Sapphire, a rural town of 550 people, is 280 km west of Rockhampton and 40 km west of Emerald. It has been the main town in the Anakie Gemfields, an arc of mining country west of Emerald which includes Willows and Rubyvale. In 2001 Rubyvale's population equalled Sapphire's.
In the early 1870s sapphires were found at Retreat Creek, a watercourse between Sapphire and Emerald that flows into the Nogoa River. Mining at Retreat Creek began in about 1890 and a population centre developed. A provisional school, named Sapphire, was opened in 1904, and henceforth the locality was known by that name. There was already a hotel there, the Kitchener Hotel, having been removed from Comet in 1903. Basic amenities were established, a first aid station, a hall, a cemetery and a racecourse.
During the 1920s the population fell by nearly three-quarters, and recovery did not occur until the 1960s and 1970s. Casual fossickers, tourist fossickers and, in some cases, squatter fossickers, brought about a resurgence of mining. As well as Sapphire, similar developments occurred throughout the arc of gemfield country extending from Middle Ridge and through Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie and Glenalva to Willows. A local historian described Sapphire in 1979 as 'today more a tourist centre than a serious mining proposition', but census populations for Rubyvale, Sapphire and Willows exceeded 1200. (Willows had no person under 14 years and the median age was 61 in 2001.)
Anakie emerged as the gemfields' civic centre, with the primary school, multi-purpose centre (1994) and a basic medical service. Population growth, however, required the connection of electricity to Sapphire (1977) and reticulated water (1998), despite some residents being contentedly self-sufficient. Sapphire has the gemfields information centre, accommodation for tourists and fossickers and a jewellery manufacturer.
Marie Reid, A history of Emerald: a place of importance, Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press, 2001
John Rolfe, Emerald and the gemfields centenary 1879-1979, Emerald, Emerald Centenary Committee, 1978