Initially known as Ratna – Dweepa (Gem island), Sri Lanka has a rich history when it comes to gems. Geologically, Sri Lanka is a very old country and Residual sedimentary deposits make our home soil rich in precious stones. Harvesting these precious stones have provided Sri Lanka with a large source of Income as well as a rich culture based around the act of harvesting these precious stones. Another symptom of the demand for precious stones, are the countless employment opportunities offered to those willing to labour in the process of harvesting and refining these gems.
The local gem industry is a large and booming one, with the gem trade invested in 70 varieties of coloured gems such as Sapphires, topaz, garnets, etc. with the most major asset to the country, being the “Ceylon sapphire”. These gems are mostly used in the jewellery industry by jewellery manufacturers such as vogue jewelers, the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Association, etc. These jewellery manufacturers bring in large profits to the country thanks to Sri Lanka’s booming tourist industry. A small amount of these gems are also used for scientific research, such as studies dedicated to the understanding of sedimentary composition and its application toward day-to-day life.
The Sri Lankan Jewellery industry has around 15,000 people working under it, including 10,000 registered individual craftsmen while the rest employed in factories that produce and refine jewellery. Most Craftsmen are located in the more rural parts of the southern and central province, and small zones within the Eastern, North Western, and northern provinces. Only 30% and 10% of all jewellery workshops are located in urban and sub-urban areas. The jewellery manufactured by these crafters can be divided into 3 sectors. The sectors are; manufacturing for export, manufacturing for sale locally and tourist trade.
The countries we export to the most are Japan, Germany, USA, UK Singapore, Hong Kong and even to the UAE. Recent social studies show that the demand for moonstone studded silver jewellery with low quality precious stones, are highly sought after in countries like Germany. Using various Computer software, jewelers are able to create patterns and jewellery variants that fetch an extremely high price in international markets. The implementation of these designs are expected to achieve a higher standard thanks to the 3D printing technology that is slowly becoming more and more available to the up and coming crafter. In fact, the development of the technological sector is a major boon to the jewellery manufacturers of Sri Lanka as the equipment they use will increase in variety and efficiency in par with the progress of the technological sector.
Although our ability to manufacture ‘A’ grade jewelry is a major achievement, the most amazing aspect of the gem trade is the effect that it has had on the people. Through the course of our history we have built a plethora of culture and tradition around the gem industry, assigning various auspicious characteristics to the multitude of precious stones found throughout Sri Lanka. We even go through the trouble of assigning birthstones to people depending on the time and date they were born on.