Sri Lanka’s Blue Sapphires and Amethysts classed amongst best in the world

German gemologists Nirmala, Roman and Dunya now in Sri Lanka


By Steve A. Morrell

Three key gemologists from Germany, Nirmala Bonk, Roman Bonk, and Dunya Yasaeul are in town to participate in ‘FACETS 2012’, the international Gem and Jewellery Show which opens in Colombo on September 5.

"This will be the fourth year we would be running a stall at FACETS. The wide array of stones I have, will be on show at the exhibition. There will also be healing stones. Literally, meant to heal various maladies. I am not a medical person to tell you what the healing process is, but what I can assure you is that there are certain well-established medicinal properties in these stones that can be used for treatment", Nirmala says.

"Yes, it is essential to have some expertise to identify origins of gem lands and more importantly, be armed with knowledge on which stone is gem material", she said in an interview with The Sunday Island.

Asked what is so extra-ordinary and special that would attract visitors to her stall, she replied, "You can see what I have here. Not quite arranged attractively, but you agreed what you saw was impressive. Similarly, my stall at the FACETS exhibition will be doubly so. Of importance is that our prices will be attractive and affordable. Just as much as our prices are affordable, the mystique of healing would also have that degree of attraction to have people visiting us".

Nirmala, her son Roman Bonk and associate Dunya Yasaeul are German nationals. Germany too produces gems, but the reputation for German gems in Sri Lanka is negligible. "Our gem mines are located in a place called Edar Oberstein, about 150 kilometers between Luxemburg and Frankfurt. This is Germany’s famed location for gems and gem mining. One may not know where Luxemburg is but Edar Oberstein is more famous than any of those cities", she noted.

There are certain areas that have geodes. It is only when these geodes are cracked open that you could identify the value of their contents. A geode is embedded in different rock formations and the contents range from quartz, amethysts and clear crystal which is a different stone and is harder than normal rock material.

Roman Bonk said that gem mining in Germany is controlled. One cannot exhaust such land till its ultimate yield is totally decimated.

Nirmala said that Germany does not produce diamonds. They come mainly from the African countries and also Madagascar, USA and Russia. There are artificial diamonds now which are extremely difficult to differentiate one from the other.

"One needs to have such diamonds tested. I have been in the industry about 30 years. If I have to decide which is genuine or not shown two of these specimens, I may not be able to identify. They have perfected such products to an extremely high level. Diamonds are valuable, but that does not mean that the blue sapphire from Sri Lanka is second best. The blue sapphire and pink sapphire are high-end products that attracted high value internationally. Amethysts are also typically Sri Lankan, but less in value", she emphasized.

She said that despite the blue sapphire or amethyst from Sri Lanka classed among the best in the world and valued at that reputation, the gem industry here is still in its primitive stage.

"When I was in Sri Lanka the last time, I went into one of these mines. It was fearful. There is nothing called modern technology. World standards in gem mining have advanced considerably. Quite unfortunately, these advances have not been applied to the gem industry here. This is unfortunate particularly because Sri Lanka could contribute so much to the gem trade internationally", Roman Bonk said.

India, Bangkok and most African countries produce gems of a high standard. Sri Lanka should not be left out. The industry has to be modernized as the products are second to none, he said.

Asked whether her business is on the web, she replied, "No. It is not necessary because our reputation precedes us in most areas. We are already known".

Nirmala won the award for the best exhibit last year. "That should tell you what I have achieved after all these years".

Pics by Dharmasena Welipitiya


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