The history of gems and jewellery in Sri Lanka goes back thousands
of years, to the early settlers of the country. References date back
to the first century AD and it was mentioned that "Ratna Deepa"
also known as the land of gems has over 50 varieties of gemstones,
making it one of the largest gemstone repositories in the world.
World famous travellers, writers, statesmen and even royalty have
spoken about the wonderful treasures of Sri Lanka highlighting the
beauty and the value of the gems found in the island. The Buddhist
monk, Fa-Hien, the Venetian traveller Marco Polo, the Arabian explorer
Ibn-Batuta and the historical books Mahawansa and Arabian nights are
to name a few.
The colours of gems can vary from the ideal blue-white to pink, green,
yellow, etc. The colour plays a great role when customers select an
individual piece or a set of jewelleries or ornaments. The colour
is also taken in to consideration when pricing a stone.
This refers to the actual weight of the stone in points or carats.
The weight of a stone is measured according to carats, which is a
hundred points. There are many gems and jewelleries with various quantities
of carats in the market today.
When a stone is about to be cut, it is carefully studied to determine
the shape it will acquire. These cuts are given names such as brilliant,
baguette, emerald, marquis, oval and pear. If cut properly a gem reflects
the light back up through the centre of the stone to give its characteristic
sparkle. A poorly cut stone looks flat like a piece of glass.
Clarity refers to the extent, which a stone is flawed. Naturally,
the fewer flaws, the greater value of the stone.
Gems of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's most valuable stones, sapphires and rubies are from the
corundum range. The famous Sri Lankan blue sapphire possesses one
of the most brilliant natural colours on earth, cornflower blue. Rubies
from Sri Lanka are a light pinkish red in colour.
Sapphires can be unearthed in a variety of colours. Colourless corundums
are labelled as white sapphires. These magnificent stones also come
in different shades and colours such as yellow; blue, green and pink.
Sapphires and rubies that show a light effect like a star are rightfully
called star sapphires. These gems display a star-like pattern and
this effect, commonly known as asterism happens when light falls on
of the stone.
The milky corundum, a white opaque form of corundum also called geuda,
was considered to be worthless until recently. The merchants in Thailand
learned to heat-treat geudas to change the colour of the stone from
a cloudy grey-white to a bright, sparkling blue.
Another valuable and exceptional stone found in Sri Lanka is the alexandrite,
named after a Russian
tzar. This unusual stone appears green in daylight and red in artificial
Chrysoberyl cat's-eye, a golden or honey-coloured gemstone shows a
cat's eye effect known as chatoyancy. This particular stone shows
a bright streak of light, which appears to move on the surface when
the stone is moved.