Sri Lanka has long been heralded as a place to find incredibly rare sapphires. You may have seen Princess Diana’s engagement ring that now belongs to Catherine “Kate” Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. That spectacle of a piece is an 18-carat Ceylon Royal Blue sapphire surrounded by 14 brilliant diamonds. Ceylon Blue sapphires are only mined in Sri Lanka and the best ones (unheated without inclusions) cost approximately $1,200 per carat.
If you’re not the gemstone-spending type, you have your choice of other beautiful stones being mined in Sri Lanka- Moonstones.
These opaque mineral-rich stones are found in Australia, Madagascar, Burma, Norway, and in some parts of the United States. Like the sapphires, Sri Lankan moonstones are the bluest you’ll find. Their milky-blue hue is rare and has been sought after for centuries.
Moonstones got their name from the ancient Romans, who believed them to be petrified moon rays. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans wore moonstones as jewelry.
While on a trip in 2011, I was able to get an up-close look at how Sri Lankan moonstones are mined and polished. Thanks to Beruwalage Gems & Jewellry in Meetiyagoda, I learned about these magical stones and what it takes to get them ready for purchase.
Miners climb down narrow shafts and emerge with oddly shaped raw versions of what’s to come. The best ones are selected, cut, and polished into shiny works of art. This primitive method of mining hasn’t undergone much change since the 1800’s, but it seems to be working!
So the next time you catch yourself staring into the deep blue gleam of a sapphire, just remember that it takes just as much work to mine a moonstone. Moonstones are considered semi-precious and cost about $100 per carat, making them much more affordable than their darker cousins. Can’t afford a sapphire? No problem.
Solidified mystical moon rays anyone?