Ratnapuraya – The City of Gems.

Ratnapura meaning City Gems in Sinhalese, the main source of precious and semiprecious stones (including rubies, sapphires, and cat’s-eyes) mined in the valleys by River Kalu Ganga that flows through the district, is located 103 m from Colombo in the Sabaragamuwa district of wet Zone of Sri Lanka.

Ratnapura’s Climate, terrain and vegetation

The high rainfall (4,000 to 5,000 mm annually) at Ratnapura district in a valley (21m above sea-level) by the River Kalu Ganga Ratnapura has resulted in rich vegetation, an environment of greenery interspersed with streams and waterfalls. Ratnapura affords grand views of the surrounding countryside, in particular the famous and revered mountain, Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada). The most visited waterfalls at Ratnapura are Bopath Ella Falls at the village of Kuruvita and Katugas Ella Falls at the village of Mahawelawatta and Kirindi Ella Falls.

Gem Mining at Ratnapura

Mining of gems in Sri Lanka, also known by the name of Ratna Deepa (Sinhala: The Island of Gems) in the ancient times, is woven in to the history of Sri Lanka, goes back at least to 2000 years. The Mahavansa, the ancient chronicle of Sri Lanka too mentioned about gems and jewelry on several occasions. A sizeable community at Ratnapura is engaged in the Gem Trade. Mechanized gem mining being banned in Sri Lanka, unearthing gemstones at Ratnapura is an unsophisticated and small-scale affair done in traditional methods.

Besides the villages surrounding Ratnapura and Pelmadulla towns, other areas that had become famous for their gem mines include the villages surrounding the towns of Kuruvita, Opanayake, Rakwana, Kahawatte and Eheliyagoda, all in Ratnapura district. One of the villages in Pelmadulla where gem mining is highly concentrated is of Ganegama.

Ratnapura district has produced an incredible variety of gemstones, many of them outstanding in comparison with stones from other regions. Sapphire occurs in all hues of blue, as well as yellow, violet, green, pink, and the remarkable pinkish-orange “padparadsha.” Other gemstones include topaz in bright yellow with a reddish tinge; brownish yellow to cinnamon-colored grossular; orange-yellow spessartine; blood-red pyrope; red to brownish red almandine; the world’s finest zircon in a broad spectrum including brown, yellow, orange, green, and colorless (known locally as ‘Matara diamond’—a misnomer); green, yellow, and brown tourmaline; yellow, green, and brown chrysoberyl; yellow chrysoberyl cat’s-eye; the unique white translucent variety of microcline with a blue sheen known as moonstone; and great quantities of spinel in brown, green, blue, purple, violet, yellow, pink, and red. Unusual and rare stones from the same area include sillimanite, andalusite, scapolite, enstatite, kornerupine and diopside.

Ratnapura is the source of some of the priceless gemstones in the world: Blue Giant of Orient (466 cts), Logan Blue Sapphire (42 3cts), Blue Belle of Asia (400 cts), Rossar Reeves Star Ruby (138.7 cts), Star of Lanka (393 cts) and the Ray of Treasure (105 cts Cat’s Eye). The Star of Lanka and Ray of Treasure are the proud possessions of the National Gem & Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka.