When you hear the name Ceylon, you would immediately think of beaches lined with palm trees, tea plantations and of course, their famous lovely blue sapphires. Now known as Sri Lanka, this island nation has been supplying the world with some very fine gemstones for the past 2,000 years, and it is one of the oldest sources in recorded history.
Marco Polo visited Ceylon on his world tour. He wrote about the wonderful variety of sapphires and rubies found there. After hearing the news, the great Kaan sent a group of his ambassadors to meet with the King of the island. They tried to buy the largest and finest of their gems, but with no success. The King of Ceylon would not sell them because the best gemstones had been passed down from his ancestors.
A fine example of one of Ceylon's finest Natural Heated Sapphire
To this day, Sri Lanka is still one of the world’s largest sources of fine quality blue sapphire. It is a place where one can regularly find excellent gems over the 100 carat mark. Many of the famous large sapphires in museums around the world came from this gemstone rich tropical island. Sri Lanka is also a very well known source for fine quality star sapphires.
The classic “cornflower blue” is what Sri Lanka is best known for. The finest of the sapphires from Ceylon are a very even and intense pure blue color, with a high degree of saturation. This bright and medium toned shade of blue is highly prized around the world, and is considered to be far superior to the often overly dark and inky colors commonly found in Australia and Thailand.
Great example of the legendary "Peacock" Blue displayed here on this 7.81 cts Natural Heated Ceylon Sapphire.
The area know as Ratnapura sits right in the middle of the gem producing area of Sri Lanka. Surrounding this town one can see hundreds of small to large hand dug pits where the gemming (Sri Lankan term for gem mining) is going on. The government has put a total ban on mechanized mining, thereby assuring a tight supply, stable prices, and a source of income for many future generations of poor indigenous laborers.
The clever artisans of Ceylon discovered centuries ago that the application of heat could sometimes improve the color or the clarity of certain gems. They would coat a stone in mud, which protected the gem and evened out the heat. Then they would place them in a simple charcoal fire. With the use of blow pipes they would intensify and direct the flame on the ball of mud until it glowed bright orange from the heat.
Prime example of a Heated Cornflower Blue Ceylon Sapphire
This process would be carried on anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. The ball would then be allowed to cool. When it was finally broken open, the owner would inspect the gem for improvement. The lucky ones wound up with a stronger colored or a cleaner looking gem. The unlucky ones found either no change, or sometimes the stones even suffered damage during the process. Today this common technology has been refined so that there is a high degree of success.
The true connoisseur of gems is often willing to pay a considerable amount to purchase that perfect cornflower blue gem of their dreams. So when you start looking for that blue sapphire of your dreams, you will know to ask your jeweler for a cornflower blue gem from Ceylon, which you now know is called Sri Lanka.
©Jeffery L Bergman, SSEF SGC