GEMS & JEWELLERIES
Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful gems, especially the blue sapphire. Many visitors think of buying a nice piece of jewellery or bring some precious gems back home as a remembrance of their stay in Sri Lanka. Therefore it is good to know something about gems before you decide to buy your beloved gems and jewellery and where to buy it.
The value of gems is determined by several factors. In the first place it is the hardness of the gem which is important. The hardest of all gems is the diamond (hardness factor 10), immediately followed by the sapphires and rubies (hardness factor 9). The stones scoring hardness 9 and 10 are called ‘precious stones’. All gems below hardness factor 9 are called ‘semi-precious stones’. Precious stones are generally spoken the most expensive gems. However it is not only the hardness that determines the value, but a combination of several other factors, such as the size (expressed in karats), its luster, the clarity, the quantity of inclusions, the colour, the quality and type of cutting of the stone and if there are any cracks. Moreover the rarity of and demand for certain gems can influence the price too. For example emerald is difficult to find (in volcanic areas) and complicated to cut, because of its softness and is therefore also classified as a precious stone.
It is mostly sapphires, rubies, moonstones, citrine, aquamarine, peridot, amethyst, tourmaline, garnet, spinel, topaz and opal that are available. I am sure the list is not complete and many big gems and jewellery have a wide range of gems. Emerald is also sold in Sri Lanka, though it cannot be mined in Sri Lanka.
The main mining area for gems is undoubtedly Rathnapura and its surrounding villages. Mechanical mining is not permitted, so the gems are still mined in a traditional way. Apart from the famous Ceylon blue sapphires several other species are being found in this area. There is a thriving business in gems & jewelleries in this town, including a street business, where uncut gems are being offered for trade. You can visit the Rathnapura Gemological Museum with a fabulous collection of the most beautiful gems mined in this area.
Birthstones refer to the month in which a person is born. Each month represents a particular stone. Your jeweler can give you all information about the gem which correspond with your month of birth. There are slight differences in the selection of gems between the western countries and India.
Buying gems & jewellery
Buying gems & jewellery is not easy in Sri Lanka, unless you have a lot of money and don’t care about the price. It is advisable to get information about the prices of the various gems, particularly of those you are interested in. Bargaining about the price is common in Sri Lanka for gems &jewellery. It will become more difficult to determine if a price is reasonable when the gem is part of a piece of jewellery or another precious metal, like gold or silver. You could already do some research in your own country regarding quality and prices. Single precious stones can be tested at the National Gems & Jewellery Authority in Colombo, Ratnapura and Galle or with the Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Exchange in the World Trade Centre, where foreigners can have their precious gems tested on quality and get a certificate free of charge. As buying gems is a matter of trust, testing at one of these authorities can lower your risk of buying fake stones, which unfortunately happens too.
Of course there are the big, well known shops where you can buy your gems & jewelleries. These shops are well reputed for their quality and are government certified sellers.