Nothing says prestige and romance like diamonds and pearls, both produced in Western Australia’s Kimberley. Shop for South Sea pearls in Broome, the beach town with a pearling history stretching back to Aboriginal owners. Travel from Kununurra to the vast Argyle Diamond Mine, where most of the world’s rare pink diamonds are extracted. Along the way, experience the Kimberley’s landscapes, as precious and enduring as the gems themselves.
Sitting at the gateway to the Kimberley, Broome is Australia’s pearling capital. Aboriginal people were collecting and trading pearl shell here for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. The new settlers were quick to capitalise on the pearl riches, and by 1910 the booming industry drew Asian pearl drivers in their droves.
Today you can learn about the Japanese, Filipino and Malay pearl divers who settled in Broome in the pearl museum. The nearby Japanese Cemetery has 900 headstones dedicated to Asian pearl divers. To really imagine the high-sea drama of the early pearling days, cruise round Roebuck Bay on an old pearl lugger. See pearls being cultured at a local farm, or shop for a souvenir in pearl showrooms in Chinatown, where there are still multilingual signs and old billiard saloons.
With a precious South Sea pearl memento in hand, why not hunt for diamonds in the East Kimberley? You can 4WD the Gibb River Road from Broome to Kununurra, where the Argyle Diamond Mine produces most of the world’s rare pink diamonds. Pink diamonds are worth around 20 times more than their white equivalents, and the mine also extracts champagne, cognac-coloured diamonds and precious blue diamonds. Join an organised tour to see a collection of both rough and polished diamonds and learn how they are extracted, pre-cut and polished.
After your mine excursion, check out the region’s striking natural treasures. Take a scenic flight over the beehive-shaped Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park. Boat down mighty Ord river or man-made Lake Argyle, which is large enough to be classified as an inland sea. Trek Mitchell Plateau and see the majestic Mitchell Falls rush to the sandstone plateau below.
If you don’t make it to the Kimberley, you can still find its precious gems in speciality jewellery stores across Australia. Perth is one of the first delivery points for shipments of Broome pearls and Argyle diamonds. Darwin is a good place to source pearls from the Arafura Sea and gem-quality diamonds from the Merlin Diamond Mine, near the Gulf of Carpentaria. Pearl farms are scattered across northern Australia and you can even buy locally-farmed pearls around Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.
Go treasure-hunting in the Kimberley, where the gems include diamonds, pearls and unforgettable outback landscapes.