Unknown treasures from the gem industry in Sri Lanka

A brief history of gem industry in Sri Lanka

It is not astonishing that Sri Lanka, rich in land resources, is also rich in gemstones. Surprisingly, Sri Lanka inherits the world's most expensive jewel collection. The history of the gem industry in Sri Lanka goes back a long way.

It is said that Persian and Arab traders came to Ceylon to trade gemstones in the fourth and fifth centuries. In 1292, Marco Polo, who was a great seafarer, Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer, wrote of Ceylon in his letter: "Pearls are found even in the rivers and streams of Sri Lanka."

Also, Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama has mentioned, "Ceylon has all the fine cinnamon of the Indies and the best sapphires." Sri Lanka has its nickname "the Island Of Gems" due to this identity.

This is a world-famous fact that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth also wears a gemstone in her engagement ring gifted by Mr Nimal Pathirana, who is an incredible gem businessman in Ratnapura district. He was a close friend of the British royal family due to the valuable gemstones of his hometown.

Most Encountering gemstones of Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka retains the highest density of gemstone deposits globally, producing over 75 varieties out of approximately 200 known gemstone varieties.

The gem industry in Sri Lanka is most famous for its precious gems. Sapphires(Blue and Yellow) are at the top of the list. Apart from those, Ceylon Blue, Tourmalines, Cat's Eye, Amethysts and Padparadcha Sapphires or peach Sapphires encourage gem mining in Sri Lanka. The name 'Padparadscha' comes from the Sanskrit or Sinhala word 'Padma Raga', meaning 'lotus flower'. Sri Lanka Sapphire dealers have exported those since centuries ago. These peach sapphire engagement rings are trendy in countries like the United States and Canada.

The visitors can look at the most stunning collection of gemstones at the Gem museum, Ratnapura, Sri Lanka. Also, there are hundreds of gem workplaces open for both local and foreign visitors interested in gem and jewellery. The people here are amiable, and they still have their great hospitality at the querries. So, a visitor or a buyer can visit them at any time to look and also to build up business relationships.

The areas famous for the gem industry in Sri Lanka

The treasure here is rich in areas near Ratnapura District, about 100 km southeast of Colombo, which is the metropolitan of the country. City Ratnapura is world-famous as "City of Gems", and also the name represents Gem city(Ratna-Gems, Pura-City).You can see Gem Gravels in the Ratnapura district. Still, that area is denser with gem mining gravels than other areas like alluvial Elahera Gem Fields in Matale District Bible Morawaka (south-central) and Metiyagoda (south-west coastal).Most Sri Lankan sapphire dealers visit Ratnapura and its environs, searching for the abundant valuable gemstones here. The main ones are the Gem-fairs in the centre of Ratnapura. In addition, millions of gems are exchanged at gem markets in Haraniyawaka, Rakwana and Nivithigala.

The gem mining process in Sri Lanka,Some Interesting facts
Sri Lanka has unique techniques without any support from engineers to dig the land for gem mining. It is exciting to look at those mines, how miners work, their techniques, and the equipment they use. Also, they have an inherited language and traditions and customs related to "Pathal"(mines) in use. Although they have come along numerous generations, things haven't completely changed. Let me introduce you to those interesting processes in the traditional gem industry in Sri Lanka.

Rituals:- Both gem businessmen (owner of the mine) and miners follow the rituals inherited with their industry. They believe gemstones are a gift from God. When it comes to the Ratnapura region, gem workers hardly believe god Sri Sumana Saman, the Lord of Adam's Peak. Adam's Peak is the apex of worldwide Buddhists. So, before they start a gem mine, they visit Sri Sumana Saman temple and worship after offering baskets of fruits or other things. They ask God to protect them until the whole process is over and gift them valuable gemstones.

Language:- They use an interesting language inherited from their ancestors. The timber used for supports they use in mines have different names like Digana(Long Supporter), Mukku(Supporter), and for the deep straight queries, the wooden frames made to stop soil are known as Thattu(floors). Also, according to their position in the mine, they have given names. For example, the man who guides the other workers and the mine head is "Pathal Basunneha." The equipment that helps transport goods from top to bottom and bottom to top is "Dabaraya", which is rotatable. Otherwise, the most important are as follows.

Illama:- The soil rich with gemstones.
Naambuwa:- The remaining sand particles with gems in the "Wattiya(the circular equipment they use to wash the soil)."
Geruma:- The soil which doesn't contain gemstones further
Miner's Life:- Although some gem businessmen here earn much money and spend a luxurious life, gem miners' lives don't show considerable progress. Maybe they are addicted to mining all the time, and sometimes they haven't enough knowledge to build their lives even got a huge amount at a time. However, a gem miner sacrifices his Life to the industry and work hard. All of them are very friendly and innocent, filled with humanity and hospitality. Most of them are addicted to evening traditional liquors(tenders from Kithul and coconut tree) and singing classic songs(Pathal Kavi) to relieve the tiredness.

Gem mining Process

The gem industry is primarily concerned with selecting precious stones, polishing them, and grading them according to their quality and value. Fetching for gemstones in Sri Lanka happens according to various methods. Basically, there are three types.
Goda Pathal(Inland mines) can be very deep and use many techniques. Miners make wooden frames and travel inside to the Earth. When they require a turn, they go for Dona techniques(tunnels) and dig even miles inside the Earth. Many visitors here impress by the tunnels. But, today, some wealthy mine owners engaged in the gem industry in Sri Lanka use excavator machines and dig mines like massive tanks.

Mada Pathal(Mud mines):- These mines are in paddy fields. So, the techniques are a little harsh due to the loose soil and high amount of water. But, the gemstones are rich here, according to industry experts.

Ganga Adima(River mines):- The water in the rivers carries gemstones along the waterways. So, people use different techniques and equipment to fetch gems there. Some of them have the talent of diving into the river bottom and carrying the soil rich with gemstones.
People interested in the gem mining process can visit their mines and have a great explanation visually and auditory. Even you can jump into their mines and tunnels when working with perfect safety measures. Everyone who visits their querries not only brings back the inspiration but also their gratefulness, friendship, and impressed of their chats and folk songs.