In addition to being known as the Spice Island, Sri Lanka is also referred to as the Island of Gems. Indeed, some of the most famous and beautiful blue sapphires in the world came from the alluvial gem mines of Sri Lanka. Even today, these gemstones, and several others, still come from the country, with the star sapphire being the most beautiful.
No trip to the island is complete without a visit to the many retail shops selling gems and jewelry in Colombo and Galle. If you are a jewelry designer and gem cutter, then a visit straight to the source in Ratnapura is a must.
Jewelry production in Sri Lanka has evolved over the years, adapting to a younger generation. Classic gem-cutting and jewelry manufacturing follow international guidelines to create the best gems in the region. Moonstones, tourmaline, cat’s eye, and more are available for visitors to buy as single stones or in all sorts of wearable jewelry. A favorite gem miner, cutter and jewelry manufacturer is Tash Gems & Jewellery. They mine the rough stones, cut them, and expose a special kind of sapphire to heat, which causes it to turn a more vibrant blue.
Believe it or not, there are many types of sapphires. There’s the classic blue, of course, but there is also white, yellow, orange, purple, and green varieties. There are also star sapphires, which, when cut en cabochon (rounded like a dome), appear to have a star-like shape when light reflects off of it. Of all the sapphires found in Sri Lanka, the Padparadscha Sapphire is the rarest and most beautiful in the world, complete with a pink-orange coloring.
The cat’s eye gemstone is one that reflects a line of light down the center when cut en cabochon. It comes in many colors—gray, grayish green, yellow, red, blue, brown, black and white—and is quite unique. These gems look great on a ring or a pair of earrings.
This unique gemstone changes color in different lights. Typically called the “emerald by day and ruby by night,” this beauty can be found in a couple of other places apart from Sri Lanka.
Both sapphires and rubies are a kind of gemstone called corundum. It is debatable if a ruby is a different kind of gem or if it’s a pink or red sapphire. Since they are both the same type of stone, there can also be star rubies. Pink and light red sapphires are easier to find than the dark red variety.
Spinel gems are also red and in the past were often mistaken for rubies or sapphires. Sometimes used as a ruby replacement, these gemstones look great in elaborate jewelry and won’t cost as much as rubies.
The amethyst is a type of purple quartz found all around the world. There is plenty of amethyst in Sri Lanka as well.
The opaque white color of the moonstone gives it somewhat of a magic quality. It’s the only indigenous stone in Sri Lanka, and no visit to the country is complete without a little moonstone souvenir.
Other precious and semi-precious gems found in Sri Lanka are zircon, quartz, garnet, hessonite, tourmaline, chrysoberyl, aquamarine, and topaz.
Contact Tash Gems and Jewellery if you want jewelry made with any of these gems.