The gem mining history of Sri Lanka is well over 2500 year old. It has its unique traditional methods which preserved the identity of the country throughout the years making it one of the oldest cooperative work systems in the country.
According to geological history, gemstones were discovered in this charming island not prior to 500 B.C. During this period the Buddhists who traveled to Sri Lanka from Northern India found some precious gems while taking their bath in the streams and rivers of this island. The erosion of the rocks resulted to elongated placer deposits laden with precious gemstones in the beds of the flowing streams in the valleys which were located in the lower altitudes. During the course of their travels they traded these stones in the different markets of Asia and Europe. In this manner the gemstones reached new destinations in different parts of the globe.
Among them are Record of the Buddhist Countries (around A.D. 412) by the Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien and The Historic Tragedy of the Island of Ceylon (A.D. 1685) by Portuguese Army Captain Joao Ribeiro.
Native Veddahs, bathing in smooth flowing streams, noticed colored pebbles scattered in sandy bottoms. It was not until 500 B.C. that conquering Buddhists from northern India also discovered gems in the rivers and began to set rough stones into crude jewelry.
Lanka's location, astride the sea routes between the East and the West, exposed it to wide cultural and political influence throughout its history. Also these marine routes that led close to the country gave good opportunities for gem traders.
The most commonly used Gemstone mining methods in Sri Lanka are Pit-Head Mining and Tunneling. Surface Placer Mining and River Bed Dredging are the other methods used widely.
The conserved Sri Lankan soil with the traditional mining methods preserves the valuable gems for the future generations.