Gemmology Of Ancient Sri Lanka

According to the eleventh century writing of the Arab scholar and scientist Al-Biruni, ancient Sri lankans Were aware of the technology to treat spinel varieties to eliminate unwanted hues and to enhance colour and clarity (Themelis,1992)

Sri lanka is famous from time immemorial for many varieties of gemstones.
According to the past records, our ancestors were conversant
with the expertise of differentiating each variety of gemstones
and enhancing the colour/clarity of the gemstones.

The variety name corundum is considered to have originated from Sri Lanka,
even in the olden days, our forefathers could differentiate corundum (ruby) from garnet or spinel.
In the days of the kings, officials were appointed to supervise the gem mines
and were empowered to decree the gems valued over a cetain predetermined amount
(This amount was decided dy the King) as the king\'s property while
the rest allowed as possessions of the gem-miner.

Obviously these officials were very familiar with gems found in Sri Lanka.
They were able to differentiate each variety of gemstones
by merely observing the stones in bright sunlight and were quite efficient
in identifying fakes because trading in fakes was widespread
even at the beginning of the gem industry itself.
The manufacture of man-made gams began around 4000 BC.
The first productions recorded were of blue glazed material made to imitate Iapis Iazuli.

Contemporary Europeans were not so conversant with coloured gemstone.
Even the famous Black prince\'s Ruby, which was set to the front face
of Imperial State Crown of Great Britain,was considered to be a RUBY
till recent times although it is a spinel.(Figure 1).

All these years in sri lanka gemmology was regarded as a trade but not as a science.
Experience was the criterion.
Most experienced persons came to the forefront as gemmologists
or successful gem merchants. Fortunately, those days there were no synthetics
and imitations as well as look-alikes were the only available fakes.

This trend somewhat changed at the beginining of the twentieth century
when synthetic gem material frequented the market.
Synthetic gems produced by various methods such as flame-fusion process,
flux-melt growth, crystal-pulling process and hydrothermal growth entered the market at a rapid pace.
At first most gemmologists were confused but subsequenty
once they had gone through several gemstones of each variety
they were able to identify and differentiate natural from synthetic.