Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as a land of gems. King Solomon is said to have procured a ruby for Queen Sheba from ‘Serendib,’ as Sri Lanka was known in early history. Sri Lanka is also home to the ‘Blue Belle of Asia’, the 400 carat blue sapphire which adorns the British crown. And what to think of the star sapphire, named the ‘Star of India’, that is on display at the Museum of National History in New York.
Of the 85 known varieties of gems in the world, Sri Lanka is home to 40. They are mined using age old traditional methods: pitting and riverbed mining. The activity takes place mostly in areas such as Ratnapura, Ehaliyagoda, Pelmedulla and Kahawatte. Sri Lanka’s gem-bearing gravels are some of the richest in the world.
Pitting uses pitting shafts as deeps as 10 or 12 feet to reach the gravels. Firstly, miners remove the non-gem bearing material. Next they take the valuable deposits to the surface, where it is washed and examined for gemstones. T100%xaminer usually determines if a stone is valuable by the colour, variation of colour, transparency, form or shape.
Gems are also mined from riverbed material by using suction pumps for extraction of riverbed gravel. The gemstones erode from mineral rich rocks eventually get washed down the rivers.
Once washed and cut, the gems are cut using traditional simple hand-powered cutting machines. Traditional cutters have the ability to orient a stone for the best face-up colour or placement of a star or cat’s-eye, while retaining maximum weight from the rough stone. Then, the gems meet the market where they are sold worldwide to be awed and revered for their beauty and majesty.