Recently Paspaley opened it’s Pearl Room doors to the Alquemie team and we had the privilege of a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating some of the most stunning jewellery on the planet.
As pearling pioneers, Paspaley has dedicated over 80 years to the perfect pearl. Today, this family owned business is the source of the rarest and most valuable pearls in the world. They are sourced in the Kimberley, one of the most pristine and remote locations on the planet.
Paspaley nurtures their pearls on a remote network of farms stretching more than 2500km across the north-west coast of Australia. With a sophisticated fleet of purpose built ships, they are one of the few companies to still dive for wild pearl oysters.
After they are lovingly harvested the pearls go through a serious selection process. Only a few make the grade to become part of an exquisite piece of Paspaley jewellery.
Guests of Alquemie are invited to discover the magic and beauty of Paspaley’s Australian South Sea pearls through a selection of behind the scenes experiences in Sydney, Darwin and Broome that are off-limits to the public.
The Pearl Room (Sydney)
Guests will travel in a heritage elevator to the basement level where within the refurbished bank vaults of the Paspaley building is The Pearl Room. In this room, which is not open to the general public, the Paspaley company’s sorting and grading operations are housed. The Pearl Room is also home to some of the most important pearls ever found including The Unique Collection – a selection of particularly special Australian South Sea pearls chosen for their exceptional shape, colour and lustre and The Kuri Bay Collection – a collection of Australian South Sea pearls from the first harvests at Australia’s oldest pearl farm, Kuri Bay.
Pearl Grading (Broome)
In the Broome boutique guests will gain an understanding of The Five Virtues – the traditional method by which all fine pearls are graded. In a hands-on session, guests learn the steps involved in this highly skilled practice, and begin their journey to becoming true pearl connoisseurs.
Paspaley Pearl Farm Tour (chartered from Darwin)
In our opinion the best way to experience Paspaley is to do a private trip out to their pearl farms on the Kimberley coast, travelling in one of their Grumman Mallard flying boats and accompanied by one of their pearling experts. Discover the pearl farming process and the techniques used to produce the world’s rarest and most valuable pearls.
Alquemie’s Australian Specialist Anthony Radic journeyed to the Kimberley, Western Australia in April 2018 for an eight night educational. Part of this was a 4 day, 3 night ‘Bungle Bungles Insight’ journey by 4×4 starting in Broome and ending in Kununurra with the key highlight being the UNESCO World Heritage listed bee-hive striped domes of the Bungle Bungles, only ‘discovered’ in the mid 1980s although Aboriginal occupancy in the region dates back tens of thousands of years.
Highlights included: Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Mimbi Caves, Halls Creek, Echidna Chasm, Escarpment Walk, Stonehenge, The Bungle Bungle Domes, Elephant Rock, Prison Boad Tree, Picanniny Creek & Lookout, Cathedral Gorge.
Anthony’s feedback on the journey:
Excellent guiding. Aboriginal knowledge and history was superb.
My guide Ed knew the locals really well which is perfect when guiding in these areas.
The trip is fully flexible and can also include the Pilbara region
Below is his itinerary and photos.
Day 1 Derby, Gibb River Road, Fitzroy River Lodge
From Broome Anthony travelled through the remote and beautiful landscape of the Western Kimberley, learnt about local history, people and the environment before crossing the Fitzroy River and visiting the a famous 1,500 year old Boab
Next stop was the township of Derby located on the tidal mud flats on the edge of the King Sound, known for having the highest tidal range of any port in Australia. Here they also took the opportunity to drive on the remote cattle track, the Gibb River Road.
A short stop at the wonderful Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Cultural Centre set the scene for the rest of the journey, educating Anthony about the Wandjina & Gwion Gwion spirits, so important in the region. Afterwards they passed the Oscar Ranges before arriving at comfortable accommodation on the banks of the Fitzroy River.
Day 2 Halls Creek, Spring Creek Track, Mimbi Caves
The next day they ventured into Purnululu National Park by way of the Mimbi Caves, which Anthony loved. A Welcome to Country ceremony by the local people whose land they were on started the proceedings. Inside the caves he sat in the dark and listened to stories of how traditional landowners lived in caves as late as the city of Darwin getting bombed. The afternoon was an adventurous 4WD journey along the Spring Creek Track.
Day 3 Echidna Chasm, Scenic Flight
Anthony loved his day at the northern extremity of Purnululu National Park exploring Echidna Chasm, known for its towering Livistonia Palm trees. His walk up the creek bed was rewarded with a bird’s eye views of the shaded escarpment. Another walk through the bloodwoods went around the base of the massif.
Day 4 Picanniny Creek, Cathedral Gorge, (Optional Helicopter)
Anthony’s last morning was spent exploring the extraordinary World Heritage protected Purnululu National Park and the famous Bungle Bungle domes. Rivers created this landscape of unique orange and black striped ‘beehive’ geological formations over a period of 20 million years. Unbelievably, only the locals knew it existed until the early 1980’s.
