Sri Lanka has been famous for its gems for more than 2000 years. The National Gem of Sri Lanka is Blue Sapphire, one of the most celebrated gem varieties in the world. Among the more valuable gems found in Sri Lanka are Alexandrite that changes colour, Ceylon Ruby – the purplish pink to rose red corundum, Yellow Sapphire, Orange Sapphire, White Sapphire – Sri Lanka’s equivalent of diamond, Star Sapphire and Star Ruby – the gems that show six-rayed stars, Cat’s Eye that looks back at you with a smile and the Pink Sapphire.
Other well-known gems found in Sri Lanka include Amethyst, Citrine, Spinel, Almandine Garnet, Rhodolite, Hessonite (Gomedha), Topaz, Tourmaline, Zircon, Moonstone and Aquamarine. Sri Lanka produces more than 50 gem varieties, the largest number for any one country in the world.
Among famous gems of Sri Lanka origin, are the 466-carat ‘Blue Giant of the Orient’ owned by a private collector in the USA, 423-carat Logan Blue Sapphire on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, 400-carat Blue Belle of Asia owned by a gem investor in England, the 563-carat “Star of India”, the second largest star sapphire in the world now on display at the American Museum of Natural History, 362-carat Star of Lanka owned by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka. The world biggest Blue Sapphire was recently found in a Sri Lankan mine, weighing an astonishing 1404 carats.
The largest fine quality Star Ruby in the world, called ‘Rosser Reeves Star Ruby’, is on display at the US National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. The largest Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye in the world, “Hope Cat’s Eye’, weighing 500 carats is on display at the British Museum of Natural History.
Other world famous cat’s eyes of Sri Lanka origin include the 105-carat stone owned by the British Royalty, 103-carat one owned by The Gem Authority of Sri Lanka and the ‘Maharani’ at Smithsonian. There are two fine Alexandrites of weights 43 and 27 carats at the British Museum and the 100-carat Padparadscha called the ‘Pierpont Morgan Padparadscha’ is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Beautiful gems of Sri Lanka are mentioned by the Roman historian Pliny, Chinese traveller Fa-Hien, Italian traveller Marco Polo, Moroccan traveller Ibn-Batuta and many other famous historians and travellers. In ancient times Sri Lanka was known as ‘Ratnadweepa’ in Sanskrit and ‘Pa-O-Cho’ in Chinese both meaning the Island of Gems. Gems presented by King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba and the Blue Sapphire in the engagement ring of Princess Diana (now with Princess Kate) are believed to be from Sri Lanka. The country of gems ‘Serendib’ mentioned by Sindbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights, is Sri Lanka. From time immemorial Sri Lanka has been associated with the most beautiful creations of nature, gemstones.