Sri Lanka Gem Markets

(i) Gem History of Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s gem industry has a very long and colorful history. Sri Lanka was affectionately known as Ratna-Dweepa which means Gem Island. The name is a reflection of its natural wealth. Marco Polo wrote that the island had the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and other gems in the world.[1] Ptolemy, the 2nd century astronomer recorded that beryl and sapphire were the mainstay of Sri Lanka’s gem industry. 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.

Sri Lanka, geologically speaking is an extremely old country. Ninety percent of the rocks of the island 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. Nearly all the gem formations in Sri Lanka are located in the central high-grade metamorphic terrain of the Highland Complex. The gem deposits are classified as sedimentary, metamorphic and magmatic; the sedimentary types being the most abundant. The mineralogy of the gem deposits varies widely with, among others, corundum (sapphire, ruby), chrysoberyl, beryl, spinel, topaz, zircon, tourmaline, garnet being common.

(ii) Gem Markets in Sri Lanka

Some of the most popular street gem markets can be found in Ratnapura, Nivithigala, Kahawatta, Pelmadulla, Godakawela, Embilipitiya, Kalawana, Kiriella, Haraniyaka, Eheliyagoda and Beruwala.

Street gem markets here enjoy a strong culture much like local regetable markets or Sunday fairs. Everyone from average buyers to mine owners, mine workers, gem collectors and traders frequent them in their thousands each morning to make traders.

Remarkably, every gem transaction at these markets is based on trust. The value of each gemstone is determined on the spot. Mostly there is no exchange of receipts or trade agreements. There is no cheating either. This way, the miners who supply the gems can be paid the amounts promised by the merchants at the street market.

Beruwala Gem Market

China Fort Beruwala Gem Market is located 55km south of Sri Lanka capital Colombo and 92km south of Bandaranayake International Airport. Beruwala still has maintaining it singular culture of when it come to clothing and social events. Most of the men in Beruwala is wearing a sarong preferably the white and shirt of different colors. It is very unlikely a muslim will be seen in a trouser unless he is leaving the town to some other places.

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China Fort doesn’t have gem mining operations similar to Ratnapura, Nivithigala, Pelmadulla, Idangoda, Elahara, Buththala, Balangoda, where gems mined in abundance. However almost the entire neighborhood of China Fort has been in the gem trade for generations. China Fort is one of the largest market in the world for cut and polished stones.

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Patha is a popular street in the center of China Fort where the gem merchants from all over the Island gather for trading their gems. There are over 300 offices also located in both side of the street making it easier for buyers and sellers to trade premium stones. The market has been also regarded one of the greatest open gem markets in the world. The market is opened all days except for Fridays where Muslims gathered for prayer ( Jumma ). This day is common holiday where traders spend their day with family. Though the market is active in all days except for Friday. The main days of the business are Wednesday and Saturday. The market can start at 9:00 in the morning and remain until 5:00 p.m at the evening.