A gentle walk along the dry Picanniny Creek took Anthony to a look out and then into stunning Cathedral Gorge, where towering rocks create a natural amphitheatre.
After a picnic lunch he travelled to the Bungles airstrip for a scenic flight over the Argyle Diamond Mine landing in the vibrant East Kimberley town of Kununurra for the end of his trip.
Anthony’s trip was with Instyle Adventures and he stayed at Fitzroy River Lodge (1 night) and Bungle Bungle’s Savannah Lodge (2 nights). Please contact Anthony for more detailed information about his journey.
Discover the journey of the Miriuwung people and the story of the Argyle Diamond mine from Dreamtime to Diamonds as interpreted by your host, North-East Kimberley man Ted Hall.
This exceptional one day experience by light aircraft, 4×4 and boat takes travellers on an enchanting journey across vast landscapes to the enormous Argyle Diamond mine and extraordinary man-made lake Argyle. Highlights include landing at the Mandangala community, where you are welcomed with a traditional “Muntha”, a ceremony to ensure safe passage through his land, and a close up inspection of the Argyle Diamond mine processing plant, and the ingenious technology used to extract these precious gems.
Ted tells of the geological formation and eventual discovery of diamonds on his country, of the sorrow at the desecration of an important sacred site, but also happily of the opportunities and partnerships that have benefited his people.
It’s a fascinating insight into the culture of the Miriuwung people and modern day issues of tradition versus prosperity, all to the back drop of Australia’s rich red escarpments and wide, brown land.
Add some romance – A bespoke rare pink diamond jewellery creation
The Argyle diamond mine in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia is one of the world’s largest supplier of diamonds. Since 1983 it has produced more than 800 million carats of rough diamonds.
Revered for its rare and exquisite pink diamonds, just 50 to 60 of these rare natural treasures are brought to life as polished masterpieces and offered for sale each year.
For a special romantic occasion, your team at Alquemie can build into your itinerary the creation of a bespoke pink diamond piece of jewellery. To enquire about this please contact Alquemie.
Kimberley Coastal Camp in the far north of Australia is one of our favourite places in the Kimberley region. With no ensuites, only cold showers, and sandy floors it may be seen as an odd choice but these details are minor compared to the incredible experience you will have. This unique destination is so remote that there is no road access, and with a maximum of just 16 guests, you will truly feel like you are one of the luckiest people on earth.
The small lodge is nestled unobtrusively on the pristine shores of the Admiralty Gulf, opposite the Mitchell Plateau and famous Mitchell Falls in one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the Kimberley. The camp has been built in a rustic style with timber beams and corrugated roofing with an eclectic combination of books, fishing tackle and beachcomber treasures for decoration. There are no pre-set itineraries here. You set the pace and can be as active or laid back as you like.
The area is a fisherman’s paradise and if you can catch it, they can cook it! Guided bush walks take you to Aboriginal rock art galleries that include the unique Bradshaw paintings and the younger but equally beautiful Wandjina art. Other activities during your stay will include boat trips to fish, visits to remote islands and beaches or even a helicopter flight over the Mitchell Falls.
This is one of the least explored and most spectacular coastlines in Australia – the craggy cliffs coming down to the water’s edge, with sandstone and shell covered beaches make this area nearly inaccessible. All the ingredients for a perfect wilderness holiday are here – a pristine environment, deserted beaches, wildlife and birds, marine adventure, delicious fresh food, a cooling pool and magnificent scenery.
The ‘Shed’ is the open sided living area with high raked ceilings and is the place to socialise or chill out with a good book. An open plan kitchen and ‘help yourself to the fridge’ attitude ensures a relaxed, friendly camp atmosphere. The nucleus of the lodge with its high raked ceilings is open to the gentle sea breezes and features rustic handmade furniture from recycled timbers, designer soft furnishings, a unique outback bar, and is the setting for wonderful gourmet meals Kimberley Coastal Camp has become famous for.
Accommodation is provided in hand built spacious guest gazebos scattered amongst native grasses and red sandstone. Just sixteen guests can be accommodated in the comfortable but simple wooden chaletsEach gazebo takes full advantage of the tranquil views over the Admiralty Gulf and is elegantly furnished with 5 star king size or twin single beds fitted with luxurious Sheridan linen, screened walls, handmade timber furniture, reading lamps and a ceiling fan. Crushed coral and sand make up the floor with small bedside mats and there is a bedside lamp, mirror, bedside table and a fan. The shared bathroom facilities that open to the sky are utterly in tune with this wild and remote environment and are not in any way an imposition.
Incredible Indigenous rock art
The ultimate in experiential travel, Kimberley Coastal Camp is ideally located at the centre of one of the world’s finest repositories of indigenous rock art. With many rock art panels and caves within close walking distance, guests are invited to experience intimate encounters with this ancient culture via fully guided bush walks or scenic boat rides. The rare Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) is dated no less than 17 500 years old (some suggest older) and is currently testing the world’s best scientific minds. The more recent Wandjina rock art with radiating headdresses and mouthless faces decorate thousands of caves throughout this country known to traditional owners as Yalrundair.
