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Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon

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GEMS IN CEYLON.
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Ifhere were some very valuable pits at Weralupe, which originally were tlaimed and held by the Temple, but when the land was "rejected" by the Temple Land Commissioner and taken over by the Crown, the Government Agent called on his Assistant lo slop the gemming operations, and to assert the rights of the Government.
These pits were afterwards sold, but close to the stream and adjoining the Assistant Agent's house there are still some gemming grounds which are considered valuable. A short time ago it was brought to the notice of my predecessor, Mr. Russell, that parties were again gemming in these pits and streams. He then issued the general order complained of by petitioners, and I have caused that order to be strictly enforced.
The question as to whether or not it would be advisable to derive a revenue by leasing the right to gem on Crown lands has before been brought to the notice bf Government, and having read over the correspondence, I do not find the reasons urged against such a proceeding to be so convincing as to prevent me from expressing my opinion in favour of the suggestions made by Messrs. Mitford and Mooyart, and I most strongly recommend that the right of gemming on Government lands should be annually leased. In this I differ from the gentlemen aforenamed, that I recommend an annual lease and not a collection of .revenue by license tickets.
It appears to me that to altogether prevent persons gemming on waste lands and in public streams, unless the Government intend to prosecute the search for gems themselves, is to conceal the resources of the country and to prevent the development of a trade, which is, I consider, capable of very great extension.
From enquiries t have made, I find that about ,£4,000 to ^5,000 worth of gems are exported from the Sabaragamuwa district each year, and there can be no doubt that many of these gems are found in public streams and on waste lands. It is calculated by those who are qualified to judge of such matters, that if any person bought the right to gem on Crown lands, and could conduct his operations openly and not as at present by stealth, that he would realize at least ^3,000 a year. When persons owning land on which gems are known to be found give gemmers the right to search, they exact a proportion varying from one-third to one-fifth of all the gems discovered! Taking this as a standard, the right to gem Crown lands in Sabaragamuwa should rent for about ^700 or ,£800 a year.
This calculation, though in excess of the estimates made by Messrsi Mitford and Mooyart is under what I am led to believe the rent for 1868 would realize, and unless I have been greatly and purposely mis-informed, the figures I quote are under the general estimates made by persons possessing practical knowledge of the matter.
The agent here of the principal jeweller (Assena Marikaf or the Gem Notary) tells me that the rent would fetch more than ^tooo a year, and that he himself would be inclined to offer ,£500 a year for the right to gem in one stream alone (the Niwitigala River).
But the rent of the first year would probably be far less than would be obtained in after years, for it would soon become known what sums had been realized and what spots had produced stones of any value. I doubt not that offers would be made to buy some of the lands, whilst the value of the right to gem would not be diminished, for each year new pits would be sunk and fresh discoveries made.
In 1866 Mr. Birch sold 1 } acres of such lands (close to the Asst. Govti Agent's house) in lots, and realized £\ZO. One lot of t7 perches Or 22 yards square fetched the sum of /nj 15s, and I am told by a shareholder in this purchase, that the purchasers sunk two pits in the land (which is large enough to contain five pits), and in last year realized over £$03, and cleaned
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Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon Page of 442 Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon
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