Posted on May 16th, 2022


Sri Lanka is best known for the following gemstones: Agate, Amethyst, Aquamarine, Citrine, Cymophane, ‘Cats eye’, Garnet, Moonstone, Rose Quartz, Ruby, Sapphire, Spinel, Topaz, Tourmaline and Zircon.  

Agate is a semi-precious gem occurring in a wide range of colors including brown, white, red, grey, pink, black, and yellow. Sri Lanka is known for blue-tinted agate. Amethyst is the purple variety of the mineral quartz. Colored by Iron, Amethyst occur in transparent pastel roses to deep purples.  The finest amethyst color is strong reddish-purple to purple. The best varieties of amethyst can be found in Sri Lanka.

Flawless Aquamarines have been found in Ratnapura, Rakwana, Morawaka, Hatton, Nawalapitiya, Galle, Matara, Tissamaharama and Lunugamwehera.  Sri Lanka exports irregular amethysts heat-treated into Citrine.

The most popular Cat’s Eye gem in Sri Lanka  is the one belonging to the Chrysoberyl family. Chrysoberyls are cut into cabochons to best display their spectacular eyes and are much sought after in the local and global market. Cabochon is  a stone  cut with a domed top and flat bottom.  The reflected light is focused into a bright band that forms the “cat’s eye” of  the gemstone.

The Chrysoberyl species in Sri Lanka includes two types, Cymophane and Alexandrite..Alexandrite is a rare Chrysoberyl, but is abundantly found in Sri Lanka. It displays three different colors when viewed from different directions, green, orange, and purple-red. Their ability to shift colors from red to green when viewed under different light sources makes Alexandrite a highly sought after gemstone in the global market. The color of Cymophane goes from semi-transparent golden-yellow to slightly greenish-yellow or brownish-yellow color.

 Sri Lanka National Gem Authority collection  has a  Cat’s eye, named The Ray of Treasure’.  It is a 105 carat gem discovered in Sri Lanka. This gemstone is a fine example of the most desirable qualities of cat’s eye stones.  The excellent transparency of the stone and well defined silver ray makes this nearly a flawless specimen. Its cuts and proportion make this a highly desired cat’s eye, said experts.

Cat’s eye gems are widely distributed within the main gem producing regions. They are mainly found around Agalawatta, Alutgama, Ambalantota, Avissawella,Bulathsinhala, Bulutota, Deniyaya, Elahera, Horana, Kalapugama,Matugama,Mestiya, Morawaka, Panadura,  Pelawatte, Rakwana and  Ratnapura.

Gemstones belonging to the Garnet family are available in Sri Lanka in four of its six varieties. Sri Lanka is known for the almandine and hessonite varieties . The garnets  occur in a multitude of colors and some display a color change when viewed under different types of lighting

The world celebrated blue Moonstone comes from the Meetiyagoda mines. Classical moonstones are always cut as cabochons. Sri Lanka is a leading source for fine quality rose quartz rocks.

 Ruby deposits in Sri Lanka  are found together with other gemstones of the Corundum family  in the same mines. Most Sri Lankan Ruby varieties are of a pinkish red and display a tint of purple, caused by the presence of iron in addition to chromium oxide, which is unique to Sri Lanka. Ruby deposits in Embilipitiya and Uda Walawe yield rubies of high quality.

Spinel is a gemstone found in great abundance in Sri Lanka . They are attractive, colourful and affordable. In addition to the common varieties of spinel three other varieties, namely, Ceylonite, Gahnite and Ghanospinel are also found in Sri Lanka . Sri Lanka is the second largest supplier of spinel to the global  market.

Sri Lanka spinel has colors ranging from ruby red, pink, orange, shades of reddish-brown, purple, blue, bluish-green, mauve, greenish-black, black to colorless. Natural blue spinel colored by cobalt has been found in Sri Lanka, around Ratnapura, Okkampitiya and Embilipitiya.

Until the rise of modern gemology in the 19th and 20th Century spinels were often mistakenly identified as corundums, as they were mostly found in the same mine. Many gem enthusiasts are now  finding that their beloved rubies and sapphires are in fact spinels.

 Sri Lanka is an important location for  Topaz, especially  colorless Topaz. The rich Topaz deposit at Polwatta, near Matale is managed by the State Gem Corporation.

Tourmalines found in Sri Lanka are brown, yellowish-brown, reddish-brown, or nearly black in color.. Most of the brown and yellowish-brown varieties are located mainly around Uva, Ratnapura and Tissamaharama regions in Sri Lanka while Lunugala, Bibile, Passara, Nilgala region, Horana, Matugama, Pelawatte, Morawaka, Deniyaya, Rakwana areas in the country also produce impressive specimens.

Zircon is colorless  and is a popular substitute for diamonds. Zircon found in Sri Lanka is celebrated for its brilliance and flashes of multi colored light. They are mostly found in Matara and  are  known as Matara Diamonds.

The Ceylon Sapphire  needs special mention. Sri Lanka’s blue sapphire is considered one of the best in the world and has a very high demand from all over the world. The world’s  first, second and third largest blue sapphires are from Sri Lanka .

