The gemstone mines of Sri Lanka
Beautiful Sri Lanka. Traveling around in this colorful land is really wonderful, but for me the most exciting thing to do was visiting a small mining operation. The first time I ever did. During my study at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) this subject was a regular topic. And now I finally went to see it with my own eyes. Sri Lanka is a rich country in many different gemstones. Such as sapphire to name one important one. In the Netherlands we are familiair with the blue sapphire. But in Sri Lanka you will find them in all kind of colors, such as yellow, green, orange and pink some are color changing in different lights. Well it is time to visit the mine, where these colorful gems are found.
Gemstones of Sri Lanka
The extensive range of gemstones such as sapphire, ruby, garnet, beryl, tourmaline and topaz come from the mountains of Sri Lanka through underground rivers along with the gravel or sediment. Sri Lanka’s gemstone sediment is one of the richest in the world. When the sediment is brought up, it ends up on a big pile. You can't imagine that it contains all kinds of colorful gems. Unfortunately, no sediment was being washed during our visit. The washing is only happening when the owner or boss is present so that he can oversee that valuable gems don't disappear.
Off course the gentlemen tried to sell their gemstone finds. But I could hold back, because one important rule I remembered really well during my study was: The closer you get to the mine, the more likely you will be ripped off. And despite my studies as a gemologist, I remain alert and critical when I buy gemstones.
After visiting the mine, I started my second quest: the pink sapphire. I really was focussing on finding the beautiful pink orange sapphire also called the padparadscha. In the Netherlands you don't often come across either the pink sapphire or the padparadscha. Even in Sri Lanka it was a difficult one. The gem dealers showed me beautiful blue and pink sapphires. But not yet that beautiful padparadscha that I was looking for. Most of the stones were beryllium treated and not natural colored.
Gemologist at work
At home I am used to look at gemstones through a microscope, in Sri Lanka I only had my loupe. That takes some practice. Also because I can get lose myself completely in the beauty of the inner world of a gem. But the thought that I don't often have the opportunity to see so many beautiful sapphires, I asked the dealer to pull out all the stops. All colors of sapphires come between my tweezers and under my loupe in the hope to find The Padparadscha. Can you imagines that it is a dream come true, being in a position to see so many beautiful gems in such a short time.