Gem Central Sri Lanka - A Gem of an Island

An extraordinary number of Gem-A and NAJ members came to this month's Gem Central to hear Colin and Hilary Winter share their love and passion for Sri Lanka. Barbara Kolator FGA DGA reports on the evening.

This October Colin and Hilary Winter will be hosting a joint Gem-A and NAJ trip to Sri Lanka and the Gem Central on the evening 8 May was a taste of things to come.

Read more: Delving into Organics with Maggie Campbell Pedersen FGA ABIPP

We started off with a virtual tour of the island: a spectacular view of the flight into Colombo airport, followed by the Mount Lavinia Hotel, where the tour will be based. On the itinerary are trips to Kandy, Ratnapura and Galle to see not only gem mining, treating and trading areas but also local animals, plants and historic World Heritage sites.

Colin and Hilary really know the island well and their knowledge and love of it and the people, came across extremely vividly. Their enthusiasm wore off on me too and Sri Lanka really seems like the most remarkable place, with an ideal climate (18-32°C), charming people, luxurious hotels, tasty food, deserted beaches and not forgetting many, many beautiful gemstones. In other words the ideal destination for a group of gemmologists!

Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie.
Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie.

Naturally we all wanted to know about the mines and the gems. It was interesting to hear that most of the mining is done in the gem gravels which can be 30-40 m deep, requiring the gravel to be pumped out. All the work is done by hand with only basic equipment. When the minerals are worked out, they are put back with the area reverting back to farmland.

Garnet, quartz and zircon can be bought easily and cheaply and set into jewellery, at a very reasonable price (with a bit of haggling) within 24 hours.

Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie.
Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie

It was a fascinating evening with something for everyone, particularly for those interested in embarking upon an adventure.

Interested in attending this trip of a lifetime?

For anyone in the jewellery industry, nothing beats seeing and handling gems in their natural state, in their country of origin.

This is why Gem-A and the NAJ are offering members the chance of a lifetime to embark upon a trip to Sri Lanka.

A two week escorted tour, with fantastic opportunities to buy gems, visit mines and see gem cutters in action, including a 4x4 safari.


Departure: 16 October 2017


£2,250 per person, based on two people sharing (single supplement £550). Deposits of £1,250 per person are currently being taken. This price is inclusive of economy class flights by Sri Lankan Airways from London Heathrow. Please note you will require money for meals and any gems you would like to purchase.

You will require your own travel insurance for the trip and visa for Sri Lanka, your passport must be valid until May 2018 (six months after you are due to return from the trip). Your insurance details will be required eight weeks prior to departure. 

Interested in registering for this incredible adventure? Contact the NAJ membership department 0121 237 1109.

Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie.
Contents of a gem parcel from Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Elaine Ruddie.

Hosted once a month at Gem-A headquarters at Ely Place London, Gem Central evenings are a unique opportunity to learn from experts and meet fellow gemmology enthusiasts. Free for Gem-A members and students, or just £10 for non-members. ■

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Interested in attending a Gem Central event? For more information about our upcoming Gem Central events visit the Gem Central page or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cover image sunset in Sri Lanka

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