Exploring Sri Lanka
In January 2017, Laurie, passionate gemologist, whom you can meet in our Boutique in Saint Germain des Prés, went to Sri Lanka and took the opportunity to visit the different gems places.
She tells us about her experience and explains that we can find gems from different ways. During her journey, she notably experienced the "Miner’s Pan", went to a mine in Ratnapura, but also to the Local Markets. In each of these places, it is possible to find gems, rough or already cut.
Laurie tells us.
The miner’s pan
The miner’s pan is a conical instrument, allowing the search for gems in rivers. With the help of "large rakes", it is advisable to bring the bottom of the river towards you in order to carry out a first sorting directly in water. Laurie did not hesitate a second, rolled up her sleeves and threw herself into the water.
Following this first sorting, in general, the team or property manager takes care of the second sorting himself to separate the gems which will be studied for the cut.
A Mine in Ratnapura
Ratnapura, means in Sinhalese "The City of Gems".
In an underground mine, the practice is to work the ore from an excavation created below the ground surface.
In general, Sri Lankan underground mines are only a few meters deep. The one visited by Laurie in Ratnapura, goes down to about 8 meters below the ground, and is divided into a multitude of horizontal galleries.
Each mine gets its own operation, but all have the same goal of profitability, safety and respect for the environment. Indeed, infrastructures ensuring ventilation, dewatering (the diversion by pumping of infiltrated water), access for miners and the removal of ore, are essential.
Once the ore has been evacuated, then, it will be treated by a more or less complex washing system which can include vibrations, separating the materials thanks to their density difference. This allows an initial sorting and to determine if the vein is promising.
The production of this mine is often made of rough Corundums, some of which approach the perfect form of "Bipyramidal" crystallization.However, Sri Lankan rich soils offer to the luckiest, the discovery of deep rough sapphires of more than 300 grams, or 1,500 Carats.Unfortunately, our adventurer did not have this chance, but came out rich with new knowledge and anecdotes.
Royal Blue Sapphire ,coming from a mine further north, weight around 1 000 carats.
The Beruwala local market.
The markets are well-known meeting places where locals, traders, amateur or experienced tourists meet, and "Brokers". The “Brokers” deal with rough and / or facetted stones. They sell their stones to traders from all over the country and abroad, in "offices" or even in the street. Most are Sri Lankan Muslims who speak Tamil and sometimes English. This is the reason why it’s best to learn a few words and numbers unless you’re accompanied by an interpreter.
A word from the adventurer after this gemological field experience
“I cannot list all the splendors crossed in Sri Lanka. What comes at first in mind is left are striking encounters, simplicity and a sweet life. The infinite horizon of authentic green landscapes, walking barefoot most of the time, the animal orchestra at dusk ...But then, the wonder in front of breathtaking gems finally makes me think of trading again ! A human and gemological experience that has enriched me a lot. Besides, I am still in contact with locals and international people met on the field.
For the record, I joined this expedition at the last minute while a trip to France was scheduled. I had the pleasure of celebrating my 23rd birthday there, surrounded by fabulous people I had just met, an unforgettable birthday!
Crédit photos : ©Laurie Boizard 2017