Gems of Sri Lanka

Gems of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a well-known country in the world for precious and semi-precious stones. 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. 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. One can buy jewellery in gold, silver or platinum studded with gems.

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.

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.

Over 40 of the 60 odd 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.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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