trade in Precious Stones has considerably increased since the year
1860. Discoveries have been made in many parts of the world, and S.
Africa, India, Siam, Ceylon and Australia, now form the great emporiums.
Pegu, said to be famous for its market of beautiful gems of all kinds,
received yearly a very large sum for its exports ; so also did Ceylon,
from which island we even now obtain some few of our coloured Stones,
especially Cats' Eyes, Sapphires and Rubies generally of an inferior
colour and quality. During the dynasty of the Kandy Rulers, the right
of digging for Precious Stones was most jealously guarded as a royal
prerogative, and the inhabitants of particular villages, under the
supervision of hereditary overseers, were occupied in the search for
gems. A number of men are constantly occupied in this exciting and
precarious business ; and the idle and disorderly adventurers who visit
the villages are the cause of great immorality among the inhabitants.
The results of their labors they used to sell to the Malays who came to
Saffragam with cloth and salt, which they exchanged for Precious
Stones. At the yearly Bhudda Festival in August there is a jewel market
held in Ratnapura, whither those interested in jewels flock from all
parts of Ceylon.