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Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon

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Gems.—But the chief interest which attaches to the mountains and rocks of the region, arises from the fact that they contain those mines of precious stones which from time immemorial have conferred renown on Ceylon. The ancients celebrated the gems as well as the pearls of " Taprobane ;" the tales of mariners returning from their eastern expeditions supplied to the storytellers of the Arabian Nights their fables of the jewels of "Serendib;" and the travellers of the Middle Ages, on returning to Europe, told of the " sapphires, topazes, amethysts, garnets, and other costly stones" of Ceylon, and of the ruby which belonged to the King of the island, "a span in length, without a flaw, and brilliant beyond description." (d)
The extent to which gems are still found is sufficient to account for the early traditions of their splendour and profusion; and fabulous as this story of the ruby of the Kandyan Kings may be, the abundance of gems in Saffragam has given to the Capital of the district the name of Ratnapura, which means literally "the city of rubies." (c) They are not, however, confined to this quarter alone, but quantities are still found on the western plains between Adam's Peak and the sea, at Nuwara Eliya, in Uva, at Kandy, at Matale in the Central Province, and at Ruwanwella near Colombo, at Matura, and in the beds of the rivers eastwards towards the ancient Mahagam.
But the localities which chiefly supply the Ceylon gems are the alluvial plains at the foot of the stupendous hills of Saffragam, in which the detritus of the rocks has been carried down and intercepted by the slight elevations that rise at some distance from the base of the mountains. The most remark­able of these gem-bearing deposits in the flat country around Balangoda, south-east of Ratnapura; but almost every valley in communication with the rocks of the higher ranges contains stones of more or less value, and the beds of the rivers flowing southward f.rom the mountain chain are so rich in comminuted fragments of rubies, sapphires, and garnets, (/) that their sands in some places are used by lapidanies in polishing the softer stones, and in sawing the elephants' grinders into plates. The cook of a Government Officer
North Saffragam; 13, Pleonaste, Badulla; 14, Zircon, Walawey-ganga, Saffragam; 15, Mica, Abundant; 16, Adular, Paths Hills, North-east 17, Common felspar, Abundant; 18, Green felspar, Kandy; 19, Albite, Melly Matte; 20, Chlorite, Kandy; 21, Pinite, Patna Hills: 22, Black tourmaline, Nuwara Eliya; 23, Calcspar, Abundant; 24, Bitterspar, Abundant; 25, Apatite, Galle Back; 26, Fluorspar, Galle Back; 27, Ohiastolite, Mount Lwinia; 28, Iron pyrites, Peradenia; 29, Magnetic iron pyrites, Peradeuia, Kajawelle; 30, Brown iron ore, Abundant; 31, Spathose iron ore, Galle Back; 32, Manganese, Saffragam : 33, Molybdeu glance, Abundant; 34, Tin ore, Saffragam; 35, Arseniate of nickel, Saffragam; 36,"Plum­bago. Morowa Korale; 37, Epistilbite, St. Lucia.
,1 Travels of Marco Polo, a I'enetinn, in the Thirteenth Century, London, 1818. e In the vicinity of Ratnapura there are to be obtained misses of quartz of the most delicate rose colour. Some pieces, which were brought to me in Colombo, were of extraordinary beauty; and I have reason to believe that it can be obtained in pieces large enough to be usel as slabs for tables, or formed nto vases and columns. I may observe that similar pieces are to be found in the south of Ireland, near Cork.
/ Mb. Bakes, in a work entitled The Hifie and the Hound in Ceylon, thus describes the sands of the Manic Ganga, near the ruins of Mahagam, in the south-eastern extremity of the island.—" The sand was cutnposed of mica, quartz, sapphire, ruby, and jacinth; but the large proportion of ruby sand was so ex­traordinary that it seemed to rival Sinbad's story of the vale of gems. The whole of this was valueless, but the appearance of the sand was very inviting, as the shallow stream in rippling over it magnified the tiny gems into stones of some magnitude. I passed an hour in vainly searching for a ruby worth collecting, but the largest did not exceed the size of a mustard seed."—Baker's Rijle and Hov.ndL in Ceylon, p. 181.
Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon Page of 442 Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon
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