JOURNAL - APRIL - Blood, Sweat & Sapphires
Blood, Sweat & Sapphires
Far from Sri Lanka’s palm-fringed beaches, in the midst of humid, snake-infested rice paddies, lies Pelmadulla. Contrary to appearances this unassuming farming village is home to some of the island’s greatest riches. Here, the land is so abundant in precious gem deposits that after tropical downpours, zircons, garnets and even rubies can be quite magically revealed in the mud.
In search of these and even greater treasures, groups of miners brave the searing heat and claustrophobic underground shafts as they hunt for Sri Lanka’s highly-prized cerulean and star sapphires. Tunnel collapses and deaths are not uncommon, but since a large stone can be valued at up to $100 million, risking life and limb can reap rich rewards.