Tour Info


Ratnapura Gems

If you dig into history of Sri Lanka, you will find that in 2nd century Ptolemy has written that sapphires and beryl were the main Gemstones found in the country. Also, Marco Polo had written that the island is well known for its sapphires, amethysts, topazes and a variety of other gemstones. Sri Lanka was called the “Ratnadeepa” during the ancient times which means the “Island of Gems”. The best known city for gems in Sri Lanka is Ratnapura. Ratnapura in Sinhala, the language of the locals means city of gems.

Types of Gems found in Ratnapura

Blue Sapphire: Sri Lankan blue sapphires are well known for their color and clarity. These are mined from numerous mines found in Ratnapura. There is also the star sapphire that reflects light forming a star like light reflection inside the gemstone. When cut in cabochon shape, these become beautiful gemstones for use in many different kinds of jewellery.

Ruby: Ruby is a red colored gemstone mined from gem pits of Ratnapura. The value of this gem depends on its color which has to be pure red without hues of brown or blue. There are also star rubies.

Alexandrite: This is a gemstone that looks green when exposed to daylight and appears to be red when looked at in incandescent light. This is also an expensive variety of Gemstones.

Cat’s eye:  Cat’s eyes are a type of chrysoberyl and are popular gemstones that show light reflections that make these stones to appear as a distinct line of reflected light. These are used often as engagement stones by British Royalty.

Zircon: Being a gemstone that appears dark purple, it is often used in jewellery. It is a variety of quartz.

Aquamarine: This is another type of gemstone found in Ratnapura. Its color varies from blue to bluish green. It is found as flawless large stones. These stones are normally heat treated to enhance their color.

Garnets: Being semi-precious stones garnets are found in a variety of colors. They could be red, green, yellow, brown colorless or any color in-between.

Tourmaline: These are stones that have bi-colors. Sometimes there could be cat’s eyes also.

Topaz: Topaz may appear in reddish orange color. Since this gemstone is not very hard it has to be looked after carefully when used in jewellery. Usually cut in facets.   

Citrine: Used mainly in rings and pendants after cutting in facets, this is a gemstone that carries yellow to red color. It could sometimes occur in orange color also. The ring stone sized citrines are the most expensive. Larger stones are of lesser value.

Ratnapura is located 100km away from Colombo and is the capital of Sabaragamuwa province. When you travel to upcountry through this city, it is worth breaking journey in order to have a glimpse of how gems are being mined. When you visit this place, you could have a look at a gem pit. Gem pits are the mines where many different types of gemstones are found. There is also the possibility of witnessing cutting and polishing of gems using traditional methods.