Ceylon Blue Sapphires are mined from the alluvial deposits located in the highland complex .  Ceylon sapphires  are acclaimed for their clarity, saturation, light blue and dark blue colours. The most valued blue sapphires were velvety blue to violetish blue, in medium to medium-dark tones. They command the highest prices. The most highly regarded blue sapphires are those which display  cornflower blue color.  

The  mines in Sri Lanka have steadily yielded  large size  blue sapphires . The discovery of a ‘gigantic’ blue sapphire  of 856 Carats, from a  gem pit at Hakamuwa close to Ratnapura  in 1998   caused much rejoicing. This  gem was named as “Pride of Lanka”.

 The owner of the mine stated that mines in the area has produced bigger and better stones earlier. They were sold in black market to avoid tax. This stone came out in the right time when the tax concessions was given. The massive stone was  displayed inside a glass box to the public before it went before buyers. This gem was considered to be  one of the largest blue sapphires found in Sri Lanka .

T. Piyadasa, Director of National Gem and Jewellery Authority listed some of the large  sapphires discovered by 2003. They are listed here by     size. A blue sapphire of 8042 Carats was found in a gem pit at Pelmadulla. It was named as “Splendour of Lanka”.

 Blue Sapphire of  4002 Carats  was found in a gem pit at Neelagama in Ratnapura district in 2000.  A transparent Blue Sapphire  of 2516 carats was found in a river bank at Ellawala in Ratnapura district. Blue sapphire of 1200 carats was found at Kosgala. Sri Lanka had maintained its lead in this race. In 2016 it was announced that the world’s largest blue sapphire to date had been  found in Sri Lanka.

In  February 2012 high-quality blue sapphires  were discovered at  a  road construction site at Thammannawa near Kataragama. The new deposit generated considerable excitement since the gems occurred as sharp-edged, well-formed crystals with a pure blue color  and  vitreous luster that is unprecedented in Sri Lankan sapphires. The blue color is different from the violetish blue typically observed in sapphires from other parts of the country.

Several kilograms of rough were taken.  Well-formed crystals large enough to facet fine blue sapphires weighing more than 20 ct. were obtained. Some crystals  were larger than 200 g.  Faceted blue sapphires of fine color and weighing more than 20 ct were cut from these crystals.

Sri Lanka is also known for its star sapphires. The presence of a star is quite rare, being only found in a tiny percentage of the sapphires mined around the world. Sri Lanka is  a source of large star sapphires of premium quality. Some of the largest star sapphires in the world including the Star of Adam have come from Sri Lanka    

Sri Lanka has been able to show large star sapphires exceeding 100 carats.  Sri Lanka National Gem Authority collection has a star sapphire, named Star of Lanka weighing 105 carats. It is a rich deep blue and has a well defined six rayed star.  It is the third largest star sapphire of similar quality in existence.  This collection has another star sapphire weighing 224 carats named Star of Asia” and a third unnamed gem of 393 carats discovered in 1970.

The world’s largest star sapphire cluster to date was found in   a backyard,  by accident in 2021. The stone was found by workmen digging a well in the home of a gem trader in Ratnapura area. The cluster weighs around 510 kilograms or 2.5 million carats. “I have never seen such a large specimen before. This was probably formed around 400 million years ago,”  said gemologist  Gamini Zoysa,. Experts say the stone, which is pale blue in color, has an estimated value of up to $100 million in the international market.

Sapphires from Sri Lanka are found in colours other  than the famous blue. They also occur in violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues.. These colored sapphires  are known as fancy sapphires.

The Ceylon Yellow sapphires are bright and does not exhibit mixture of green compared to Australian and Thailand sapphires , making  Sri Lanka one of the finest yellow sapphire producers in the world. Yellow sapphires from the Balangoda area in Sri Lanka are considered of high quality. A large yellow sapphire weighing 1.3 kilograms was found two kilometers from Ratnapura 

The pink  sapphires found in Sri Lanka are known as the ‘Hot Pink Sapphire’ or the ‘Sri Lanka Ruby’. The rare green sapphire found in Sri Lanka has a brown and black hue that  does not occur among the green-hued sapphires mined elsewhere. Ceylon lavender sapphires contain the most delicate shades of violet.  An orange sapphire of 825 carats emerged from a gem pit at Kuruwita. It was transparent and free of cracks.

Known as the rarest and the most valuable corundum found in Sri Lanka, the Padparadscha sapphire, features a delicate combination of pink and orange, a hue in between a ruby and a yellow sapphire. Resembling the tips of a new lotus flower at the dawn, the name derives from the Sanskrit term padmaraga for lotus blossom.

Although sapphires with pinkish and orange hues are also found in other countries, Sri Lanka is considered to be the true source for Padparadscha due to their unique color hues and zones. Purists believe that only the natural gem corundum with pinkish-orange hues sourced from Sri Lanka  should be called Padparadscha or Padmaraga. ( Continued)

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