Sri Lanka boasts a centuries old legendary history of gems.One of the earliest confirmations of Sri Lanka being a heaven of god given gems comes from Nearchus. Nearchus, who was an officer of the army of Alexandra the Great and a celebrated voyager, mentioned an island not far from Persiawhere attractive gemstoneshad been found. There is very little doubt to identify that as Sri Lanka. Thereafter, during the European colonial period (1505 – 1948) hundreds of carats of ruby, sapphire, moonstone, spinel, chrysoberyl and many other unfamiliar gems have been mined and taken to Europe. It has been secretly recognized that the Blue Sapphire presented by Prince William to Miss Middleton during their engagement has come from Sri Lanka too.
Geologically, it is evaluated that 25% of the total land of the island has gem quality minerals which makes Sri Lanka one of the gem richest parts of the world. However, the formation of gem deposits in Sri Lanka has mystified scientists as their original sources or hosts rocks remain unidentified today.
The main gem-bearing area in Sri Lanka is Ratnapura, 97 km southeast of Colombo. In addition, equally important gem deposits are found in Elahera in the central province, Okkampitiya in the province of Uva, and Meetiyagoda and Tissamaharama in the southern province. Although some of the areas are damper than the others, we, Travelfootprint timely arrange gem tours to all the gem mining destinations with healthy amount of guidance.
Further, the friendly nature of the people and mineworkers in those areas is to our benefit when setting up the tours.
Gem mining is one activity that you witness or even take part during the tour. Gem mining in Sri Lanka use primitive, yet traditional techniques, and therefore would offer visitors some truly Sri Lankan tastes. Further, gem mining has a culture, of its own right, which you can enjoy during your visits. Visitors can enjoy traditional meals, songs, stories, and rituals familiarized only by mineworkers.
Usually, mining starts by digging 5 to 15 m pits then strengthening them with wooden walls after a process of offerings to the spirit in charge of the earth. Then the gem-bearing gravel is excavated and placed in baskets which are hoisted out of the pit using a rope.The gravel is piled near the mine until they are washed to take most of the mud away.Washing is done by workers standing in muddy water and shaking and swiveling funnel shaped baskets which contain the gravel. Then the cleaned up gravel is examined for any gem quality materials.
Yes. However, machine cutting has been more popular than traditional hand cutting lately. Visitors get the chance to have a closer look at traditional gem cutting techniques as a part of the tour.
Sri Lanka’s renown for Blue for Blue Sapphire is not a secret. Its commercial importance as well as exotic fine color explain its prime position in the international market. Although blue sapphire is found in many places in Sri Lanka, the stones found in Ratnapura, where the largest blue sapphire corundum in the world was found recently, are of particular importance.
Sri Lanka is one the few destinations where sources of rare, and therefore, highly priced Yellow Sapphires of the color of the sunrise are found.
Star rubies and star sapphires of fine color are rare. Chrysoberly especially the varieties such as alexandrite and cat’s eye are rare.
Others are red rubies, garnets, spinel and many other quartz varieties. The island is one of the few sources of quality moonstones. The stones with a blue sheen found in Meetiyagoda is said to be the best variety of moonstones in the world.