By: T.V Perera
One reason Sri Lanka is referred to as a resplendent island attributes to its colourful gems in Ratnapura, Elahera, Embilipitiya, Okkampitiya in Buttala and several other places. Among the precious stones un-earthed from gem pits in Buttala are rubies, sapphires, cat’s eyes, moon-stones and garnets. Stones found in rough from are cut and polished by gem-cutters following which their values are assessed based on purity (free of blemish) and weight measured in terms of caratage – a carat being equal to 200 milligrams. Polished gems adorn jewellery, the crown of royalty, and in the past handles of swords of kings.
A third grade of although colourful stones were thrown back into the pits in similar manner as stone shavings and filings were discarded as obsolete and of no utility value until things took a turn when gem cutter Saman Ajith Bandara embarked on an artistic handicraft project, producing brightly coloured portraits, wall hangings, photo frames, plaque designs and sceneries with gem shavings and found a ready market for his products.
In an interview with BiZnomics, Bandara who has his workshop in Buttala said, “I collected shavings of natural stones in their separate colours, which otherwise would have been discarded and began my industry on a small scale”. Explaining previously when shavings were used ha says, “The only instance gem shaving are made use of is when they are filled into small clay pots and hung from roof beams with pure astrological meaning to ward off evil. On a traced map of Sri Lanka, I pasted the shavings giving each topographical district a different colour. Finally I had a 25 coloured map of Sri Lanka”. Bandara’s effort proved to be an instant success as he described, “I took the map to Ratnapura where a gem merchant paid me Rs.6000 on the spot for my handcrafted frame which provided me the necessary encouragement to produce more pictures”.
As orders increased, Bandara quit his gem cutting job to devote full time to the new venture, and to assist him secured the services of a close relative Indika who with time, become joint partner of the Crest Mineral Creatines Company they formed in the year 2000. The company presently count 15 artistically talented employees who contribute to its high earnings.