“We are very pleased and thankful to all the staff at the National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka  for giving us kind permission to reproduce articles from Gem Talk sept 2007”

“Due to the efforts of National Gem and Jewelry Authority , Sri Lanka has now become one of the rapidly growing gem and jewellery trade centers in the world, we really appreciate all the hard work”What’s in a name?

By Professor P.G.R. Dharmaratne,PhD,FGG,FGA

Most often a name means only a word to identify a being or an object.But it is not so in gemstones.


Take the case of ruby for example.The word ruby is derived from the latin word “rubens” meaning “red”.The red of rubies is in a class by itself, warm and fiery. Two magical elements associated with the symbolism of this colour; fire and blood, implying warmth and life for mankind.And thud ruby-red is not just any old colour, no it is the epitome colour hot passionate and powerful colour.

So which red coloured corundum should be called ruby? Gemstone experts like to say “Burma colour” referring to the deep red with a bluish hue associated with rubies found in Burma (Myanmar). Some say it is the colour of pigeon’s blood red which is the colour of perfect ruby. I wonder how many have seen pigeon’s blood? So stones come from whatever source may be referred to as “Burma-colour” as the basis.

Now take the case of pink sapphire. Both ruby and pink sapphire has chromium (Cr) as a colour giving element in otherwise colourless corundum.

So what is the boundary between pink sapphire and ruby? It varies. What is hot pink sapphire? meaning deep pink to one, may be a ruby to another. So what does it matter? It matters a lot! the name ruby carries with it a huge prestige as the king of gemstones. So if a stone is designated as a ruby, instead of a pink sapphire, the difference in price will be many folds.

Padmaraga (Padparadscha)

Many debates have been going on about pinkish orange sapphire known in Sri Lanka as Padmaraga (Padparadscha) [Padma meaning lotus and raga meaning colour], a sapphire with the colour of oriental lotus (nelumbo nucifera). Germans corrupted this Sinhalese name as “Padparadscha” and that is what internationally used today.

Subsequently stones of similar hues with a brownish tint found in East Africa, particularly Tanzania was called “African Padparadscha” .But after many discussions, it has been agreed to call them “brownish orange sapphire” and not to use the name Padparadscha. The name carries a huge price tag. If a stone is called a Padparadscha instead of pinkish-orange sapphire (referring to its appearance), it will be priced several times higher.


Now look at Emerald, a beautiful green variety of beryl [Be3Al2Si6O10]. Beryl in its pure form is colourless, but when a trace of chromium is present it becomes pure green and unlike ruby, any shade of green caused by chromium is called emerald. Emerald has the most brilliant and beautiful green imaginable. Emerald green is the colour of life and eternal love. Even in ancient Rome green was the colour dedicated to Venus, goddess of love and beauty. When one wants to describe the best green, he would say “emerald green”.

The name emerald is derived from the French word “emeraude” which in turn goes back via Latin to Greek root “smaragados”, meaning “green gemstone”. In South America ancient Incas and Aztecs worshipped emerald as a holy stone. Most ancient occurrences of emerald were located near red sea. These gemstone mines were already exploited by the Egyptian Pharaohs between 1500-3000 B.C, and became known as “Cleopatra’s mine”.

Beryl also gets green colour due to vanadium(V). It is not called emerald but “green vanadium beryl”. Two stones of same shade could be due to either Cr or V. So what does it matter? It matters a lot!

Emerald is one of those few stones considered precious stones for many years. Emerald fetches 10-20 or more times than times than an identical “green vanadium beryl”.If ruby is the king of gemstones , emerald is probably the Queen of gemstones that a lady will love to possess.

This concept of emerald and green beryl has lasted many centuries, until very fine green beryls due to vanadium were discovered. There are some who argue that whatever the cause of colour of beryl ,if the colour is beautifully green it should be called Emerald. The international trade has not accepted this fully and it may take some more time to do so.

Paraiba Tourmaline

The story does not end there, one of the recent entries to the trade is “Paraiba tourmaline”. An electric blue to greenish blue shades of tourmaline discovered in 1981 from Mina da Bathalha in Brazilian state of Paraiba surprised many in the gem trade. It took another ten years to find sizable amount to create an impact on the trade. Brazil is the classical tourmaline country. Usually trace elements of iron (Fe), manganese(Mn), chromium(Cr) and vanadium which are responsible for their beautiful colours.

