A story that made the rounds in Sri Lanka this week had all the gleaming material needed to prop up a pandemic-weary nation, which was mired in debt even before the economy was ravaged by the coronavirus.
News reports said the world’s largest amethyst cluster, worth up to $100 million, was accidentally discovered by workers digging a well in the backyard of a gem trader.
The details reported by the BBC this week gave many Sri Lankans something exciting and hopeful to talk about. In a Buddhist-majority country famous for its gems, many consider the discovery of remarkable gem specimens to be spiritually serious, said Daya Amarasekhar, a professor of sociology at Peradeniya University, south of the capital Colombo.
“What we heard this time was negative news about Covid-19,” he said. “That’s why people are attracted to the mental pleasure that comes from news about the gem.”
But some details of the discovery of the gems turned out to be too good to be true. An official said the rock, though real, was not dug in a well, but in a gem mine.
according to report good Workers on Tuesday found a sapphire cluster worth 1,124 pounds more than a year ago while digging a well in Ratnapura, a gem-rich area. An accompanying photo shows a crooked boulder about the size of a car tire.
The report identified the owner of the rock only as Mr. Gamge, a third-generation gem trader. He told the BBC that some stones that fell from the rock during the cleanup were later found to be high quality star sapphires, a type of sapphire known for its optical effect. (a mineral inside a gem reflecting light in a star pattern, a phenomenon called an asteroid.)
The article quoted Tilak Weerasinghe, chairman of the National Gems and Jewelery Authority of Sri Lanka, a government agency, as saying that it was “probably the largest” star sapphire specimen in the world.
Mr Wirasinghe later told The New York Times that the rock was found in 2020, and had kept the news a secret for months because the pandemic seemed like a bad time to sell sapphires.
He also said that the rock was extracted from a gem mine, not a well, and that he had asked journalists to hide some details from his articles for security reasons. He estimated that the sapphire set in the rock was worth $100 million.
“It would be a great exhibit for a museum or for anyone collecting rare gems,” he said.
At least two Sri Lankan media outlets Reported On Wednesday it was rightly said that gems have been found in a mine. The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
It is not unusual for some people in Ratnapura to have small-scale gem pits in their backyard. PRK Fernando said it is also not unusual for people in Sri Lanka to obscure the details of the gem’s discovery., President of the Gemologists Association of Sri Lanka, an industry group. News about such discoveries can sometimes create a digging frenzy.
“It can be problematic,” he said.
But he said news of the discovery could help rejuvenate an industry that was struggling during the pandemic.
On social media, the episode prompted some users to wonder whether selling sapphires would generate enough foreign exchange to help Sri Lanka escape its punitive debt crisis.
Anoushka Wijesingh, an economist in Colombo, said selling the gem for $100 million would add up to the equivalent of nearly a third of the country’s gems and jewelery trade’s annual pre-pandemic export revenue.
“But, of course, full value may not be realized in a one-shot sale,” he said.
David S. Atlas, a gem and jewelry appraiser in Virginia who is president of ethical issues at the New York City-based National Association of Jewelery Appraisers, said in an email that the estimated value of any large sample would be highly speculative and “subject.” To the greatest level of second guess. “
Mr Atlas said that although the rock may eventually land in a museum collection and prove highly valuable, “there are already many more large specimens in the collection.”
“You can’t predict the value or quality of small gems cut from this massive piece of material in advance,” he said. “Cut it, harvest the gems found within, and then test it properly for value. Then we’ll know much more.”
Somehow, the story of workers unearthing a reef brimming with precious stones has prompted social media users to say it – it appears to be a joke, but who knows? – that he, too, planned to start digging in his backyard.