August 2019


The Glittering Gems of Ceylon
August 2019




Blue Belle of the Orient weighing 400 carats, is the third largest faceted blue sapphire in the world, mined from Sri Lanka.

Centuries ago, Sri Lanka was known as ‘Rathnadeepa'- Island of Gems. An astonishing number of priceless and rare gems were discovered in her soil that have been worn by royalty and brought good fortune to the country.

Words: Roomini Wijayarathne.
Photography: Menaka Aravinda.

King Solomon of biblical fame is believed to have started the tradition of courting one's beloved with precious gems. Legend unfolds that he had courted Queen of Sheba with sapphires, gems said to be from a small island in the Indian Ocean; Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon.


Sri Lanka has produced remarkable gemstones that have been marked vividly in history. In fact, Sri Lanka is the proud origin of the three largest blue sapphires known to man; the Blue Giant of the Orient, Logan Sapphire, and the Blue Belle of the Orient, all of which are over 400 carats each.


It is of no wonder that Sri Lanka is affectionately called ‘The Sapphire Capital of the World,' with a spectrum of beautiful colours of the precious jewel discovered in the island. Most sought-after is the Sri Lankan Blue Sapphire, owing to its clear, deep blue, the enchanting hue of a peacock feather. And the Padma Raga or Padparadscha - King Sapphire - is a wonder in itself: it blends the velvety pink of the lotus flower with golden flecks of light refracting inside. An incredibly rare gem, Padparadscha has been known to resemble the sunset on a clear day.


Ruby, the red sapphire, is considered the king of coloured gems because of its bright red hue, fluorescence and lustre. Rubies of Sri Lanka are unique, with an incandescent brilliance and traces of violet in it. The other colours of the sapphire include, white - a transparent gem that shines with white light, an orange that reminds you of soft fire, yellow that matches the bright sun, and green - one of the rare sapphires. There is a star sapphire found in Sri Lanka as well, with bright rays in different directions.


Not merely sapphires, Sri Lanka is home to many other precious stones. Alexandrite is the most fascinating of gems. It glows green under the daylight and transforms into a beautiful red when placed under fluorescent light. It is also one of the rarest and most valuable gemstones found in the world, Sri Lanka being one of the very few producers. Cat's Eye is a unique gem; it resembles, as the name would suggest, a cat's eye. This effect is owing to the fine silky inclusions in the gem, giving it a high value.


There is a bounty of semi-precious stones mined from Sri Lankan soil as well. Moonstone, a milky white gem with a bright sheen is interestingly the first gemstone found in the history of Sri Lankan gems. And then there are deep purple amethysts, golden hued citrines, topazes, peridots, tourmalines, and aquamarines.


It is a miracle bestowed by the earth, that Sri Lanka is the country with the highest density of precious stones out of the gem-producing nations of the world. This ‘Rathnadeepa' holds in her midst the most unique, rarest and most beautiful treasures that a land can possess, and you, as you visit, can indulge in their incandescence.

Information: National Gem and Jewellery Authority.
Photography assistance and details: Zam Gems.

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    A glittering cluster of precious stones including the Sapphire family, Cat's eye, and Alexandrite.

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    Moonstone: A semi-precious stone, this is the first ever gem mined from Sri Lanka.

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    Star Sapphire: This precious gem gets its name from the starry lines on its body.

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    Blue Sapphire: Deep blue hued, this is the most sought-after gem from the country.

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    RUBY: The red sapphire is known to be the king of coloured gems.

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    Alexandrite: An extremely rare gem, it changes colour with the change of light.

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    White Sapphire: A transparent gem of the sapphire family, this gem shines with white light.

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    King Sapphire - Padparadscha - bears the hues of lotus petals and its pollen.

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    Logan Sapphire, mined from Sri Lanka, is the second largest Blue Sapphire in the world, at 423 carats.

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    Cat's Eye is known so because of the silky inlusions in the gem.

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