Sri Lanka was once known as Ratna-Dweepa, which means “Gem Island” in Sanskrit.
Because it was, and it still is today, one of the world´s largest gem sources. Blue sapphires are the most renowned precious gemstones found and sourced in Sri Lanka, but as many as 75 other gems can also be found in Ceylon, including red rubies, cat’s eyes, alexandrite, tourmalines, zircons, garnets, amethysts and topaz – and there are only 130 classified gemstones in the world!
Imagine a place where you can find 50% of all the variety of existing gemstones. If you think about it, Sri Lanka is a real treasure island!
Throughout history, gems from Sri Lanka have dressed the crowns, thrones and tiaras of many emperors, including the British Monarchy. In 1981, Prince Charles presented Lady Diana with the most beautiful 12-carat blue Ceylon sapphire ring, and later Prince William offered it to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, as her engagement ring. The precious royal stone was sourced from the Ratnapura mining district of Sri Lanka, located 100km south-east of Colombo and 150km from OTP Hotel.
Sri Lanka has three main areas where gemstones are sourced: Elahera, Ratnapura and Galle (Meetiyagoda). The moonstone mines of Meetiyagoda are the most frequently visited by our guests, as they are only 45min away from Thalpe. We love moonstones because they are understated and extremely elegant, especially because of their unique blue hue, rarely found outside Sri Lanka.
Did you know the moonstones are called this way because Romans believed they were petrified rays of moon?
Today all the main cities in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Ratnapura are filled with gem and jewellery shops, offering the most varied set of precious stones. The National Gem and Jewellery Authority controls the industry and is vigilant for fake products. When shopping for gems, always look for licensed stores approved by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority.
Our favourite town for jewellery shopping is of course Galle. There are several little shops inside the Fort selling the most beautiful precious stones one could ever imagine. One of them is the Pedlar’s Inn Jewellers, situated in the middle of Pedlar’s Inn Café, offering a great selection of Sri Lankan stones and designs. And Jo-Jo, also on Pedlar’s Street, is a new jeweller in the scene, with a great collection of bespoke and antique pieces. Another special and quite unknown little spot for shopping precious stones is the 1950 Souvenir Shop. This is an antique shop selling jewellery, woodcarvings and other art pieces. Located on Matara Road in Unawatuna, there you can experience the unique opportunity of observing the art of cutting and polishing gems.
At OTP Hotel, we love gems and precious stones so much that we decided we had to open our own quirky little shop, to offer our bespoke, OTP Signature jewellery pieces. In our retail shop, you will find the finest, most exclusive jewellery designs. Our signature pieces are of rough, yet sophisticated style. From tiny delicate earrings to sumptuous rings and lavish necklaces, you will find at our retail shop all the treasures you could ever imagine.
In Sri Lanka, wherever you go, you will find jewellery shops selling precious and semi-precious stones to delight your eyes, and daydream of being a royal princess!
No wonder it’s called the Gem Island!