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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk

Famous Gems and Jewelry of Sri Lanka

The Blue Belle of Asia Sapphire

Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has earned itself the nickname as Ratnadeepa or 'the island of gems' and for very good reason. Various exotic colored gemstone jewelry pieces mounted with Sri Lankan jewels such as sapphire, ruby, garnet and alexandrite can be traced back from jewelry collections all over the world. Today, Sri Lanka is not only the steadiest producer of gem-quality sapphire, but also a source for around 75 of the estimated 130 different types of known gemstones, making it one of the most important geographical locations in the world when it comes to gems and jewelry.

Sri Lanka has been one of the most important sources for gems and jewelry since times of antiquity. Sri Lanka has produced some of the world's most famous gemstones, many of which can be found displayed in priceless jewelry exhibitions all around the world. People from a diverse variety of backgrounds have written about the gems and jewelry of Sri Lanka for hundreds of years. Sri Lanka's rich jewelry history is believed to be over 3,000 years old, dating back to the approximate time of King Solomon's reign, which means that Sri Lanka is home to many of the world's oldest known gem mines. In fact, commercial sapphire mines were already established and in production by the time Marco Polo first arrived in Sri Lanka over 700 years ago, in 1292.

For nearly 30 centuries, Sri Lanka's gems have been an important part of treasured jewelry collections. Indeed, Ceylon's gems have long been prized by the rich and the famous, including royalty and collectors from all parts of the globe. According to legend, King Solomon presented the Queen of Sheba with several pieces of jewelry mounted with gems from Sri Lanka, and biblical scriptures have mentioned gems being taken from Ceylon to King Solomon's court. In 1981, Charles, Prince of Wales gave a 12 carat Ceylon sapphire set in 18K white gold to Lady Diana, and years later, the same sapphire was given by Prince William to Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge. The royal stone was mined from Pelmadulla in the Ratnapura mining district of Sri Lanka. Ratnapura is located about 100km southeast of Colombo and is where most of Sri Lanka's sapphire is produced.

Gold Ring with Blue Sapphire
Gold Ring with Blue Sapphire

In Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution, there are several famous sapphire jewelry pieces featuring Sri Lankan sapphires, including the Logan Sapphire Brooch, the Bismarck Sapphire Necklace, and the Hall Sapphire and Diamond Necklace. The Logan Sapphire Brooch contains a flawless 422.99 cushion-cut Ceylon sapphire believed to be the second largest blue sapphire in the world. The Ceylon sapphire was named after Mrs. John A. Logan who generously donated the brooch to the museum in 1960. The stunning sapphire exhibits a velvety and rich deep blue color and is surrounded by 20 brilliant, round-cut white diamonds.

The Bismarck Sapphire Necklace features a remarkable 98.6 carat Ceylon sapphire set in platinum. It was designed by renowned jewelry designers, Cartier Inc. in 1935. The sapphire is known for its cornflower-blue color and is surrounded by white baguette diamonds and several smaller square-cut blue sapphires, also from Sri Lanka. The Hall Sapphire and Diamond Necklace is another timeless jewelry piece designed by Harry Winston. It features 36 matching cushion-cut Ceylon sapphires, totaling 195 carats. The rich blue sapphires are set in platinum and surrounded by 435 diamonds weighing almost 84 carats in total.

Other famous gems from Sri Lanka include the Blue Giant of the Orient, which is the world's largest faceted blue sapphire; and the Blue Belle of Asia, a 392.53 carat top-grade sapphire that recently sold for over $17 million dollars, making it the most valuable sapphire, due to its price per carat of 44,063. The 'Star of India' which is actually a star sapphire from Sri Lanka, is a 563.35 carat, near-flawless cabochon-cut Ceylon sapphire. It exhibits an unusual double-sided asterism (the star effect) and is currently exhibited in New York's Museum of Natural History. The Star of India was originally acquired by George Kunz, the American mineralogist credited with popularizing the modern market for colored stones in America.

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