Sri Lanka shines in Royal engagement

Saturday, 27 November 2010 00:14 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Speculation on the origin of the oval blue sapphire on the ring that Prince William gave Kate Middleton is now over.

This ring is the same one as that given by his father, Prince Charles at his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. It is now known that the oval blue sapphire adorning this ring came from Sri Lanka.

This ring is the most talked about engagement ring in the world today, revealing a sparkling contribution by Sri Lanka to the grandeur of Britain’s royal heirloom.

The UK Daily Mail of 17 November, reports that the gem on Princess Diana’s ring is a ‘Ceylon sapphire’. Ceylon, being the former name for Sri Lanka, is still used to identify gems from this country similar to the continued references to Ceylon tea. Several other reliable sources such as National Geographic, have reported that this gem is from Sri Lanka.

The blue sapphire alone is 12-carat while the 14 solitaire diamonds clustered elegantly around it are set in 18-carat white gold which had cost £28,500 (US$ 45,000) at the time of purchase three decades ago. Before the Princess of Wales’s death in 1997, the ring was valued at more than £250,000 because of its connection to the royals, and in particular Princess Diana.

Lady Diana Spencer chose it for her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981 from a selection presented to her by the then Crown Jewellers Garrard of Mayfair. ‘She had obviously already said she would like a sapphire; she had half a dozen rings and she chose this one purely because she liked it’, said a leading royal jewellery expert.

While not everyone could afford to buy such a rock, Diana’s choice sparked a trend for similar- looking rings. Sapphires were one of the late Princess’s favourite gemstones, and some commentators say she chose it because it reminded her of her mother’s engagement ring.

Prince William, who eventually inherited the ring, showed the family heirloom is priceless to him by choosing it for his fiancée.

“It was my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement,” he told the press.

There is a long tradition of Sri Lankan gems being sought out for the jewellery of royalty in the world. The St. Edward’s Sapphire which is set in a Maltese cross at the top of the Imperial Crown of State now worn by the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, also comes from Sri Lanka.

The St. Edward’s Sapphire gets its name from Edward the Confessor, the King of England from 1042 – 1066, in whose coronet or ring the fine blue, rose-cut gem was once mounted.

Gemologists say it is quite possible that both sapphires on the engagement ring and the Imperial Crown of State originated from the ancient alluvial corundum deposits of the renowned gem producing district of Sri Lanka, known as Ratnapura.

Many experts believe that there is hardly a crown in the world today that is not adorned with a gem from Sri Lanka. The country’s gems are also eagerly sought by collectors abroad and form part of some of the priceless collection of gems in the world.

Sri Lanka had been famous for rubies and sapphires since very ancients times, dating back to the period of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C, when both tradition and legend state that King Solomon took Sri Lanka’s priceless gems, elephants and peacocks among his treasures to woo the Queen of Sheba.

The news of the blue sapphire on the ring which Prince William gave Kate Middleton has created much interest in Sri Lankan sapphires in the international gem trade and many buyers are lining up to purchase blue sapphires and other precious gems from Sri Lanka. Jewelers around the world are being called on to make replicas of this legendary engagement ring. “Sapphires are especially beloved in Britain and its former colonies, including Sri Lanka, which I plan to visit soon to buy more of the sapphires mined there. We are expecting an uptick in demand through the holidays,” the CEO of New York’s Natural Sapphire Co Michael Arnstein said.

Arnstein’s company supplies Sapphires to other Jewelers around the world who have been receiving similar requests. The company took calls from Britain, Canada, the United States and elsewhere requesting replicas of the ring.

The Gem and Jewellery industry takes a foremost place in bringing foreign revenue to Sri Lanka. The country is among the biggest sources of gems and precious stones and is ranked among the top gem-bearing nations in the world. Over 40 of around 60 varieties on the market are found here, many from the Ratnapura region. Sri Lanka’s gemstones were formed during the pre-Cambrian age and almost everyone is guaranteed to be over 800 million years old.