miners of the late 1800s knew that some of the rocks they were tossing aside were far more precious and rare than the gold many gave their lives to find and protect?

The Goodletite form of Ruby Rock®, named after Mr William Goodlet, who brought the stone to the attention of professors at Otago University, is New Zealand’s only precious stone and cannot be found anywhere in the world other than in Westland, New Zealand. 

After its discovery, which caused a mini ruby rush in Westland at the time, its fame quickly slipped back into the historical textbooks.

The story of the discovery of ruby/sapphire-bearing rocks from North Westland is recorded by Alexander McKay (1893);:

"Last year I accompanied Mr. Gordon in the course of an official visit to Rimu, Back Creek, and Ross. During this trip, while at Rimu on the 9th November, 1891, a student of the School of Mines at that place showed, as part of a collection of rocks and minerals collected from the claims in the neighbourhood, a sample of what in the school had been determined as corundum, or emery rock. This was massive, a dirty brownish-grey colour. Next day, in several of the claims at Back Creek, and in sluicing-claims in the face of the terrace overlooking the Hokitika Valley, the presence of much olivine and some pieces of true serpentine was noted. And, in a claim, in the terrace-face, one of the miners pointed out a boulder which had before attracted his notice as being composed of very peculiar materials, and of excessive hardness. I obtained two small specimens from the mass, which I brought to Wellington and submitted to Mr. Skey [William Skey, the Dominion Laboratory analyst] for determination. Mr. Skey pronounced the crystals included in the pale-green mass of stone to be ruby, or corundum. This was during the last week of December, 1891.

Subsequent to the dates mentioned, Mr. William Goodlet [after whom the ruby-rocks are informally named; see Watters 1995], whilst on a lecturing tour amongst the various Schools of Mines on the West Coast, visited Rimu, and obtained samples of the ruby-stone. These at the end of his trip [in March 1892 according to Binns 1892] he took with him to Dunedin. And sometime afterwards he submitted them to Professor Ulrich, of Otago University and School of Mines, Dunedin. Professor Ulrich pronounced the crystals to be true oriental ruby, of a fine colour, and pointed out the valuable nature of the discovery, provided crystals of larger sizes could be obtained, or, if of lesser size, abundant enough to collect as a superior quality of emery."

According to Ulrich, the sample of "Goodletite" was from a gold claim at Back Creek, Rimu, and was broken from a boulder weighing about 40 lbs (18kg), the boulder having been put aside by the claim owners as something uncommon, because of its weight and colour. The owners of the Back Creek claim were directly informed of the nature and value of their discovery and of the probability that rubies that may be of some value in jewellery could be obtained during the gold washing process. However, no ruby finds were subsequently reported. Ulrich optimistically concluded that "....it does not lie outside the bounds of probability that a hardy prospector may some day in these ranges [the Southern Alps] discover the place of derivation of the ruby boulder, where really valuable stones are likely to be hidden".

To date, no such discovery has been made.

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