A new source of high-quality blue sapphires has been unearthed in Thammannawa, a small village located in south eastern Sri Lanka. This new source has led to an increase mining and exploration in the surrounding area and all of the country. The source is producing well-formed sapphire crystals that have good transparency and a pure blue color that is characteristic of sapphires of the highest quality, such as Kashmir. Of the several pounds of rough material that have been produced so far, there have been some crystals weighing over 200 grams! The resulting gems are sapphires of fine blue color with a few weighing 20 plus carats.
The first to discover the sapphires was a truck driver working on a local road reconstruction, when he noticed certain shiny pebbles glittering in the gravel while working in the area. After stopping the truck to see what the pebbles were he thought they may have some value, filled 2 sacs full and abandoned his truck. Word quickly spread and thousands of people rushed to the site and began hauling away bags full of the newly laid gravel and soil.
Primitive mining lasted only a day or two until the area was secured by the local authorities, police and the National Gem & Jewellery Authority (or NGJA, the agency responsible for protecting sources of gems found on federal lands.)
The NGJA and laboratories soon verified the gems to be fine quality sapphires and available in commercial quantities, which has revived exploration and gem mining activities in this southeast region of Sri Lanka, which was previously know to contain only garnet. Mining in the auctioned lands is progressing quickly, and the collected gravel is still being washed. So far only a limited amount of sapphire material has been mounted into jewelry, but with the amounts and qualities being produced, we should expect to see more to come soon.