A Journey to the Heart of Sri Lanka's Gemstone Marvel with Ruwanpura Gems

| Esther Ligthart | News & Stories

Embarking on a sparkling journey to the sapphire mines of Ruwanpura Gems in Sri Lanka was an experience that filled my friends, peers, and even myself with anticipation and a touch of envy. The adventure began with a conversation missed during the pandemic with Fura Gems about visiting their ruby mines in Mozambique. This chat evolved into an exciting invitation from Tracey Ellison while wandering the beautiful streets of Arezzo. Before I knew it, we were planning our trip at the JCK Las Vegas show, leading me to board a plane from Schiphol airport to Colombo, filled with expectations and excitement.

Schiphol to Colombo, Sri Lanka, the trip begins!

Landing in Colombo introduced me to the vibrant chaos of Sri Lankan streets, a far cry from the chilly winds of the Netherlands. The dynamic driving marked my first impressions, as did the omnipresent Buddha statues and the transition from the vivid streets to the luxurious coastal hotels. Meeting Tracey, Instagram's biggest jewelry influencer with over 1.2 million followers, reaffirmed the trip's significance. Her dedication to her craft and the extensive travel to meet client expectations highlighted the influence and hard work behind her success.

Ratnapura: The Gemstone Heartland

Our journey to Ratnapura, the gemstone capital of Sri Lanka, was an eye-opening experience (and a challenging one; let's say I was happy I took my motion sickness pills!)Here, we visited Ruwanpura Gems' cutting factory, where the commitment to ethical labor practices was evident. Despite the concerns about labor exploitation in the gemstone industry, our visit dispelled these doubts, showcasing Ruwanpura's dedication to fair labor practices and environmental sustainability. The factory's operations and the government's regulations on mine restoration underscored the balance between business and nature conservation.

That evening's transition from our hotel to a personal dinner invitation at one of the Ruwanpura owners' homes was the prelude to an unforgettable encounter. The initial discomfort stemming from my Dutch inclination towards egalitarianism in the presence of household staff soon gave way to a profound connection and understanding. Our host shared the poignant story of his family, particularly about his son, a compassionate soul taken too early at 18 during the Covid pandemic. His legacy of modesty and altruism was palpable in the room that once was his, adorned with wooden signs bearing messages of kindness and charity.

The revelation that he began bidding farewell to loved ones without any forewarning of illness struck a chord, a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the depth of human intuition. Invited to witness the tangible memories of his son's life—his reading glasses, favored books, and the inspirational signs that adorned his walls—I was enveloped in a moment of shared humanity that transcended cultural and geographical divides.

This intimate glimpse into our host's world, marked by loss and enduring love, was a powerful testament to the hosts' and their company's values. It underscored the universal themes of family, compassion, and the impact of leaving a positive imprint on the world, regardless of the brevity of one's time within it. This dinner, more than just a meal, was an unforgettable memory, etching a narrative of resilience, kindness, and the enduring strength of human connections.

The Sapphire Mines!

Venturing into the mining operations overseen by Ruwanpura Gems offered a revelation far removed from preconceived notions. With stewardship over three mines and partnerships extending to four more, Ruwanpura's approach to gemstone extraction is a lesson in sustainability and ethical practices. The process, though seemingly straightforward, is a delicate dance with nature. A digging machine carefully places soil onto a conveyor belt, transporting it to a large container where a thorough wash separates the precious from the mundane. This method, designed to minimize environmental impact, culminates in the exciting moment when the search for gemstones begins.

This gentle excavation process starkly contrasts with the stringent security measures and meticulous checks I had heard were common in mines in other countries, where the fear of valuable stones being 'accidentally' pocketed necessitates armed guards. Instead, Ruwanpura's mines foster an environment of trust and transparency, emphasizing the ethical retrieval of gemstones.

Opening a treasure chest

The unveiling of the container was akin to opening a treasure chest.

Tracey and I, fueled by anticipation, delved into the search with zeal. The discovery of sapphires embedded within the earth's palette was more complex than one might imagine. Instead, it required patience and discernment, making each find—a spinel or another gem—a moment of pure delight. The joy of these discoveries, set against Sri Lanka's natural beauty backdrop, was a childhood dream realized.

The day's intensity was tempered by the simple pleasure of a refreshing coconut drink, shared in the company of a friendly dog that seemed to embody the welcoming spirit of the land—this moment of repose highlighted the harmonious relationship between Ruwanpura's mining practices and the surrounding environment—a testament to their commitment to ethical mining.

One night in Bangkok

After exploring the mines, we were treated to a delightful lunch in a majestic white building a stone's throw away from the offices. This brief respite was much needed, for we were to embark on an overnight journey to Bangkok later that evening. Despite the anticipation, sleep was elusive, but the excitement of the adventure kept our spirits high. Our arrival in Bangkok was marked by luxury as we traveled first class, landing in the heart of the city's vibrant jewelry district.

Meeting Fon and her team at the Bangkok headquarters was an experience. With its breathtaking views and showroom nestled within the Jewelry Center, the office exuded sophistication and elegance. Immersed in the world of gemstones, we captured content, marveling at the myriad of stones that sparkled under the showroom lights. The team's passion and commitment to their craft were palpable, and their enthusiasm was infectious.

