The sheer variety of gems that can be obtained on our tiny island, rival major league suppliers, and provide us with a significant foothold in the gem Import/Export industry. The diversity and volume of gems we possess earns us the title “gem island”, and as such, we have adopted our gem trade heritage with open arms. Some might say that these precious stones are the country’s greatest commodity.
As for the mining of these stones, we use a combination of traditional and advanced techniques. The traditional technique is basically digging a big hole in the premise of the mining grounds (preferably near a river) with a steady stream of water, coursing through the central digging area. This stream of water loosens the soil, turning it into thick clay. The clay is hand sifted through by trained miners and any rocks of interest found are washed in the available water source, in order to clarify whether it is indeed a precious stone. These rocks are later sorted according to size and refined into jewellery worthy gem stones, and it’s not just the mining process that is done in the traditional way, as most of the gem cutting is done by experts with the necessary traditional tools.
The process of watching the miners is a strict one, as these precious stones tend to come in sizeable chunks, and are worth millions of Sri Lankan Rupees. The workers however refrain from committing such acts as the gem industry has provided them with ample work opportunity which creates a “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” attitude among the miners. With over 6000 gem miners, it is very apparent that the gem industry has indeed brought many jobs to Sri Lanka, and this is excluding the gem cutters, refiners and jewellers.
Thanks to Sri Lanka's gem culture; we also have a few advantages on the international market such as :