Superb fishing conditions entice the most avid anglers and adventurers. The Admiralty Gulf is considered one of Australia’s greatest fishing destinations. Guests can choose to take their catch ashore on an island fringed by Boab trees where our guide will prepare it ‘bush style’ on the open coals.
Even by Kimberley standards, Kimberley Coastal Camp is isolated. With access limited to helicopter and float plane, and numbers kept to a minimum, fishing here is for the privileged few.
Fish these abundant waters for Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Fingermark, Mulloway (Northern Black Jew Fish), Threadfin Salmon, Giant Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Tuna, Queen Fish, Coral Trout, Blue Bone and numerous other tropical species. In one day it is possible to catch everything from Barramundi to Blue Bone to Blue Fin Tuna.
Huge tidal rivers together with mangrove lined creeks, estuaries, flats, offshore reefs and islands as well as blue water, ensure an exciting variety of fishing options. Kimberley Coastal Camp is one of very few fishing destinations in Australia able to offer such diverse options to the keen angler.
Wild dingoes, sea eagles, olive pythons, endangered quolls, and many other native animals share this country known to traditional owners as ‘Yalrundair‘, a rich expanse of land made up of towering escarpments and sandstone rock formations. This is true wilderness, unspoiled by the introduction of feral animals, roads and pollution.
Guided walks cater to those wishing to venture on a short stroll or a challenging all day hike. Explore by boat scenic river systems and abundant bird life. Or relax on the daybed and admire wild dingoes, sea eagles and Brahminy kites as they descend at sunset to enjoy their share of the day’s catch.
Kimberley Coastal Camp has been catering to the discerning traveller since 1994 with personalised itineraries, a staff to guest ratio of no less than 1 staff member per 3 guests, and gourmet food utilising fresh local produce and native Australian bush tuckers. This is hosted accommodation at its best.
The Kimberley is a vast region that is for the most part totally uninhabited. Occupying the north west of Australia it is really only accessible during our winter months from April through to October. The big draw cards are the spectacular coastline, rugged outback wilderness, and the extraordinary assemblage of wildlife. The challenge is always finding a way to explore and experience all three. This is a remarkable part of Australia, and an incredibly unique destination. Below is a crash course on some key regional highlights.
This is purely a gateway port to start a journey in the Kimberley. The town itself can be covered in an afternoon or one night so not really much need to stay longer than one night – but could do two if you wanted.
Kimberley Coast – Expedition Cruising
Daily activities can include scenic walks, helicopter flights, fishing, snorkelling, cultural visits, picnics, flora, bird and wildlife watching, diving, exploring and much more… Multiple expedition vessels or ‘tenders’ take guests in small groups to experience the wilderness ‘up close’ and, the luxury of having numerous tenders means that everyone onboard has greater opportunity to do “what they want, when they want”.
Most cruise options feature an onboard helicopter opening up a whole range of options from scenic flights and heli-picnics to overnight camping adventures. Discover virtually unseen and untouched parts of The Kimberley.
Kimberley Coast – Air Safari
Out of Broome a great way of seeing the Buccaneer Archipelago (one of the most spectacular sections of the Kimberley Coast) is by helicopter or light aircraft. You can fly over this stretch of coast for around three hours and if using a heli could include a stop for lunch at the horizontal waterfalls. The main points of interest include a stop at Cygnet Bay, a working pearl farm, and at the Horizontal waterfalls. True North also covers the same stretch of coast, however doing it by air is a different experience all together, not to mention the time difference. You would then fly down into Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary.
Kimberley Coast – Kimberley Coastal Camp
‘Crushed coral rustic luxury’ is the best way to describe this property. Located along an impressive stretch of the Kimberly Coast this rustic camp is a great experience with good aboriginal art (including Bradshaw and Wandjina Art), great fishing and beautiful coastal scenery. Hugely popular with all our past travellers due to the uniqueness and personalisation of experience. This really isn’t offered anywhere else in the region – hands on experiences out exploring with your guides. Accommodation is open air ‘shacks’ with bare sand/coral floors and open air ‘windows’ – all looking out onto the water. Small, intimate, and very unique.
Kimberley Outback – El Questro Homestead
This is a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, and is by far the most comfortable outback experience in this part of the country. The station has various accommodation options, however the homestead is the only luxurious option. It is a few hours’ drive, or a short heli flight from Kununurra. There are a range of on-site activities included in a stay here, as is all your food and beverages.
A very authentic side to this region. Mornington Downs has good African style safari tents, but there is more specific focus on the wildlife conservation work here. This is run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy who are doing some impressive work in this region, and will show you a very interesting (and to many unknown) side to the conservation battle in Australia. Mornington is the one place in Northern Australia that has managed to reverse the declining mammal populations and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy is the leading private conservation group in the country. This is an opportunity to experience some of the Kimberley’s wildlife, and is usually a very rewarding visit.