Among the many treasures, two pieces caught my eye: the sapphire rainbow rings, a spectacle of color and craftsmanship, and a star sapphire that was nothing short of mesmerizing. It was love at first sight with the star sapphire; its beauty was compelling, a gem that stood out for its aesthetic appeal and the story it whispered to those who beheld it. This encounter was a testament to the allure of gemstones, a moment where admiration turned into a deep, lasting appreciation.

Forgoing rest for adventure, our afternoon was spent navigating the bustling streets in a tuk-tuk, an experience filled with laughter and slight apprehension about the laws of physics as they pertain to a tall Dutch woman in a small vehicle. Despite my fears, the ride was smooth and filled with joy, a testament to the vibrant life that pulses through the city's veins. We enjoyed a fab massage and the pure luxury of our 5-star hotel.

My friend Tracey

With her commanding presence on Instagram and a work ethic that would humble the most diligent among us, Tracey proved to be the ideal travel partner. Her dedication to crafting the finest content for her clients, and in this instance for Ruwanpura Gems, showcased an impressive level of organization and creativity. Her ability to illuminate the beauty of our experiences through her lens left me in awe, enriching our journey with every shared moment. I learned a lot from her, but most of all, I treasure her friendship!

The evening culminated on a hotel rooftop, overlooking Bangkok's nocturnal beauty, cocktail in hand, feeling the gentle caress of the night air. It was so surreal that I found myself in disbelief at the beauty and serenity of it all.

Returning to Sri Lanka

Our return to Colombo was marked by a pre-dawn departure, the tranquility of our recent memories juxtaposed with a visit to the elephants of Sri Lanka. While the ethics of elephant sanctuaries remain a complex issue, with some instances of exploitation marring the noble intent, our encounter was with genuine moments of joy as the elephants, including the youngest among them, made their daily trek to the river. Witnessing their unbridled happiness as they splashed and played, trumpeting gleefully, was a profoundly moving experience. Yet, seeing some elephants still in chains was a stark reminder of the ongoing struggles for animal welfare.

With its breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity, Sri Lanka sits at a crossroads of beauty and challenges. The contrast between the natural wonders and the socioeconomic realities of its people highlights a broader conversation on conservation and ethical tourism. Through my eyes, the journey was not just a travelogue but a call to action, reminding us of our responsibility towards advocating for the voiceless, ensuring that our explorations contribute positively to the narratives of both children and animals alike.

This adventure with Ruwanpura Gems was more than a trip to the mines; it was a journey through the heart of Sri Lanka's gemstone industry, marked by unforgettable experiences, the warmth of new friendships, and a deeper understanding of the ethical considerations in gemstone mining. I am grateful to my friend Tracey, who invited me on this magnificent trip. I am grateful to Ruwanpura for this enriching experience, which has left me with lasting memories and a profound respect for their dedication to ethical gemstone production. Ruwanpura Gems embodies the spirit of innovation, quality, and responsibility, making this journey an unforgettable chapter in my life.




Ruwanpura Gems' meticulous process of selecting and cutting gemstones and their commitment to quality and sustainability sets a high standard in the gemstone industry. The dedication to crafting each gem with precision and care, from the raw stones to the final beautiful gems, reflects their commitment to excellence and ethical practices. 

Discover the Dazzling Legacy of Ruwanpura Gems: A Journey from Gold to Gemstones

  • Established Legacy: Since 1985, Ruwanpura Gems has carved a niche in the gold and gemstone industry, starting its journey with a strong foundation in gold jewelry under the name Ruwanpura Gold House and Ratnapura Gold House.
  • Innovative Transition: Embracing innovation, the founders envisioned integrating colored gemstones into their 22KT pure gold jewelry, overcoming initial resistance from craftsmen and employers accustomed to traditional gold craftsmanship.
  • Meticulous Craftsmanship: The transition to incorporating colored gemstones was marked by detailed selection processes, ensuring only the finest stones were used, setting a new standard in jewelry manufacturing.

Strategic Expansion:

  • By 1998, Ruwanpura Gems expanded its horizons, exporting gems internationally while maintaining its reputation for high-quality gold jewelry.
  • The early 2000s saw further growth with establishing branch sales offices in Bangkok, followed by an expansion to Hong Kong by 2010.

Global Presence:

  • Directors Arshed Aroos, Sharik Sailani, Ishfaq Lahir, and Mushtak Nadeem lead Ruwanpura Gems with a vision of global outreach, establishing branches in strategic locations including Colombo, Ratnapura, and international markets.
  • Investments in gemstone mining in Madagascar and Mozambique by 2012 and the establishment of a North American branch in the Greater Chicago Area by 2014 highlight Ruwanpura's commitment to growth and exploration.
  • Commitment to Sustainability: A dedication to socially and environmentally responsible sourcing is at the heart of Ruwanpura Gems' success. 

The company ensures

  • Strict adherence to labor and environmental standards in its mining operations.
  • A transparent chain of custody for their gemstones, ensuring ethical sourcing and production.
  • Ruwanpura Gems' journey from a pioneering gold house to a globally recognized name in the gemstone industry is a testament to the power of innovation, quality, and ethical business practices. Join us in celebrating the rich legacy and bright future of Ruwanpura Gems, where tradition meets modernity in every sparkling creation.




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