Fun Facts

Who owns The Crystal Caves?

René and Nelleke Boissevain

Who manages The Crystal Caves?

Ghis Gallo (nee Boissevain)

Why is The Crystal Caves in Atherton?

Quite simply because founder Renè loves the Atherton Tablelands. Having travelled all over the world, he and his wife think the Atherton Tablelands is the most beautiful place on earth to live!

Who built The Crystal Caves?

René Boissevain, who was introduced to fossicking for agates in dry riverbeds when he was a young man of 30. The agates, and the crystals within, became a passion.

Why a cave?

René has always been a caveman – well a cave boy initially. As a child, instead of building tree houses or forts he dug out old rabbit burrows, and reinforced them with branches to make a cave. The lay of the land of the shop turned out to be a natural space to showcase his collection.

What's in The Crystal Caves?

A world class collection of crystals and fossils from round the world. Which you can touch! And you can take photos! Visitors can walk – and sometimes crawl around the web of spaces and discover the gems and stones for themselves.

How long did it take René to build the caves?

The first cave was built in 1987 using just René’s imagination – no architects, designers or builders. Five years later he decided to expand and make a series of caves and tunnels and chambers. This time he had a team of six including an engineer, electrician and carpenters. It was finished in 1992.

When did René start collecting?

Funnily, when René started his interest in rocks he thought an agate looked a little like a potato. It was 1963 and his first fossick was at Agate Creek, near Forsayth in North Queensland. After finding a hollow agate and the crystals inside, it was all on.

How did René get the collection?

Some he dug out of the ground, some he swapped for Australian agate and others required remarkable persistence. In one deal, it took three years for René to convince a Hong Kong trader to sell him an ancient Lapis Lazuli carving so rare the antiquities powerhouse (auction house), Sotheby’s couldn’t identify it.

What’s the most travelled specimen in the collection?

A 49kg Queensland agate nodule was unearthed in 1963 and was amongst the collection René took back to Holland in 1969 to help start a museum there. On returning to Queensland and starting his business in Atherton he pined for the big rock and in 2007, his wife Nelleke and daughter Ghis, managed to convince the new owner of the Dutch museum to return it back to Australia. Wine was involved. So, 44 years after it left Australia was returned home. Funnily enough, Quarantine held it and checked it for foreign soil when it came into Cairns. The blue monster is also the largest agate René has uncovered.

What's the most impressive specimen in the collection?

One of the largest amethyst geodes in the world. Standing at a staggering 3.27 metres, the geode weighs 2.5 tonne. Each of the thousands of perfect crystals was formed inside the geode exactly as visitors can see them now, 130 million years ago.

Anything else of note?

Just 385-million-year-old marine fossils, the jawbone of an Ice Age woolly mammoth, dinosaur eggs from China and an agate that’s had the same water slopping round inside for 80 million years.

What did René do previously?

Tobacco grader, Palm tree grower, Coffee table creator, high pressure cleaner rep and scout for the Camel Trophy 4WD race.

What is the highest location René has gone to?

The Andes Mountains of Peru and one mine at 5000m altitude.

What is the hottest location René has gone to?

Cave of the Crystals in Mexico cave with Selenite crystals, some longer than a bus, in 60 degrees celsius.

How old is René now?

At 87, René lives on beautiful Lake Tinaroo with his wife Nelleke and enjoys being surrounded by nature.

Short and Sweet

Size of caves: 300 square metres

No of specimens: 600

How big now: 5 chambers with tunnels, grottos and crawlspaces

No of egg cartons used for soundproofing: 4500

No of houses sold to finance project: 1, René’s own dwelling

Value of collection: Millions of dollars

Biggest purchase: Massive amethyst geode in 2007 for US$120,000

Best seat in the house: A 525kg rose quartz boulder

Oldest item: 385-million-year-old marine fossils

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