Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as "Ratnadvipa" -- "the land of gems". With?
Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as "Ratnadvipa" -- "the land of gems". With the exception of Diamonds, emeralds and opals, almost every kind of precious and semi-precious stone is to be found on the island, from alexandrite to zircon.
The gem industry is proving to be one of the country's most profitable sources of foreign earnings. In 1973, exports brought in over 152 million rupees (just under GBP10 million sterling), and the final figures for 1974 are expected to reach 200 million rupees (about GBP13 million sterling). In addition, indications are strong that Hong Kong is beginning to lose its reputation as the gem centre of the world, and traders and merchants are looking more and more to the Sri Lanka gem markets.
In 1972, the Government established the State Gem Corporation to streamline and improve the gem industry. Despite the work of the Corporation and the natural abundance of precious stones throughout Sri Lanka much of the industry remains on a traditional, primitive footing.
Prospecting on almost all the 415 plots of land auctioned and licensed by the Land Reform Commission is still carried out by hand. Silt from riverbeds is dredged and panned in wicker baskets before the residual stones are hand sifted for precious gems.
Cutting and polishing the gem stones is again a hand operated process, although in November last year, the Gem Corporation began construction of a large cutting and polishing workshop which should improve the process considerably when complete. Until recently, most of the gems exported by Sri Lanka had to be re-cut abroad. Foreign lapidary experts -- highly skilled workers in gem-cutting -- have been brought in to raise the standard of faceting and shaping. This, too, will serve to increase foreign earnings. Highly sophisticated equipment is already in use in the Export department of the Gem Corporation. Stones destined for abroad are examined for flaws and valuations carefully checked ... for the Corporation is eager to preserve Sri Lanka's reputation for high-quality stones.
Tourists can also take advantage of this new equipment to examine items of jewellery purchased in Sri Lanka. Tourist sales are becoming increasingly important, and four special international salerooms have been established in the capital, Colombo.