The Serendib Gem jewels are born out of love, as a matter of fact, a consecutive bursts of love.
There are only three places in the world whose land is richer in gems than Sri Lanka’s. The first is Columbia, which yields 90 percent of the world’s emerald supply, then the African diamond mines, followed by Madagascar.
However, even this modest 4th place is the result of the fact that one fourth of Sri Lanka’s land is gem-bearing. Sri Lanka's gem mining is derived from sedimentary gem deposits, so gems can be found among rivers, and more precisely, anywhere where water flows.
– I know there is sapphire in the well! – Sunil has been saying for a while now. – We are going to strip the well! He means our well behind the house, where we get our delicious drinking water from. And one day the team sets out.
After the Great Fortune, the kattie, accompanied by family members and friends go to the Saman Devali which is the biggest and most important temple of Saman Devio, the protecting God of the province, to give thanks.
Sri Pada – or Adam’s Peak as it was called by their British conquerors’– is the holiest mountain of the country. That’s where our personal story began, just as everything in and around Ratnapura, as all the rivers in the city’s vicinity descend from this mountain, bringing plenty of gems with their waters which Mother Earth had been baring for millions of years deep inside Sri Pada.
“You have never seen such a beautiful topaz, have you?” a stubby man asks me with a shrewd smile. He is the first to speak up among the eager gem traders hanging around the mines.
“Nice stone.” I’m turning it, looking at its color, inclusions, then touch it to my cheek to feel its coolness. A tactic I have learned from my master, Sunil, who never gets tired of teaching me how to identify the stones correctly.
A European, like myself, who is able to spend a year with a Sri Lankan miner-family, will surely find her way back to her natural being. Making friends with spiders in the bathroom, containing myself when seeing rats running up and down along the tiles of the roof, even discovering a poisonous snake in the kitchen is all part of life here. One learns to calm down and make a fire if she simply wants hot water for coffee.
In Ratnapura it rains every day, that is the first all-truth, and the first Sinhalese sentence I learned. We are in the rainforest zone, in the middle of the mountains, occupying the center of the island. The city itself was built in and around a wide valley where thousands of small streams and rivers meet carrying gems with them. Sri Lanka is a gem–giant, with Ratnapura and its surroundings giving 90 percent of the gems. Ratnapura literally means “Gem City.”
Even when it was still raw I often admired the gem of our “Hidden Miracle” necklace. Showing its amazing beauty on a much bigger surface and on a much more natural way than traditionally faceted gems charmed me all the time. Every millimeter sparked and glowed in different colors. Through the process of becoming a jewel this stone got very close to my heart, as a matter of fact, it became the symbol of Serendib gems.
The rumbling traffic suddenly gets still, the busy downtown of Ratnapura city freezes and things from all directions come to a halt; a little squirrel has run astray onto the busy road.
It’s all beautiful, everything is so clean and orderly, people live in abundance. “But they don’t smile,” a Sri Lankan friend of mine said after coming back from Europe. Travelling to Europe, the home of unlimited possibilities and happiness, is everybody’s dream, but he was one of the few privileged for whom it came true. In the last two decades, the country has been mesmerized by the developed world – forced by globalization.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is an officially sacred fig tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, the capital of the country’s ancient kings. The oldest living human-planted tree in the world is more than 2300 years old, and has its history written from the first moment, for it is the offspring of the original Bo tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. Moreover, the Bo tree we can see in India, Bodhgaya today was retransferred from this Sri Lankan One. This is the hint (in fact: unquestionable proof in the eyes of Singhalese Buddhists) that Sri Lanka is the trustee and guard of authentic and true Buddhist teachings.
Now that we have bought the lotus flowers, the oil, the wicks and the incense, we start barefooted to the main temple of Saman Devio, who is the protecting God of our province. It is a Buddhist temple, of course, and naturally there is a sanctuary for the Buddha, but the main hall is Saman Devio’s. Big religions have their own flavors and nuances all over the world.
My flight lands at 8 p.m. and my family is late, as usual, but I am not at all concerned. Until they arrive I enjoy inhaling not only my long-waited cigarette but also the Sri Lankan air which I have missed so much. We’re going to be at home, in Ratnapura, around midnight.
It is Saturday morning, the sun has just risen, so, no wonder I get a little upset when somebody starts to croak in front of my window. I run outside where I see Soma, one of our neighbors with a ceremonial tray in her hands. "What is it?" – I look at her with a huge question mark on my face. She explains that her husband is ill, and if the kaputa (the crow) takes the oily wick he will take the illness with it.