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Courtesy of NZ Today Magazine.
Founded on gold mining in 1864 and the hub of the West Coast goldrush of the time, Hokitika is renowned as a town with treasures to be found up river. But gold and greenstone are not the only precious commodities in the area. Goodletite (also known as Ruby Rock) can only be found in one place in the world: Westland, New Zealand. Combining Ruby, Sapphire and Tourmaline crystals in an emerald green mother-rock, Fuchsite.
With a pink to purplish-red and blue core contrasting with its emerald green mantle, Ruby Rock is rarer than diamond. Dutch gem-cutter Gerry Commandeur has made his home in Hokitika because of it. “I came here to New Zealand as a gemcutter and I cut all other sorts of stones. A carver in Havelock gave me a piece of Goodletite. I studied it and knew I wanted to have more of it.”
He went to the West coast looking for the Goodletite, buying up as many of the rocks he could get his hands on. He began working with the stone and promoted it for the first time in 1995. “It was all over the newspapers in New Zealand. There was a lot of interest, but having said that, nobody in the jewellery believed me that it was ruby, sapphire, and tourmaline. I am the only gem-cutter in the South Island and nobody knows what I think and nobody knows what I am doing,” he laughs.
Gerry and his wife Corrie moved to Hokitika and began to market Goodletite under the name of Ruby Rock® in 1998. The West Coast of the South Island has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. With New Zealand’s famous glaciers, historic Shantytown and New Zealand Ruby Rock, the region is known for its relaxed pace and natural rugged beauty.
The Ruby Rock gallery is situated in the center of Hokitika town and visitors from all corners of the world stop by to see the stones and the jewellery that Gerry and his family make from it. The stone has finally been given due credit and has been featured by the scientific Journal of Petrology and The Journal of Gemology in Great Britain.
The Goodletite form of Ruby Rock was named after William Goodlet, who was the first to alert professors at Otago University that the stone existed. It’s the only precious stone we have in New Zealand, but a strange and unique one, and exclusively found here. The gemological association in Great Britain has said it’s the most unique gemstone material they have ever seen.
“It is the most unique stone. The enhancement I have done on the Goodletite as a gem-cutter is the best that I can do. And to take a stone from New Zealand to the international jewellery trade is an honour for me.” He loves New Zealand, he calls it God’s country and is envious of anyone born here. We can all agree with that. But he’s made the place his home and made his living out of turning the Ruby Rock into beautiful jewellery.
“People are always looking for something new. And this is. It’s a million times more unique than Opal. Nothing has ever been seen like this. “ If I had a million dollars and put the information in all the magazines around the world then the demand would not only be high, but I could not serve everybody because there is not enough stone.”
Story by Reuben Bonner thanks to NZ Today subscribe via e-mail .