A cut above the rest – The Sri Lankan Gem Cutting Industry

Sri Lanka has, from antiquity, been famous for its jewels, we see proof of this everywhere – from the beautiful, elegant blue sapphire engagement ring worn by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge to the massive 850 carat blue sapphire rightfully called ‘Pride of Sri Lanka’. Sri Lanka is named Ratna Dweepa in Sanskrit, meaning ‘Island of Jewels’ and can trace the history of gems back to 2000 years – With great explorers seeking out the precious island for its priceless luxuries of which gems were most coveted.

Marco Polo visited Sri Lanka circa 1293 and raved about the sheer volume of rubies, topaz, amethyst and, most importantly Sapphires that he found. Pliny the Elder, the great roman naturalist wrote of the ambassadors from Taprobane (as Sri Lanka was known then) and the jewels they brought to the court of Emperor Claudius who ruled from 41 to 54 AD. The great beauty of Sri Lankan gems are even noted in the Mahavamsa (The Great Chronicle) speaks of gem-encrusted throne of a Naga king in 543 BC.


Sri Lanka is particularly popular for its signature gem – the Blue Sapphire – who’s cut cannot be matched anywhere else. Gem cutting in Sri Lanka has advanced so much that it in itself is an artform – traditional techniques are mixed with modern technology in a synergistic waltz that creates perfection almost every time. The traditional method of gem cutting is done using a Hanaporuwa - a machine that requires considerable skill to operate). The machine consists a bow that drives a vertical lap, the gem is then held to it – traditionally, this was how Sapphires and other precious gems were cut. The specific knowledge for precious gems being cut by this method has been passed on for centuries and generations.

In Sri Lanka, the traditional has learnt to coexist with the technologically advanced, here old knowledge meets innovation and this creates a great vortex of progress – especially in the business of gem cutting. Being a leader in coloured stones globally, Sri Lanka practices its craft to global standards, precision cuts and fine face up colours are almost always guaranteed. In addition to this, highly skilled re-cutting in Sri Lanka is up to international market standards of proportions, symmetry, and brightness. Fine precision cutting to tight tolerances on modern lapidary equipment is being applied to calibrated goods that meet the strictest requirements, including those of the watch industry.

All these advances and traditions has managed to keep Lanka at the foremost of the precious stones industry from the very inception, thousands of years ago. Expertise and a dedication to the craft that is rivalled by no other keeps pushing the gem cutting industry ever forward; with new prospective clients, with new needs and wants and from new destinations, making contact every day for specifically the quality of Sri Lanka’s cut gems and the cutting itself.

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