Although Sri Lanka is a small island, it has the greatest concentration of gems on earth and is ranked among the top five gem-bearing nations. “Rathnadeepa” literally means the “island of gems”, is one of the ancient names of the island of Sri Lanka. Buying gems in Sri Lanka is very popular among precious stones lovers around the world because Sri Lanka is a well-known country in the world for precious and semi-precious stones.
History of Sri Lankan Gem industry
The rich history of the Sri Lankan gem industry is confirmed by the records of the travellers such as Ptolemy and Marco Polo. According to their records, Sri Lanka has the best sapphires in the world. The sapphires of Sri Lanka can be found in many colours such as Green, yellow, pink, violet and blue. Sri Lankan blue sapphires are the finest of its kind found anywhere else in the world. Pale, bright blue colour which is known as “corn blue” is the identical colour of Sri Lankan blue sapphires. This colour is inherited only by the stones of Sri Lanka blue sapphires.
Variety of gemstones found on the island
Sri Lankan blue sapphires are only second to the diamond in hardness. Sri Lankan blue sapphires are well known around the world due to its superior clarity, colour and brilliant shine with compared to the blue sapphire found in the rest of the world. Sri Lanka boasts to have an array of other valuable gems including ruby, amethyst, cat’s eye, alexandrite, moonstones and topaz. All of these gemstones are highly demanded in the international market and help the island to earn foreign exchange.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka invariably means buying gem in Ratnapura
Buying gems in Sri Lankainvarioably means buying gem in Ratnapura because the majority of precious gemstones are coming from Ratnapura. Ratnapura is the home for most of the gem mines in Sri Lanka and most of the people in the region attached to the gem and jewellery industry. Rathnapura supposes to be the best place for buying Gems in Sri Lanka. Travellers can buy jewellery in gold, silver or platinum studded with gems.
This glistening name was derived simply because of the richness of gems in the soil of the island. Sri Lanka is a leading gem nearing nations in the world and blessed with valuable, rare gem varieties. Sri Lanka is one of the top five gem producing countries in the world alone with Myanmar, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand.
Gems are discovered in many parts of the country but “Sabaragamuwa” province is the most reputed region for this valuable stone. southern and western slopes of the central mountain range, which expands some 1500 sq km, is supposed to have the highest concentration of gems in the world. Leading gem mining city of Sri Lanka Ratnapura is also located within the borders of Sabaragamuwa province.
Ratnapura is the hub of gem industry on the island. Gem mining is the leading income generator for the city of Ratnapura. Due to the large concentration of gem mines, the city is visited by a large number of gem traders from all around the world. All of them are looking for a cut and uncut gemstones at a bargain price. The city has a rich historical background and it is the venue for many important religious places.
Variety of Gemstones found in Sri Lanka
Stones such as sapphires, Rubies, Cats eye, tourmaline, topaz, zircon, alexandrite, amethyst and garnet are often found in Sri Lankan soil. Rathnapura, Ambalangoda, Galle, Kandy some of the famous cities for buying gems in Sri Lanka While Rathnapura suppose to be the centre of gems and jewellery industry in the country.
Over 40 of the 60 odd gem varieties on the market are found here, many in the Ratnapura region. Below is a selection of some of the popular gems available on the island.
Gem testing in Sri Lanka
Gem testing is an essential part of the gem industry in every country and Buying gems in Sri Lanka is also essentially involved with gem testing. The testing laboratory of ‘NGJA’ which was established in 1972, was entrusted with the task of issuing Gem Testing Reports, thereby gaining confidence and integrity in international Gem Trade. Presently the laboratory is staffed by internationally trained Gemmologists who have obtained internationally recognized professional qualifications.
The laboratory provides services to the general public, tourists and the exporters and Free Gem Testing Service to Foreigners. These services are provided at laboratories functioning at the “NGJA” Colombo office, Ratnapura Gem Testing Laboratory and Gem Testing Laboratory in the Sri Lanka Gems and Jewellery Exchange located at the World Trade Centre Colombo 01.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka -Blue and Yellow Sapphire
The sapphire is considered to be a variation of ruby and the name derives from the Greek, sapphires, for “blue”. Blue is the most popular colour of sapphire, Sri Lanka blue sapphires are the finest in the world, ranging in shade from cornflower blue to deep royal blue. A large number of gem buyers are eying at Sri Lanka blue sapphire due to its unique colour.
The yellow sapphire, with its pollen-like colour, is also popular. Since early times the sapphire has been associated with celestial forces. In Sanskrit, it is revered as sauriratna, “sacred to Saturn”. Buddhist considers the sapphire a symbol of peace and faithfulness in love, making it a popular choice as an engagement ring gem.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka -Star Ruby, Star Sapphire
Some rubies and sapphires have tiny needle-like inclusions so that when cut in a high domed, en cabochon shape, they display a six-rayed star. The star moves across the face of the stone with changes in the light, an effect known as asterism. The star sapphire was prized in ancient times as it was considered a talisman and a guiding star for travellers.
About 80% of gemstones exported from Sri Lanka are from the family of sapphire, of which 60% are blue sapphires and 1.5% is rubies. The blue sapphire is the most important precious stones found on the island in the account of this the Blue sapphire was named as the national gemstone of Sri Lanka in 2003, and few stamps with Blue sapphires were also issued in the same year.
