Regarding gems, Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a leading country with a very long history. In the past, Sri Lanka was known as ‘Ratnadeepa’ because there were many rare, high value and high-quality gems in the soil of Sri Lanka. The gem industry in Sri Lanka is known as the oldest trade in the history of Sri Lanka.
The gem industry in Sri Lanka is a gem to the Country’s economy.
Gems are stones or selected amorphous materials used for making jewelry or other decorations with three main characteristics: beauty, rarity, and hardness. Why does Sri Lanka have so many gems? Geographically, Sri Lanka is an ancient island. 90% of the rock layers there belong to the Precambrian period (560 – 2400 million years ago). Gems are formed due to long-term changes in igneous rocks, calcium deposits, and mud deposits among these rocks. Gemstones are primarily located along rivers. Sri Lanka has the highest probability of finding gemstones in terms of land area.
History of the Sri Lankan gem industry
Historical evidence demonstrates that Sri Lanka’s gem business existed in the distant past and today. It is known worldwide as a significant export commodity. Also, collecting in royal treasuries and religious centers, wearing them as decorative ornaments, exchanging them between kings and elites, and using them for devotional and sacrificial purposes have been widely done.
According to research, the oldest trade in Sri Lankan history is the gem business. Even historical records show that Sri Lanka has exported jewels to other nations. Marco Polo’s notes indicate the highest grade of Kuruvinda family gems in Sri Lanka, Padian Ambates, and many different gems.
According to Ptolemy, who lived in the second century, in the past, ‘beryl’ and ‘corundum’ (sapphire) had a primary place in Sri Lanka’s gem industry. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Persian and Arab traders came to Ceylon to trade pearls.
Gem mining in Sri Lanka
Since the time of the early kings, gemstone mining has been a traditional profession in Sri Lanka. Pit-head mining and tunneling are the two most popular gemstone mining techniques in Sri Lanka. Dredging river beds and surface placer mining are two more popular techniques.
Gems are formed on the earth in association with large rocks. Gems are washed away due to rock erosion on mountains. The soil of the plains at the base of the mountains is home to gems that have been buried by rain-washed earth. The layer of material containing gems and other rock fragments is called ‘Illama’.
Mining techniques used in the gemstone industry are conventional, environmentally friendly, and ethical. Miners first dig a well-liked ‘mine’ in places where they think gems are. A ‘donna’ like the tunnel is dug parallel to the ground level from the base of the mine. They do this because the demand is parallel to the ground. Gems are separated by ‘dredging’ the mixture of materials taken from the donna from the mine.
Sri Lanka gemstones
What gems are mined in Sri Lanka? Abundant gemstones in Sri Lanka are,
- Chandrakanthi stones
Rare Gems of Sri Lanka
- Giniboku thora
- Yellow tharippu
The gem industry involves selecting precious stones by searching, polishing them brilliantly, cutting them to shine, and sorting them according to their quality and value. Gemstones classified in this way are called blue sapphires, peach sapphires, amethysts, yellow sapphires, rubies, tourmalines, cat’s eyes, etc.
The most valuable gems found in Sri Lanka are indigo and padmaraga gems. Padmaraga gem is also known as Padmaraja. Similarly, Padmaraja gem is known as Padparadscha sapphire in the international market. Padparadscha sapphire with less color is also known as a peach sapphire. This is common in countries like America and Canada.
What is the gem capital of Sri Lanka?
In which part of Sri Lanka is full of gems? Anyone who answers this question would say that it’s the Ratnapura district of Sabaragamuwa province. Ratnapura is the central city that supplies the world with precious gems. The source of the name Ratnapura is because that area was a gem town. Apart from Ratnapura district, it is no secret that gems are born in many other regions. Information about it was revealed after the 70s. Avissawella, Akuressa. Balangoda has also been recognized as the gem triangle.
The gem industry in Sri Lanka is an industry that has been carried on since ancient times until today. Gems played a significant role as a primary trade unit which was exported as the jewelry of royals and elites and in royal treasuries as tutu offerings and for the religious sector. From then until today, mother Sri Lanka has acquired an excellent reputation nationally and internationally. These priceless gems have been able to elevate Sri Lanka’s stature globally, both in the present and in the past.