Colored Stones: Sapphires in Sri Lanka, the AGTA in Las Vegas

The Sapphire ScrambleIn mid-February, a new deposit of blue sapphires was discovered near Kataragama in southern Sri Lanka, inspiring a gem rush among local miners that reportedly caused a great deal of mayhem. But what has transpired on the ground since then underscores the vagaries of mining for color—not to mention the hoopla over the gem world’s most popular stone, blue sapphire.“It’s probably not going to turn out to be much,” says ruby and sapphire expert Richard Hughes, whose account of the Kataragama find and its subsequent exploitation is a testament to the apocryphal nature of most reports from the field. “A lady or some kids found some stones in roadfill material near Kataragama,” Hughes says. “Then a bunch of villagers descended on the area.”According to Hughes, Sri Lankan government officials decided to hold an auction for the material, but by the time the

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