Grinding Gems at Ratnapora, Ceylon

Special Collections > Keystone Slides
tiff scanned file from original glass slide
Ceylon is an island lying in the Indian Ocean near the southern shores of India. It is 275 miles long and 140 miles wide. It is about the size of the state of West Virginia. Its capital and chief city is Colombo, a great coaling place for ships going from Europe to eastern Asia, to the Dutch East Indies, or to Australia. The population of the island is over 4,000,000. In the early part of the 15th century settlements were formed on Ceylon by the Portuguese. In the middle of the 16th century the Dutch defeated the Portuguese and annexed Ceylon. In turn, Great Britain captured it from the Dutch. In 1801 it became a separate British colony, and in 1815 the whole island came under British rule. Ceylon is one of the three great tea-producing areas of the world. Besides, it produces much rice, cinchona (quinine), cocoa, cinnamon, tobacco, nuts, and rubber. But the industry in which we are most interested has to do with precious stones. The waters of Ceylon have long been known for the pearl fisheries. There are quarried moonstones, rubies, sapphires, cat's-eyes, and other stones. In all there are over 2,000 gem quarries now in operation. The view shows the native method of grinding these gems. On the end of the spindle, which is held in position by two uprights embedded in a solid base, is a wheel made of fine, hard stone. The spindle is turned by pulling and pushing the fiddle bows back and forth. The strings of these bows are wrapped once around the spindles. The uncut stones are held in the fingers until they are ground down to the proper number of faces and polished off. The bowls contain water into which the gems are dipped to remove the grit. Keystone ID: 12566 Note: All titles, descriptions, and location coordinates are from the original Keystone Slide documentation as supplied by the Keystone View Company. No text has been edited or changed.
Copyright by the Keystone View Company. The original slides are housed in McConnell Library's Special Collections.