Sri Lanka: Land of Sapphires and Rubies
For centuries Sri Lanka has been known as the Treasure Island. Even King Solomon presented the Queen of Sheba with a huge ruby taken from Ceylon. Marco Polo admiringly described the ruby the size of a human hand, which he saw in Anuradhapura – perhaps he exaggerated a little, but gems originating from Ceylon have always had world fame.Today, rubies are quite rare. But the royal cousin of the ruby, the blue sapphire, is by far the king of the island’s gems. The 400-carat Blue Beauty sapphire that adorns the crown of the British Empire was found in Ceylon. exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in New York, also from Sri Lanka. In addition to rubies and sapphires, cat’s eye, alexandrite, aquamarine, tourmaline, spinel, topaz, garnet, amethyst, zircon and many others are mined on the island. This country is considered one of the richest fossil gems in the world, along with Burma, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand. Jewels in Sri Lanka are mined in an open way.
A feature of the island is that in one mine you can find a wide variety of stones. The second place in hardness after diamond, which are not found in Ceylon, is occupied by corundum sapphires and rubies. Sapphires are blue, green and yellow, rubies are pink, purple and red, as well as the most valuable “pigeon blood reds”. The most valued blue sapphires are cornflower blue and royal blue. Their cost, if the stone is deep tone and has no defects, can be 5000 dollars. per carat. Some corundums, due to the peculiarities of the refraction of the light beam, give the effect of “star” in the form of a hexagonal star in the depth of the stone, which is especially attractive to many buyers.
According to 800zipcodes, the most famous representative of the beryl family, the emerald, is not found in Sri Lanka, but aquamarine is mined in abundance, a softer beryl with shades from blue-green to the color of ocean water. Chrysoberyl, the third in the series in terms of hardness, is yellow, green, brownish, with many transitional shades. The most famous of this family are cat’s eye and alexandrite. The cat’s eye has a reputation on the island as a stone that protects from the evil eye, so it is quite expensive; its name comes from the effect of the cat’s pupil, which appears when the stone is processed. Alexandrite has a rare quality of color change, depending on the light: in daylight it is green, in artificial it becomes red. This valuable stone is found only in the Urals and Sri Lanka. Yellow topaz lends itself well to polishing, becoming slippery to the touch, and is very widely used in jewelry. But be careful: there are no “smoky topaz” in Sri Lanka – under this name, they are most likely going to sell quartz to you. Quartz is found in a variety of colors and is transparent, translucent, and matte. Amethyst is a purple quartz, quite expensive. This beautiful stone is often used for cutting. Smoky quartz has all shades of brown from light to dark and is used in the manufacture of the so-called “cocktail rings”. quite costly. This beautiful stone is often used for cutting. Smoky quartz has all shades of brown from light to dark and is used in the manufacture of the so-called “cocktail rings”. quite costly. This beautiful stone is often used for cutting. Smoky quartz has all shades of brown from light to dark and is used in the manufacture of the so-called “cocktail rings”.
Garnet is a fairly common, relatively inexpensive stone, typically deep in color from pale cinnamon to dark reddish brown. Lighter and softer than ruby and does not have the strength of corundum. Tourmalines from Sri Lanka come in shades of yellow, green, red and blue. According to a completely arbitrary classification based on the principle of supply and demand, they are semi-precious, and therefore inexpensive stones. Zircon is as iridescent and lustrous as a diamond, but lacks its hardness. Zircon gives the effect of double reflection and lively brilliance, which allows colorless specimens to be called “American diamond”. It can also have shades of yellow, orange and brown.
The cheapest gem in Sri Lanka is probably the moonstone. From it, reminiscent of diluted milk in color, beautiful bracelets and necklaces are made. Shades of blue are highly prized and tend to drive up the price of a moonstone item.
Spices and cuisine
Currently, Sri Lanka’s main exports are tea, rubber, coconut and sugar cane. These cultures somewhat supplanted traditional citronella, cinnamon, cocoa, cardamom, areca nuts, cloves, and coffee and tobacco introduced later by Europeans. It was traditional spices that largely determined the interest of foreign conquerors in the distant island – already in the time of the Old Testament King Solomon, sapphires, cinnamon and cloves were brought to Palestine – spices that for many centuries were valued worth their weight in gold in Western Asia and Medieval Europe.
The first European conquerors of the island – the Portuguese – did not even claim to master the territory, they were content with controlling the Sri Lankan spice trade. The Dutch successively replacing them and the British East India Company were already striving for territorial conquests, but spices were still the main interest! And for good reason…
The generous nature of the island is a real homeopathic pharmacy, the preparations of which, based on the same widely known and completely unknown to us herbs and plants, can treat many ailments. The traditional medicine of Sri Lanka – Ayurveda – is based precisely on the medicinal properties of local plants and considers the human body as an integral part of the natural unity. Throughout the island, you can find Ayurvedic pharmacies selling alternatives to Western medicine – pepper-based toothpaste, a variety of toilet soaps with the addition of essences of flowers and trees growing outside the window, a great spice tea that can get you on your feet with any cold, and a host of others. excellent natural medicines.
Spices also form the basis of local cuisine – unusually fragrant, usually spicy, sometimes hot and spicy. The most popular dish is rice and curry, which are eaten with the hands. Sri Lankans believe that three servings of curry rice a day is a guarantee of health, energy and strength. 15 varieties of rice grow on the island, varying in color, from white to dark brown, and in taste.
Rice is served on the table on a large common dish, around which are bowls of various curries. Curries, meat, vegetable and fish dishes prepared with curry powder vary in color and taste. Curry powder contains spices such as dill seeds, coriander, black and red pepper, cardamom, cloves, karapincha (scented shrub leaves), cinnamon and others. Many Sri Lankan women prepare the mixture according to their own recipe. Curries are often made with coconut milk. Fresh coconut is rubbed on a special round grater, mixed with a small amount of water, squeezed and filtered. Coconut milk is obtained in various concentrations, which is used to make mild curry in white sauce (virtually unseasoned), brown curry (with spices), red curry (very spicy with the addition of dry red pepper) and black curry (with pepper and seasonings). Traditionally, food is cooked in earthenware over an open fire. On holidays, rice is boiled with saffron, cashew nuts and raisins with the addition of boiled eggs. Be sure to serve various fresh vegetable salads and greens – a variety of herbs and flowers, such as a banana palm flower, and a cactus flower in the south.
Paul sambol is also a very popular dish on the islands, made from freshly grated coconut, red and black peppers, onions, salt and sun-dried tuna fillets from the Maldives. Pappadam – crispy chips fried in boiling coconut milk, and appa – thin pancakes made from rice flour and coconut milk, crispy around the edges and spongy in the center, which are fried in a special cauldron, are very tasty.
The choice of national cuisine dishes is truly inexhaustible, besides, invited and uninvited guests of the island over the centuries have contributed to the menu of the inhabitants of the island, leaving behind new recipes and culinary traditions.
Dessert in Sri Lanka usually consists of fresh fruits or freshly squeezed juices from pineapple, papaya, bananas, mango, wood apple, guava, tangerine, jambu, mangosteen, lime, orange, grapefruit, passionflower and a variety of other tropical curiosities. Ice cream is very popular.
The most refreshing tembili drink is the juice of a bright orange “royal” coconut, to which lemon, salt and sugar are sometimes added. Toddy is a local light alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of coconut palm flowers. Well-aged, this juice after distillation is called arrak, a local brandy variety, from which delicious cocktails are made with passionflower juice, lime juice and ice.