Now comes another claimant from Africa for the name “Paraiba tourmaline”,in 2001 a bluish green tourmaline from Nigeria appears in the market, similar to those from Paraiba. The features were similar and the cause of colour was also copper and manganese. The scientists were wondering how it is possible to get Paraiba Tourmaline in Nigeria. Then they looked at the continental drift. Many millions of years ago South America and Africa were together without a division and cu-mn bearing tourmaline was created under the same conditions and that may be why they look similar and difficult to distinguish. So unlike padparadscha, African Cu-Mn tourmaline is traded as paraiba tourmaline.

“Gem of a Thought”


“It is not so much where we are, but in which direction we are moving”

Sri Lanka’s Strength’s in Precision Gem Cutting

By Saman K Amarasena, Managing Director, Swiss Cut and Designs (Pvt) Ltd

Sri Lanka has maintained high standards in gem cutting for the past 30 years. But unfortunately the world is unaware of this. The islands gem cutters have quietly come a long way since the days of the old hand-operated gem cutting machines. The evidence found at Abhayagiriya stupa and the nearby Abhayagiriya museum are examples of skills of gem cutters of ancient times. They had turned out exquisitely designed necklaces , bangles and other items even out of precious stones that are not indigenous to Sri Lanka. Whether they purchased such stones from foreigners or went abroad to select suitable stones is however not known).

Currently round shaped stones are being turned out in the proportion of 8/8, 16/16, 24/16, and 32/24 in the sizes of 0.40mm diameter with 0.02 tolerance, maintaining 0.01 girdle line. Now the craftsmen have reached such a high level that they can manufacture tapered baguettes, triangles and design models and do them based on either their own technical drawings or drawings given to them, by their overseas buyers.

International Standard Lapidaries  coupled with a skilled workforce add luster to Sri Lanka’s reputation.

Overseas programs to participate in the year 2008 

The National Gem and Jewellery Authority Sri Lanka is making arrangements to organize “Sri Lanka Pavilion” at following international events in2008:

1IJT TokyoJapanJanuary
2Bangkok Gem and Jewellery FairThailandMarch
3JCK-Las Vegas 2008USAJune
4Singapore International Jewellery ShowSingaporeAugust
5Bangkok Gems and Jewellery FairThailandSeptember
6Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch FairHong KongSeptember
7Malaysia International JewelexMalaysiaOctober
8China International Gold, Jewellery and gem fair-ShanghaiChinaNovember
9Jaipur Jewellery ShowIndiaNovember

Story of the Kandyan Regalia

One hundred and eighty seven years ago a collection of priceless jewellery and ornaments was sold by auction at 38, King Street, Covent Garden in London. The date was June 13th, 1820 and the jewels were described as “presented by his Majesty to his captors”.

In fact they were not presented by his Majesty (Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe) but seized by his captors the British. The jewellery and ornaments formed part of the regalia of the last King of Kandy. The full regalia comprised the crown, the throne and foot stool and the sword use by kings of the Kandyan Kingdom for 122 years.

The velvet cushioned throne, which incorporated traditional Sinhala designs, was presented to king Wimalladharmasuriya II by Dutch Governor Van Ree. The frame is made of wood and entirely covered with thin gold sheeting and gracefully studded with 243 precious stones. Five feet long and two feet two inches wide, its most prominent feature is a pair of golden lions, forming the arms of the throne. Their heads are turned outward in a peculiar graceful manner, with eyes formed from Amethysts. Inside the back is a large golden sun.

The foot stool also with a velvet top, is an object worked with gold and studded with 49 precious stones. Two feet and one and a half feet long and 10 1/2 inches wide, it has a moulding out crystal running about its sides. The handle of the sword is of a peculiar design with a Cobra. The sword and the scepter are studded with a number of small rubies.

The catalogue for the June 13th sale in London, described the jewellery and ornaments thus: “The whole of the purest massive gold comprising the crown , a complete suit of embossed armour, a great variety of armlets, bracelets, breast ornaments called padakkams, plumes of jewels for the head, chains for the neck, particularly one 23 1/2 feet in length, a magnificiant dagger and various other costly articles of regal decoration”.

