From mine to market: Showcasing Sri Lanka’s jewellery legacy to the world

Wednesday, 7 April 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga addressing the forum


 The Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association (SLGJA) hosted its second Key Persons’ Forum for the industry recently, with the objective of facilitating the industry during this pandemic period and boosting overall tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism. 

The forum was conducted with

State Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga, State Minister of Gem and Jewellery Related Industries Lohan Ratwatte, SLGJA Chairman Ahsan Refai and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairperson Kimarli Fernando. 

The event, created a platform for a two-way discussion between the gem and jewellery industry and Ministry of Tourism and was attended by executive members of the SLGJA, the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) and many local gem and jewellery traders. The main focus was laid on enhancing the partnership between the Gem and Jewellery industry and the SLTPB to promote the precious facets of the Sri Lanka to the world.

The collaboration between the gem and jewellery industry and the tourism sector will be capable of maximising an influx of tourists to the country, especially attracting the up-market tourists. With the potential to be one of the largest foreign revenue earners, by generating around $ 500 million foreign exchange through the sale of gems and jewellery to foreign travellers, the gem and jewellery industry will be an immense support to uplift the tourism sector. 

It is no secret that the Ceylon Sapphire is world renowned. In his opening remarks Refai spoke of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage of producing high quality gemstones and the unique opportunity to promote and market gemstones to the world. 

“A concentrated marketing campaign together with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority would greatly benefit the promotion of gem and jewellery trade. This will encourage more tourists to visit our island to experience our gem mines that are set against the backdrop of the beautiful paddy and mountain landscapes. The gem and jewellery industry in Sri Lanka spans over centuries in history with able miners, talented crafts people and astute traders carrying the treasures of the land beyond oceans, and bringing in much wealth back to the country.” 

As shopping is a key feature of any tourist experience, featuring the Ceylon Sapphire as part of Sri Lanka’s tourism campaigns would be an ideal way to increase tourism, especially upmarket tourists looking to spend. 

Ranatunga acknowledged the need to marry the efforts of the two industries, saying, “It is our responsibility to protect and expand the brand recognition we have for our gem and jewellery industry.”

He reiterated that the Ministry of Tourism was positive about drawing the necessary action plans to implement campaigns where tourism will call attention to the gem and jewellery sector as part of promoting the destination.

Speaking on behalf of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and emphasising the evident benefits of the two industries working together, Fernando assured the promotion of the gem and jewellery industry through the SLTPB in all future campaigns. 

She positively emphasised the significant impact that can be achieved through this association. She also spoke of a tourism travel app, currently in the development stages with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Accordingly, it was offered to add the names of all the gem and jewellery traders, who are licensed by the authority, on the app, that will help tourists locate the shops as ‘places to visit’. 

Ratwatte thanked Ranatunga and the members of the gem and jewellery industry for their unyielding support of his Ministry. He also assured the support of the Ministry in industrial growth and in promoting the industry in a larger scale through providing ease of support for business operations and creating a conducive environment for the sector to grow. The Minister emphasised his support by proposing the appointment of a steering committee together with the Ministry of Tourism, to explore mutually beneficial strategies. 

The possibility of holding Facets International Gem and Jewellery Show in January of 2022, as addressed by Altaf Iqbal, the Chairman of the aforementioned show, was also discussed. As the main event that draws a large number of foreign buyers, Facets is one of the campaigns that can truly leverage tourism to the country. 

The need for further promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination with the inclusion of the gem and jewellery associations in the promotional campaigns, the increase in foreign exchange earnings and the overall quarantine process for tourists coming into the country were also highlighted.

Having agreed upon the fact that the promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination is severely lacking, the potential for the gem and jewellery industry to be one of Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earners, with the implementation of well thought out policies that are adapted in consultation/partnership with the trade, was acknowledged. 

Acknowledging the potential of the gem and jewellery industry to play an important role along with the tourism industry, SLGJA Jewellery Segment Vice Chairman Akram Cassim said: “The mystery, magic, myths and legends along with the history, crafts and skills of Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery legacy should be showcased to the world through tourism. Our amazing island is home to the finest of coloured gemstones – the Ceylon Sapphire. A gem like no other, in a country like no other… We have something so unique that no other country can offer to tourists anywhere in the world. So let us work together to create an amazing Ceylon Sapphire experience for tourists visiting this island.” 


State Minister of Gem and Jewellery Related Industries Lohan Ratwatte speaking to the audience


State Minister of Gem and Jewellery Related Industries Lohan Ratwatte presenting the ‘Sri Lanka Gems’ coffee table book to SLTPB Chairperson Kimarli Fernando