Sri Lanka is the largest blue sapphire produces in the world and Myanmar, Madagaskar, Tanzania coming behind. Ruby and sapphires are produced in more countries. It has become important to state the country of origin in individual gem identification report. Blue sapphire from Kashmir in India fetches the highest price with Sri Lankan blue sapphires.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka-Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye
The Chrysoberyl cat’s eye mimics to perfection the appearance of a cat caught in a pair of headlights at night. Cat’s eye available in 2 varieties mainly based on the colour, apple green or translucent honey brown
It is cut in high-domed, en cabochon fashion. In this way a silvery-white sheen glides across the dome whenever the gem is moved, widening and narrowing like the iris of a cat’s eye. This effect is caused by tiny inclusions reflecting the light and is known as chatoyancy. While this characteristic appears in other gems, it never has the clarity and impact of that of the Chrysoberyl cat’s eye.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka-Alexandrite
Alexandrite, the third hardest mineral on earth, is a fascinating freak of Mother Nature. Alexandrite was originally discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains and was named after Tsar Alexander. Other than Russia, Sri Lanka is the other country, where this stone occurs in the world.
Buying gems in Sri Lanka-Topaz
The name topaz comes from the Sanskrit word tapas, meaning “fire” a reference to the array of flame-like colours of the gem, including orange-yellow, amber-gold and cherry-red. Topaz also occurs in other colours, such as browns, pink, purple and blue. The most valuable variety is called imperial topaz – a beautiful reddish-gold colour. Topaz also occurs in browns, pinks, purple and blue. While topaz is a hard and durable gem, it can easily be cleaved.
Amethyst is one of the most common crystalline quartz used in jewellery manufacturing. Its stunning crystalline has symbolized celibacy and piety in both Western and Eastern cultures. The name amethyst derived from the Greek word meaning “not drunk” indeed, the ancient Greeks made wine glasses out of amethyst in the belief that it prevented drunkenness.
Garnets have long been associated with warriors simple because of its blood-red colour. Although garnets are associated with the colour red, they found in all colours except blue.
The name aquamarine comes from the Latin for “seawater” as the gem posses a blue or greenish-blue colour that is indeed reminiscent of the oceans. Aquamarine has long been considered a symbol of happiness and everlasting youth. It is believed that water in which aquamarine had been immersed was a cure for eye problems, breathing, difficulties and hiccups.
This remarkable gemstone found in the widest range of colours, from black to white and everything in between. Some tourmaline crystals contain luminescent bands of several colours – from red to green to blue – just like a crystallized rainbow. Tourmaline is not only beautiful, for it also has practical qualities because it becomes electrically polarized when heated.
The moonstone is a mysterious gem, as captivating as a full moon shining in the night sky. A mesmerizing interplay of light, known as schiller, causes a silvery-white sheen to glide like veils of mist across the milky surface of the moonstone. Some believe that this moving light is evidence of a living spirit that dwells within the gem. Moonstones, which are found in Sri Lanka only on a small block of land in the southern village of Meetiyagoda, are often made into attractive bracelets and necklaces.
Sri Lanka is the fastest developing gem cutting and finishing country in the world, finishing very small stones, some of them are at the size of 1/3 of millimetres, with zero or very low tolerance based on technical drawings given by the customers. Sri Lankan gem cutters are supplying the gemstones to world-leading jewellery and watch manufacturers such as Rolex, Mont Blanc, Bvlgari, Cartier, Tiffany & Co etc.
Sri Lankan Jewellery Industry
At present approximately 15000 people are directly employed in the gem cutting industry. About 10000 of them are registered individual craftsmen while the rest is employed factories and workshops, where they manufacture jewellery, mainly for the export market.
According to the statistics, about 1500 unregistered jewellery craftsmen are working under registered craftsmen. Majority of jewellery workshops and craftsmen are concentrated in the rural areas of the southern and central province of Sri Lanka and some other suppliers are scattered in the north-western, eastern and north province.
The gems and jewellery industry of Sri Lanka can be divided into three sectors such as manufacturing for the export market, local market and tourism. The main markets for Sri Lankan produced gem and jewellery are Japan, Germany, USA, UK Singapore and Hing Kong.
According to the statistics, buying gems in Sri Lanka shows a new trend, in which the silvery jewellery studded with semi-precious stones such as moonstones has been able to gain the popularity and the demand for semi-precious gemstones are on the rise over the past few years.
Jewellery design and gem cutting have undergone rapid development during the past few decades, mainly due to the use of computer software in the manufacturing process of the gem and jewellery industry. The use of computer software to create modern designs and casting jewellery for bulk production has come to play a major role in the jewellery industry.
Popular gemstones found in Sri Lanka
Star of India – this star sapphire is 563 Carats and presently exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in New York, America.
The Blue Giant of the Orient – is one of the largest blue sapphires in the world. Today it belongs to one of the gem and art collector in America.
Blue Belle of Asia – This valuable gemstone is 400 Carat and found in the city of Ratnapura.
Logan Blue Sapphire – this 400 Carat gemstone is the second-largest blue sapphire in the world. It was gifted to Smithsonian Institution by Mrs John Logan.
Star of Lanka – Today this 193 Carat blue star sapphire is deposited in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. This gemstone considered to be the 3rd largest of its kind in the world.
Rosser Reeves Ruby – another valuable star ruby discovered in the island of Sri Lanka. Today it is posses by the Smithsonian museum.
Hope Cat’s Eye – this Chrysoberyl cat’s eye considered to be the largest of its kind in the world. it is exhibited at the British Museum of National History.
Blue Belle – one of the most popular blue sapphires in the country. today it decorates the crown of the British queen.