All of them are of elaborate workmanship and richly studded with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls etc. many of which are of extraordinary size and beauty: a cats eye of matchless grandeur , an immense mass of ruby in the rough…..”

There were 93 items in the catalogue and some of the more elaborate articles, the crown inclusive, were to be broken up and sold per ounce. Fortunately in the case of the crown this did not happen.

An official memorandum, which the British headquarters at Kandy drafted after King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe’s capture, records that on March 13th 1815, the controversial Adigar (Minister) Ehelepola, who had earlier defected to the British, had sought a private audience with British Governor Robert Brownrigg. During the audience, on a signal given by Ehelepola, his servants brought three bundles containing part of the priceless collection and presented it to the Governor.

But there was no sign of the crown and the Sword of the State for well over a year. They were of particular importance to the British, because a Kandyan Chieftain, Millewe Dissawe of Wellassa told Brownrigg. “The Chief’s and the people would never believe that the Government was transferred to the British until the regalia was recovered.”

Suspicion lay heavily on Ehelepola and a dispatch from Sri Lanka dated November 5th 1816, records that pressure was brought on Ehelepola who finally surrendered the missing treasures, which were hidden in a forest between Uva and Kotmale.

The treasures included the two missing items the Crown and the Sword of the State. The golden hilt of the sword was studded with small red stones and a diamond at the end. The sheath was made of wood carved with velvet and very much worn , with some gold work. It had a red velvet band with gold embroidery and three pieces of cloth enfolding it. A gold four cornered cap or crown with carved work at the top. The four faces and four corners studded with stones, principally red, few emeralds and blue sapphires.

Eleven years afterwards on February 4th 1829, the British revenue Commissioner recorded a sworn testimony by Welegedera Appuhamy Sittamby who said that he has been a household servant of the last King of Kandy (Sittambis were a class of most trusted palace servants). According to the testimony, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe’s personal jewellery and ornaments were kept in a room adjoining the King’s chamber. When the palace was informed that the invading British troops had crossed the Sitawaka boundary. Appuhamy (witness) and three others Pahalawela Deva Nilame, Thalagune Wannaku Nilame an Aiyagalu Unnanse had packed the valuables into two boxes and sealed them. When the King fled to Meda Mahanuwara before the oncoming enemy, he had taken four boxes full of valuables and expensive clothes.

At the time of the King’s capture at Teldeniya he had in his possession only a sword and a box full of gold coins. The boxes of valuables had been handed to different people loyal to the King. They had been entrusted with the task of concealing the boxes. The throne had been handed to village chieftains of Pothdulgoda.

About six days after the Kings capture, Ehelepola had sought Appuhamy’s assistance in seizing the King’s jewels and smuggling them to the Adigar’s residence. That night states Appuhamy: I was called to the inner room where the hippos (boxes) etc were opened and the articles examined. The Adigar put on the golden hat and the jacket himself. I told him the impropriety  of the act. He replied that in a few days I should hear him proclaimed King by the British Authorities.

But that was never to be. Ehelepola died a broken man in Mauritius to where he was banished after the British crushed the 1817-1818 Uva rebellion. The British had never the intention of Ehelepola King, much though they discouraged his treason towards Sri Wickrema Rajasingha, the last Sri Lankan ruler of the Nayakkar Dynasty. (The former King passed away in Vellore South India, to where he was exiled along with his mother, four wives and the rest of the family and relatives.)

The most important of the royal items the British seized was the Kandyan throne. Nothing was heard of it after the British shipped it to England in 1815, in fact the throne was taken to Windsor Castle where it was placed in the Castles treasury room along with the rest of the valuables seized in Kandy. Also in the room were the Crown jewels seized from Tippu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore State of India.

In England the British sovereign reportedly sat on it during two convocations of the most Nobel Order of the Garter an English religious and military fraternity comprising 25 Knights and members of royal families at St. George’s Chapel, Winsdor.

It was more than a century later that the Sri Lanka people came to know of the whereabouts of the Kandyan throne. In 1933 British Governor Sir Edward Stubbs referred to the throne during the course of his address at the opening of an Art exhibition in Colombo. In September 1934 the Duke of Glouster son of King George V visited Sri Lanka bringing back with him the Throne and regalia of the king of Kandy. This was in response to fervent requests made by several prominent Sri Lankan’s.

