PHOTOS: Gem field owner to enter lucrative market
TWO YEARS ago Gladstone woman Tanya Small struggled to sit, walk and move because of debilitating hip dysplasia.
But after battling the condition all her life, she decided it was time for a double hip replacement.
Now able to move freely and feeling her fittest Mrs Small is keen to take her most-loved hobby of 10 years, as an artistic jeweller, to the next level.
Mrs Small who, with her husband, Richard, has two claims on an Emerald gem field where they dig and process sapphires, is ready to sell her hand-crafted jewellery pieces.
"Now I can sit all day and make my jewellery," she said.
"I feel a million dollars ... It got to the stage that I couldn't walk.
"I sit here shaking my head every day, shocked that my hips are so good now."
Mrs Small said her job at the gem site was to dig while her husband put the dirt through the machinery, keeping an eye out for anything that sparkled.
"I just love it," she said.
"It's great I'm able to do it now, too. Last time we went there I was digging for four hours a day for a month and if Richard didn't say we need to go home I could've just kept going."
But, for the creative Gladstone woman, making jewellery was not love at first sight.
"My husband came home from work one day and said we're going out to the gem fields," she said.
"I thought, why the hell would I want to do that.
"We took our two sons and the campervan and started fossicking and I was thinking, god I hate this.
"But then a woman showed us what we needed to look for and we found some sapphires and that was the end of me.
"We went over there four times that year."
The Gladstone resident of 45 years has entered two of her pieces into this year's Rio Tinto Martin Hanson Memorial Art Awards.
Her passion is creating rings, but she recently began creating bracelets too. Visit Mrs Small's work at her Strikingingold Facebook page.