Sri Lanka has since ancient times been an Island of mysteries from heaven to earth. Marco Polo claimed that the original paradise was placed here. In contrast to these heavenly claims the Indian mythology have made Sri Lanka the abode of the Demon King Ravana.
Deep in the ground treasure hunters have digged for precious stones as far back as the times of the Buddha. The most famous precious stone from Sri Lanka has always been the sapphire. Earth and sky unite in blue on Sri Lanka...

400 year old sapphire beads

The beads
are for sale

through bead ID
for price

SL 1   -  12 * 9 * 6 mm - SOLD

SL 2   - 10 * 10 * 7 mm - SOLD

Click on pictures for larger images

The two old sapphire beads you see displayed above have an interesting history to tell.
The man from whom I got these two pure sapphire beads found them close to his own mine many years ago. He told me that his mines actually were second hand mines in the sense that the best stones had been removed from his area already 400 years ago by treasure hunters sent by the Grand Moghul of India.

At the times of the great Indian Moghul emperors the hunt for precious stones were at an all time high. The peacock throne of Shah Jehan, the man who created Taj Mahal, was such a concentration of valuable stones that it turned all other Kings to beggars in comparison - even as far off as Europe.

Around 1600 treasure hunters from the Moghul Court got permission from the King of Kandy to dig for precious stones in the area where my friends family has had their mine since ancestorial times. The only condition from the King of Kandy was that the Moslems should clen up after their digging and fill up the mining holes again. Secondly they were supposed to bring an offer of the best jewels to the great Hindu God Kataragama.

The folklore still today tell stories about these Moslem stone hunters. According to legend they used super natural powers in order to find the best places to dig for precious stones. They had a kind of boomerang which they were throwing  in the area in certain patterns. Where the boomerang fell on the ground they started to dig. In this way they found a place to dig that later turned out to be one of the richest gem bearing places ever found on Sri Lanka. The Moghul people then loaded six ships with precious stones and then headed back to India.
On their way they were meant to offer one of their ships to the great Hindu God Kataragama.
They sank one ship, but it was a ship filled only with insignificant stones without value. Kadambaram got of course disappointed with this act of cheating.
The remaining five ships sank in a storm out of the Indian cost on the way back.
Still today treasure hunters are looking for these ships.  

The two sapphire beads above were most probably made from left over material from these unfortunate Mogul miners. The contemporary owner of the mine found them close to the mine.
A 400 year old fake
I went to several jewelers in Kandy after getting this facetted bluish green bead for a few rupies in a small side street shop. They all confirmed that the bead was made of a precious stone called 'spinel'.


SL  3  - 16 * 8 mm

However when I went to the man from which I got the sapphire beads, he as a gemologist with the help of his microscope could confirm that there were several small bubbles of air in the material.
The spinel was fake! This in fact only made the bead even more interesting! The fake was according to the gemologist minimum 400 years old. Since ancient times the Sri Lankan artist were masters in manufacturing almost perfect fake stones like the fake spinel bead displayed above! It even has the precise color  and density as a spinel would have. Only in a microscope one is able to see that it is not a real precious spinel stone.

Old glass beads with sapphire color

SL 4   - 15 * 7 * 4 mm

It is in fact not surprising that so many old glass beads found on Sri Lanka displays a
magnificent cobalt blue color. This is the color of the Sri Lankan
The blue glass bead above has drilled holes in spite of the fact that it is a glass bead.

And here are some more wonderful cobalt blue colored glass beads:


SL 5   - 17 * 14 mm


SL 6  - 7 mm

Sri Lanka is first of all a Singhalese-Buddhist society. However there is a large Tamil-Hindu population, especially in the North of Sri Lanka. This Hindu culture is as old as the Buddhist culture. Displayed below are some beads from the ancient Sri Lankan Hindu culture:

12 * 7 mm

9 * 6 * 2 mm

See Ancient Bead Figures

This wonderful amethyst bead to the left has been carved like a conch shell. The conch shell symbolizes Victory. It was used as a war trumpet in ancient times. The small beautiful zoomorphic tortoise bead to the right is made out of an almost perfect piece of sapphire. The bead is most probably a Hindu bead since the tortoise is considered an incarnation of the Hindu trinity God Vishnu.

Old Zoomorhic Leopard tooth bead

SL  8  - 35 * 11 mm

This rare and beautiful leopard (or tiger) tooth bead amulet could be from both South India or Sri Lanka. Both Hindus and Buddhists are just below the surface of their official belief systems animists, who believe in a spirit world where basically everything, like trees, mountains and waterfalls has a spirit. In Sri Lanka the shamanistic tradition of wearing masks points in the same direction.  A leopard tooth bead, like the one displayed above, will give the owner the power and courage of the big cat. Almost everywhere, from Tibet to Sri Lanka, where beads have magic powers, the bead has to be worn directly in contact with the skin. That is why we often observe a special sheen on old beads.

Old Bohra weapon beads from South India


Largest 20 * 13 *6  mm - click on image for larger picture
See Ancient Bead Figures


These interesting weapon beads most probably origin from from South India. They are depicting swords from the south and central Indian Bohra Muslim culture. The beads are most probably not more than a few hundred years old. (The second bead in the second row got in the scan by a mistake. This bead is ancient.)

Dong Son beads
These beautiful beads bears witness to the fact that beads are great travelers.
It is actually a Dong Son Bead. Sri Lanka has always been a central hub for oceanic
traffic connecting the West with the far East.

SL  9  - 45 * 10 mm

SL  10  - 20 * 8 mm

Mysterious terra cotta eye bead
This terra cotta eye bead is very old. It could be a Hindu bead... My guess is that it is a Buddhist bead.

SL  11  - 30 * 17 mm
click on images for larger picture

This motive is often found on Sri Lanka. Here we can observe the same eye-motive on some ancient glass beads:

SL  12  - 17 * 14 * 7 mm -

Displayed to the right you can see the same eye design on a stucco head of an ancient Indian Buddhist King, maybe Ashoka.
Ancient Turquoise beads
These small turquoise beads displays the attractive, more blue color.


SL  13  - 8 * 4 mm


Huge ancient agate bead
This large uncooked agate bead shows great sign of wearing through geneations.

SL  14  - 43 * 24 mm

Various glass beads
Old melon beads to the left and a

SL  15  - 18 * 16 mm

SL  16  - 16 * 18 mm

orner less cube bead

SL  17  - 14 * 9 mm







Contact: Gunnar Muhlman -