THE ECONOMY OF SRI LANKA Part 4 B3
Posted on May 16th, 2022

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

Sri Lanka gems  are celebrated worldwide for  their high quality, their clarity, transparency and saturation. Some are  with private collectors, others are in prestigious museums, a few were bought for necklaces for royalty. In Britain,  a Sri Lanka gem  was at  the centre of the engagement ring worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, another  gem adorns the British  royal crown (the one that is put on the head).

ROYALTY

 The crown jewels of many monarchs gleam with extraordinary spinals, sapphires, and zircons mined from Sri Lanka streams”, said gemologist  Peter Bancroft. The Imperial Treasury of the Soviet Union houses a 400-carat red spinel of great beauty which was once given to Catherine the Great. The British Imperial Crown features a giant oval-cut spinel (previously supposed to be a ruby), known as the Black Prince.” Crowns in the Green Vaults of Dresden are covered with sapphires from Sri Lanka , he concluded.

The  170 carat Sri Lankan red spinel  known as Black Prince Ruby  forms the centerpiece of the imperial state crown of Great Britain. Princess Diana’s  engagement ring consisted of 14 diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-karat white gold.

The  Timur Ruby is an un-faceted, 361-carat polished spinal set in a necklace for Queen Victoria in 1853. It was thought to be a ruby. British Royal Jewel is a 105 carat Chrysoberyl cat’s eye of exceptional quality, discovered in Sri Lanka. It was purchased for the British Royalty from a reputed London jeweler around 1900.

Empress Maria’s Sapphire, a splendid oval cut Sri Lankan blue sapphire of 260.37 carats , purchased by the Russian Emperor Alexander II at the London Great Exhibition of 1862 and presented to his wife Empress Maria Alexandronova. After  her death, the gem was donated to the State Diamond Fund of the Russian Federation and is presently  displayed at their museum in Gokhran, Russia.

Queen Marie of Romania Sapphire,  a 478.68 carat, cushion cut, deep cornflower blue of Sri Lankan origin  was originally purchased by King Ferdinand of Romania for  his Queen .the gemstone came up for auction at Christie’s  in 2003.The buyer is unknown.

MUSEUMS

Sri Lanka gems are exhibited in prestigious museums. Star of Lanka This grayish-blue star sapphire of 193 carats was sold to the Royal Ontario Museum in 1958by its owner, Allan Kaplan

Hope cat’s eye, at 500 carats is the world’s largest chrysoberyl cat’s eye. Once owned by wealthy British banker and gem investor Thomas P. Hope, the gem  is now on exhibit at the British Museum of Natural History.

Museum of Natural History in New York  received valuable gems from JP Morgan.  Midnight Star Sapphire is a 116.75 carat deep purple-violet star sapphire, discovered in Sri Lanka in the 19th century.  Star of India is a 563.35 carat grayish-blue star sapphire discovered in Sri Lanka.  It is almost flawless . it has stars on the both sides, which is extremely rare for its size. J.P. Morgan donated both to the American Museum of Natural History in New York in the 1900s.  Three blue star sapphires , 188 carats, 158 carats and 153 carats were also donated from J.P. Morgan’s personal collection, to this museum.

But the biggest haul of Sri Lanka gems went to the Smithsonian Museumof Natural History in Washington DC  ( USA). The following gems are displayed there.

Maharani Cat’s Eye a 58.19 carat honey colored sharp band of light chrysoberyl cat’s eye discovered in Sri Lanka , is one of the finest gems of its kind.

Rosser Reeves Star Ruby 138.7 carats ,is the world’s largest star ruby of comparable fine quality. It has rare features of excellent color, a well defined star and good transparency. Owned by advertising mogul Rosser Reeves, it was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965

Logan Blue sapphire  considered to be the second largest blue sapphire on record. It is a flawless specimen. A rich deep blue in color, weighing  423 ct it is set in a brooch and surrounded by twenty diamonds. It was gifted to the Smithsonian by Mrs. John A. Logan.

 Star of Bombay is a 182 carat violet-blue star sapphire discovered in Sri Lanka.  It was given as a gift to Mary Pickford by her husband Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920’s. She  bequeathed the gemstone to the Smithsonian.

Star of Artaban is a milky blue colour cabochon-cut star sapphire of 287 carat of Sri Lankan origin. The gem was purchased by a member of the Georgia Mineral Society toward the end of 1943.It was later presented anonymously by the  family to the Smithsonian .

Bismarck Sapphire a  98.6 carat cornflower-blue sapphire discovered in Sri Lanka in 1920. It was gifted to Countess Mona von Bismarck, by  her third husband, Harrison Williams in 1926.  Mona von Bismarck donated the stone to the Smithsonian in 1967.

PRIVATE COLLECTORS

Other valuable Sri Lanka gems went  to private collectors. The Naleem alexandriteis exceptional in size for this type of stone. It claims to be largest alexandrite in the world weighing  112 carats. it was  named after seller Al Haj Naleem, gem merchant from Beruwala. Believed to be the most expensive of its kind in the world, it is valued at over $100 million. Current owner unknown.

The Eye of the Lion is a spectacular gemstone of 465 carats. This Chrysoberyl cat’s eye gemstone  discovered in the late 1800’s in  a Pelmadulla paddy field, was  owned by  Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy, an aristocratic Chieftain in the Sabaragamuwa Province and Chief Custodian of Saman Devale.

She gifted the uncut Cats-Eye to her eldest daughter’s husband. The stone was preserved in its rough form and in turn inherited by his son, the first grandson of Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy. The family named the gem The Eye of the Lion.”     Smithsonian expressed interest in acquiring the gemstone in 1978. The stone  resurfaced in Thailand in  2006 in the hands of gemstone dealer Jeffery Bergman.

Star of Adam the largest blue star sapphire found in the world reportedly found near Adams Peak in Sri Lanka in 1902. O.L.M Macan Marker & Co purchased the rough  which weighed more than 600 carats. This impressive corn flower hued, cushion cut, blue  sapphire was the largest faceted blue sapphires of its kind at that time. With full saturation, intense medium blue color and orange red under ultraviolet light, the stone  was valued $7000 back in 1902.

Blue Giant of the Orient At 486.52 carats, this gem is considered to be the largest blue sapphire in the world.  Discovered in Sri Lanka in 1907, the gem was sold to an anonymous American collector.  Nothing was heard of the stone until 2004, when  it suddenly appeared at a Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale held on May 19, 2004 in Geneva. Now this stone is in Switzerland.

Star of Ceylon  101 carat violet-blue star sapphire  from Sri Lanka  is  owned by a private collector in Seattle, USA.

Belle of Asia 400 carats cornflower-blue sapphire, was  discovered in the paddy field of Pelmadulla in 1926. The Blue Belle is held in the highest esteem among blue sapphires owing to its highly prized peacock blue colour and its excellent clarity. It was bought by Lord Naffield (Nuffield?) of Britain. The fate of the Blue Belle of Asia” after his death is not known. (Continued)

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