At the centre of all things to do with Gems, is the quiet city of Ratnapura. In the last century, it has become exceedingly popular for gems. In fact, it is the leading city in the entire Island of Sri Lanka for the gem mining industry.
A large variety of stones are mined from the city’s abundantly mineralized soil. These include Sapphires, Alexandrite, Garnets, Topazes, Rubies, Tourmaline, and a host of other precious stones. Of course, each stone doesn’t come out of the earth as a dazzling polished piece as we are all used to seeing. The process of valuing, cutting and polishing the stones too are done by the local merchants. These export quality stones are then ready to be sold to the highest bidders.
While walking through the busy market places in Ratnapura, the word “Gem” or “Sapphire” only needs to be uttered once, many traders would emerge out of thin air, trying to offer you their stock for what they call the best price on the market. Their pockets filled with tiny paper envelopes containing stones of all shapes and sizes. If gems intrigue you, the local gem museum should be one of the places on your visit list.
If you do decide to stay in Ratnapura, it doesn’t only have to be about gems. There are other interesting sites to see. One important one would be the Sinharaja Rainforest. A guided tour into this majestic forest can be easily organized, and it will be worth it. Sinharaja is home to a large variety of bird and animal alike. The creepy crawlies and tiny reptiles would be seen scurrying away from footsteps all through the jungle floor. The thick canopy protects the saplings from the harsh sunlight. The ground is dense with decaying leaves and undergrowth, as well as the moisture collected over the rainy periods. Having a guide would be most helpful rather than wandering through the jungle alone.
There are also many religious sites around Ratnapura as well. These hold both a rich history and many stories behind each place. Tours to the temples and kovils can be organized with ease as well.