The island of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon is nicknamed the ‘Jewel box' of the Indian Ocean, and has been recognised throughout history for its spectacular abundance and astonishing range of precious gemstones.
Despite being a small country, Sri Lanka is rich in a natural wealth of stones and has produced quantities of many types of gemstones such as garnet, moonstone, peridot, spinel and topaz but to name a few. Sri Lanka is however primarily known for its profusion of corundum gems, for example the prized phenomenal gems such as star sapphires, the rainbow hues of fancy colour sapphires, and notably the extraordinary and highly sought after padparadscha sapphires.
Of the most famous old mines, the Ceylon mines produced the largest quantity, as well as being the earliest source of sapphires in the world. Veddahs, the indigenous people of Ceylon, were the first people to come across the coloured pebbles in the sandy bottom of streams. From their discovery, the island became surrounded in myth and legend because of its treasure of beautiful, previously unheard of gemstones. One legend has it that King Solomon wooed the Queen of Sheba with jewellery set with Ceylon gemstones in 10th century BC. The island and its gems were even known to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians and inspired the early 9th century ‘Arabian Nights' tales.
Ceylon sapphires are celebrated for their bright mid blue colour, often referred to as a distinctive ‘cornflower' blue hue. This attractive colour is typically a lighter shade of blue than sapphires from other mines across the world.