WHAT do the Queen of Sheba, the famous Caliph of Baghdad, Haroun Al Raschid, the Duchess of Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana all have in common? They are just some of the famous names fortunate enough to have owned exquisite gemstones mined in Sri Lanka.
According to legend, King Solomon was so smitten with the beautiful Queen of Sheba that he tried to win her love with a giant ruby mined in Sri Lanka. Centuries later, the “Great Ruby of Ceylon”, described as being the size of a pine cone, adorned the cap of a 14th century Chinese emperor. So bright was its light at night that this ruby was known as “The Red Palace-Illuminator”.
When Sinbad the Sailor voyaged to Serendib, as Sri Lanka was known in ancient times, the king gave him a vase “carved from a single ruby, six inches high and as thick as a finger” as a gift for the famous Haroun Al Raschid of Baghdad. The late Duchess of Windsor, an arbiter of style and good taste, was a great lover of jewellery and owned both rubies and sapphires from Sri Lanka. The Duchess was not the only member of the British royalty to be adorned with such stones, for as many as 17 sapphires sparkle from the British Imperial State Crown, and Princess Diana’s engagement ring featured a magnificent blue sapphire from Sri Lanka.
Fortunately for lovers of some of the world’s finest gems, the soil of Sri Lanka still produces a seemingly endless supply of these precious stones. And just as reassuringly, Sri Lanka also has skilled jewellers who produce jewellery that meets the standards of the world’s top jewellery houses. Sri Lankan gems have appreciated enormously over the years and make for an excellent investment. And although they are available around the world, it makes good sense to buy gems while in Sri Lanka, for not only is there an excellent range but the cost is considerably lower, even for the highest quality stones.
Walk into any quality jewellery store in Colombo and many of the sparkling gems that catch the eye will be sapphires, ranging in colour from delicate cornflower blue to deep royal blue. Sri Lanka is renowned for producing the finest and largest blue sapphires in the world, and also has the biggest variety of gems in the world, with 40 out of the 85 gemstones in existence found on the island.