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Journey to Scotland: A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue


I left London in my campervan on the 1st of May, ready for an adventure that would combine my passion for gemstones, metal detecting, and a dive into the rich history of Scotland.


Lancaster: Meeting Rachel Hearn

On the way up, I met with the founder of the Rachel Hearn Jewellery School. Our discussion revolved around the possibility of me speaking to the jewellery students to share my story and tips as the Gemstone Detective. The meeting was inspiring, and I left with a sense of anticipation for future collaborations.

 

Scottish Gemmological Conference in Glasgow

I then headed straight to Glasgow. My primary task here was to photograph the Scottish Gemmological Association Conference. As is customary, the event kicked off with a drinks reception, followed by an engaging talk from Charles Carmona about his Jade Adventures in Guatemala and a delightful dinner.


It was a fantastic start to the weekend, full of stimulating conversations and networking with fellow gemmologists and enthusiasts. (in case you're not aware, you might like to check out my blog post: 2024 SGA conference)

 

The Yew Tree

After our SGA field trip, I drove to Perth to stay with Alistir Tate and his partner Libby. On our journey we stopped to see the Yew Tree in Aberfeldy, Fortingall. It's famous for being Europe's (and possibly the world’s) oldest living thing. Legend has it that before Christianity arrived, the yew tree was known as the ‘tree of eternity’. Remarkably, at around 500 years old—when most trees have long since died—the yew begins to grow again. This tree was revered for its 'otherworldly' power, attracting early Christians to Fortingall. In the 7th century, they decided to build their church next to the ancient yew.


Yew Tree A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue

Hunting for Agates in Perth

The following day, Alistir and I set out to hunt for agates, which are renowned for their stunning banded patterns and vibrant colours. We ventured to Inchture in Perth known for agate deposits. Without permission to dig, we relied on our keen eyes to spot these treasures. Just as we were about to call it a day, I found a promising agate right in the middle of a well-trodden track. Astonishingly, it had survived countless vehicles driving over it. Alistir expertly extracted it, and later, he gave it a professional lapidary polish, revealing its inner structures. Sadly, it's a little disappointing but it shows how rare it is to find a perfect agate.


Alistir Tate and Kim Rix Agate Hunting


Scottish Agate: A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue

Agate: A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue

Agate cut in half: A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue


Agate cut in four. A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue

Metal Detecting Adventures

Next on my itinerary was a visit to a new friend who shared my passion for metal detecting. My metal detecting took me to several fascinating locations, including Blair Castle near Culross Tullibole Castle in the Crook of Devon, Kinross, Blackness Castle and a field in Linlithgow. At Blair Castle, I had some very up-close and personal experiences with peacocks, adding a whimsical touch to my metal detecting pursuits.


Peacock: A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue


One of my most successful finds was a silver shilling coin, my first such discovery, which filled me with excitement. Silver shillings have a long and storied history in Scotland. The coinage system in Scotland dates back to the medieval period, with the silver shilling being introduced in the early 16th century under King James V. These coins were used for centuries and are now cherished finds for metal detecting enthusiasts, like myself. Happy days!


A silver shilling metal detecting find in Scotland


British Gold Panning Championships at Wanlockhead

The next chapter of my journey took me to Wanlockhead and Leadhills for the 2024 British Gold Panning Championships. I camped up the hill from the Leadmining Museum and was quickly befriended by Malcolm Thomas. Malcolm, the BGA president from 2011 to 2018, is also a multi-award-winning gold panning champion. I was thrilled to get some professional tips from him!


I entered the beginner's competition and came 8th out of 9. Even though I didn't win, it was an incredible learning experience!


Kim Rix : A Gemstone Detective’s Travelogue

Throughout the weekend, I made myself useful in any way I could—photographing competitions, assisting Rachel with taking memberships of the British Gold Panning Association and managing the raffle on Sunday, where I raised £176 for the BGA. To my surprise and delight, I was awarded the President’s Trophy for my hard work over the weekend. I can have it engraved with my name but I'll have to return the trophy next year.


Awarded the President's Trophy by British Gold Panning Association

Gold-Panning in Scotland: A Historical Overview

Gold-panning in Scotland has a rich history, dating back to the 16th century when gold was first discovered in the Leadhills area. Scottish gold, though rare, has been highly prized, and the practice of panning has attracted enthusiasts from around the world. The Leadhills and Wanlockhead areas are particularly famous for their deposits, and many historical documents recount the fortunes made (and lost) in these hills.

 

Wish me luck

With the gold panning championships behind me, I have decided to extend my adventure with some personal gold panning. This beautiful area is well-known among gold panners, and I am eager to try my luck at finding a gold nugget. The peaceful streams and stunning scenery are the perfect backdrop for my quest.


Kim Rix Scottish Gold Panning Adventure

Looking ahead

I'll be back in London in two weeks. If you’d like to follow the rest of my journey, including my gold hunting adventures, metal detecting in Cumbria and my gem-travel talks with the jewellery-making students in Lancaster and Birmingham, subscribe to my blog for updates.


Scotland’s rich history and natural beauty have offered me unforgettable experiences, and I’m excited to see what the rest of this trip will bring. Stay tuned for the next Gemstone Detective's Travelogue.


Kim Rix, GG GIA

Gemstone Detective

Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence

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