Many are drawn by the ‘island charm’ of Sri Lanka, its natural resources and its proud population. Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” described it as the best place in the world from which to view the universe.
He said: “The island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery and climate as some countries a dozen times its size.”
Sri Lanka — the island jewel of the Indian Ocean — is endowed with the best things that the nature could provide, be it natural landscape or climate.
Its smiling people and precious gems add luster to this resplendent isle. Early Arabs described the island as Serendib, the “land of rubies.” As far back as in 700, Sri Lanka was a familiar port of call of Arab merchants in the Indian Ocean during the period.
Marco Polo wrote of his visit in 1292: “I want you to understand that the island of Ceylon is, for its size, the finest island in the world, and from its streams comes rubies, sapphires, topazes, amethyst and garnet.” Little has changed since Marco Polo’s time.
Many ancient travelers and traders made Sri Lanka one of their destinations for valuable treasures of gems. The Arabian Nights regales readers with the description of Sinbad the Sailor discovering the rarest and most precious rainbow-hued priceless gemstones on the island of Sri Lanka, when he was washed ashore here.
Geologically, gemstones originated within a broad belt known as the Highland Series, which runs through the center of Sri Lanka. The edges of the belt form a trough bordered by chains of mountains and peaks. The trough, made up of highly crystalline Precambrian metamorphosed rock, featured components of schists, quartzite, marbles, and sometimes pegmatite deposits. Rock erosion resulted in the formation of extensive gem-laden placer deposits along streambeds in lower valleys.
Gems found here are far superior to those found in the rest of the world. Perfected in the laboratory of nature, they lay hidden for countless ages. The radiance, luminosity and other qualities attributed to Sri Lankan gems are of the highest quality, Added to this, the exquisite craftsmanship of the local jewelers has made Sri Lanka a paradise for lovers of gems and gem-studded jewelry.
While traditional designs are still in great demand, Sri Lankan jewelers have reoriented their craftsmanship to cater to foreigners. Most leading jewelry manufacturers showcase their collections overseas at jewelry trade fairs, where they find many buyers from all over the world.
The National Gem and Jewelry Authority (NGJA) of Sri Lanka is the only regulatory body of the gem and jewelry trade in Sri Lanka.
The authority exercises a quality control function in the trade as the law says that all gem and jewelry exported from Sri Lanka should be compulsorily channeled through its export division.
This is in order to ensure that only genuine gems and jewelry are exported from Sri Lanka, boosting the profile of the country as a source of genuine and reliable gems and jewelry of very high quality.
The gems and jewelry are tested for genuineness by a panel consisting of NGJA and Sri Lanka Customs gemologists.
Besides the authority also maintains a state-of-the-art gem-testing laboratory, providing gem testing and certification facilities for a nominal fee for the local gem dealers, and completely free of charge for foreigners.
It also exercises regulatory functions such as issuing licenses to gem dealers, miners, and lapidaries, and also licenses for gem auctions and gem-land auctions.
The authority also provides the following services on payment: Providing a brief opinion on the authenticity of gems, valuation services for banks, assaying and hallmarking of jewelry, valuation reports for migrants and technical training for those engaged in the pawn-broking trade.
The NGJA offers its expertise in identifying primary and secondary gem deposits in potential gem-bearing areas in Sri Lanka.
It also provides comprehensive scientific reports and environmental impact assessments on gem exploration. The organization is involved in research and training activities and offers courses in gem identification, gemology, lapidary training, jewelry designing, jewelry manufacturing and on the heat treatment of milk corundum, locally known as “Geuda.” It has facilitated export procedure by bringing together all arms involved in export activities under one roof at its headquarters in Colombo.
The NGJA is also involved in the setting up and management of the Sri Lanka Gem and Jewelry Exchange, the state-sponsored gem and jewelry gallery in Sri Lanka. The facilities available at the exchange include a service center to promote and facilitate the export-oriented gem and jewelry trade and gem testing and certification facilities offered by the NGJA.