But over 90 priceless royal ornaments the British had seized in 1815 never never came back. They were the items that were sold by the auction in London.

Sri Lanka :Pearl of the Indian Ocean

By Sumith Chandrasekera, management assistant National Gem and Jewellery Authority

Legend has it that when Lord Buddha visited Kelaniya, he kept his foot print on a giant blue sapphire at the peak of Samantha Koota (Sri Pada) at the invitation of God Saman, who is the diety of Sabaragamuwa.

In later years the island’s gem and jewellery industry began to develop rapidly after the emergence of kingdoms that later moved towards the west following enemy invasions. Very valuable gems have been used in crafting expensive jewellery to adorn Queens and for sale.

When Kingdoms face destruction or defeat due to aggression. Kings and ministers secretly buried their treasure which included large amounts of valuable gems, pearls and gold jewellery, according to folklore. The gold plated throne of the last King of Kandy, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was studded with gems.

Ratnapura is the most well known area for gems such as blue sapphires, rubies, tourmalines, cats eyes and padmaraja. This area was the country’s gem industry from where it spread to other parts of the island.

Until the arrival of European colonizers in Sri Lanka the foreigners who monopolized the trade in gems, spices and other items from this country were the Arabs. Centuries later when Queen Elizabeth II visited this country for the second time during the J.R. Jayewardene Government she was presented with a large blue sapphire by a gem dealer of Ratnapura. Later the blue sapphire that adorned the necklace of the late Princess Diana of Wales was also from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan gem cutters are very talented and are known for turning out exquisite gold jewellery products. It is only by motivating these artisans that the countries gem and jewellery industry be developed.

Gem experts believe that the worlds most valuable and precious gemstones can be found only in Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka gems and jewellery brings much needed foreign exchange to this country through tourism and exports.

The country’s natural beauty, wildlife and archaeological treasures are major factors in boosting tourism here. Linked to this is the manufacture of brass items, textiles traditional masks. tea rubber coconut and spice industry.

Among Asia’s developing countries, Sri Lanka with her moderate climate and many natural resources has become known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Foreign tourists visiting the country are mostly drawn to areas like Colombo, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Negombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, Kataragama and Ratnapura.

Places of pilgrimage for both locals and foreigners too are scattered throughout the country. A foreigner visiting Sri Lanka can experience a change of climate within less than half a day’s travel time. In the hills of Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela he will experience cool weather while in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Kataragama the weather will be dry and hot.

Kavadulla, minneraya, Hortain Plains, Yala, Wasgamuwa, Wilpattu, Udawalawe, and Boondala are among the most popular wild life sanctuaries and national parks.

Sri Lanka’a largest natural forest reserve the Sinharaja forest has drawn the attention of both tourists and researchers.

Among the sites that recall Sri Lanka’s colonial past are the forts of Galle, Matara, Jaffna and Trincomalee. The Colombo fort no longer exists. Galle, Colombo and Trincomalee have been known worldwide as harbours for several centuries.

Vital Statistics 2006

Size: 65,610 Sq Km.

Capital: Sri Jayewardenepura.

Commercial Capital: Colombo.

Population: 19.8 Million.

Population Density: 317 persons per Sq Km. Human Development Index (2004) 0.755. Rank among 177 countries :93

Life expectancy at birth Male 71.7 years, Female 77.0 years

Literacy Rate (Overall) : 92.5%

Languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English, English is widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka, with the exception of remote villages.

Ethnic Mix: Sinhalese 74%, Tamils 18%, Muslims 7%, Burghers (Descendents of the Dutch and Portuguese) and others 1%.

Religions: Buddhism, 70%: Hinduism 16% : Christianity 7%: Islam 7%

Climate: Lowlands tropical average 27˚C

Location: Island off the south eastern shores of India.

Major Exports: textiles and Garments, petroleum products, tea, rubber rubber products gems, jewellery and spices

Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee.

Visas: Residents from 72 countries are issued visas on arrival. Consult your local Sri Lankan Embassy, Consulate or your Travel Agent.

Working week: Sri Lanka works 5 days a week from Monday  to Friday

Business Hours: Government Offices 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Banks: 9am to 1pm or 3 pm Monday to Saturday.

Post Offices: 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. 8:30 am to 1pm Saturday

Source: annual report 2006, Central Bank of Sri Lanka and related Institutions.You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

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