Evolution of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Gemstones

Sri Lanka was affectionately known as Ratna-Dweepa which means Gem Island. The name is a reflection of its natural wealth. It is known that the island has the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and other gems in the world.  Records from sailors that visited the island states that they brought back “jewels of Serendib”. Serendib was the ancient name given to the island by middle – eastern and Persian traders that crossed the Indian Ocean to trade gems from Sri Lanka to the East during the 4th and 5th century.

Approximately 90% of the rocks of Sri Lanka are of Precambrian age, 560 million to 2,400 million years ago. The gems form in sedimentary residual gem deposits, eluvial deposits, metamorphic deposits, skarn and calcium-rich rocks. 

Gemstones deposits in Sri Lanka (Gia.edu)

Residual deposits are mainly found in flood plains of rivers and streams. The metamorphic types of gems constitute 90% of the gem deposits in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has the highest density of gem deposits compared to its landmass. Ratnapura contains the most gem deposits and derived its name from the gem industry. Ratnapura means “city of gems”.

Map of Sri Lanka with gemstone deposit locations (Gia.edu)

Pit mining is the most common gemstone mining in Sri Lanka (Gia.edu)

Traditional hand powered cutting machines in Sri Lanka (Gia.edu)

The blue sapphires from Sri Lanka are known as Ceylon Sapphire. Ceylon Sapphires are reportedly unique in color, clarity and luster compared to the blue sapphires from other countries.

Ceylon Blue Sapphire set in a beautiful ring