The abundant gem bearing deposits in Rathnapura marks it as a must visit site in your Sri Lanka Holiday Map. The Sinhala name is precisely descriptive, meaning the “Gem City.”
The flood plains and the mountain ranges that surround it have been a source of an endless supply of white, yellow, pink, orange, purple and blue star sapphires. The legendary Blue Belle that litters on the British Crown and the star sapphire inappropriately named Star of India on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York are from this repository. The location was also known to wise King Solomon who made his scouts travel to Sri Lanka in search of sapphires for Queen Sheba.
Seventeen of the largest blue sapphires in the world have their origins in the Gem City of Sri Lanka. Among them is the Star of India, Blue Giant of the Orient, Queen Mary of Romania, Logan Saphire, Blue Belle of Asia, Catherine the Great’s Sapphire and three sapphires named J.P.Morgan. They are on display in museums and collections from the Smithsonian to the State Diamond Fund of Moscow. Sri Lanka also produces rubies, garnets, zircon, spinel, alexandrite and citrine.
A visit to a gem mine can be an exhilarating and an exciting encounter during your Sri Lanka Holiday.
The grit and determination on the rugged faces of the miners is awe inspiring. The hope in their eyes is as sharp as the luster of the sapphires and rubies they seek, in gem pits about 20m deep.
The city center is a fascinating scene of calibrated bedlam of traders buying and selling uncut stones. A glimpse of this scene is sure to add to your all inclusive Sri Lanka experience.
The places of interest other than the fascinating gem pits and mines are :
- The temple named Pothgul Vihare that dates back to 1st century B.C. 450 steep steps lead to its intricate cave paintings and the statue of the Reclining Buddha.
- The Gemological Museum is a privately owned museum that provides you information and some exhibits that explain the different kinds of stones available in Sri Lanka.
- The Ratnapura Gem Bureau and Museum is another center for the study of precious and semi precious stones of Sri Lanka.
Indeed a place of fascination and wonder, pay a visit to the Gem City and discover a treasure trove from the accessible and familiar to the extravagant and exotic.