The World Famous Chinafort "Pathe" Gem Market

Beruwala History

Beruwala is located 55 km south of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo and 92km south of Bandaranayke International Airport. The travellers can use the A2 highway which will approximately take one hour 40 minutes to 2 hours from Colombo during peak hours. Beruwala is derived from the word barbareen for the place where the sail is lowered. It marks the spot for the first Muslim settlement on the island, established by the Somali Shaikh Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn, who married the local and shared the religion of peace Islam.

Chinafort Beruwala Map

The town was originally named Berbereen (Now Beruwala) in honour and respect of the Shaikh. Other legends says that the name originated after a long travel by Muslim voyagers where they could not find a land in a long time. Later after several months spent on ship they saw a land and shouted as berbareen meaning land, from which the original name of Beruwala is derived.

Beruwala still has maintaining it singular culture of when it comes to clothing and social events. Most of the men in Beruwala is wearing a sarong preferably the white and shirt of different colours. It is very unlikely a Muslim will be seen in a trouser (pants) unless he is leaving the town to some other places. China fort being the area where gem business is dominated the people mostly speak Tamil language which itself is slightly different accent from the Tamil language spoken throughout the Sri Lanka. The Tamil language spoken in Beruwala has a mixture of Portuguese, Arabic, Sinhala terminologies as they coastal areas are the first and the last place to see the residue of the colonization and cultures of Portuguese, British, and Arabian trade traders.

Beruwala is also a famous tourist destination beautify and long beach stretching kilometre where five star hotels and resorts are abundantly attracting tourist from many nations due to its warm tropical climate. While the bay beach is safe for swimming in any month throughout the year, it also affords opportunity for Deep-sea Fishing and Wreck & Coral Reef Diving.

China Fort acts as the heart of gem industry in Beruwala. Gem trading is dominated by Sri Lanka Muslims, who constitute 8% of the population of Sri Lanka.

Beruwala Beach
Chinafort Gem Trading

The Sri Lankan Muslims are descendants of Moors. Almost the entire neighbourhood of China Fort has been engaged in the gem trade for generations. Much of the gem world’s coloured precious stones are traded through these merchants. The Sri Lankan Muslims trace their gem trade back to the era when the Berber’s from North Africa’s Barbary States – Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Berber merchant ships called at Beruwala, perhaps named after the Berbers-Moors. The harbour where the vessels of the Moors were anchored is believed have become to be known as Barberyn Harbour on a later date.

Gem Trading History of Chinafort

The gem history goes back several centuries. The merchants are the descendant of Somali, Arabian traders who married the local women and where they wilfully converted to the religion of peace Islam in 8th century. China fort does not have gem mining operations similar to Rathnapura, Nivithigala, Palmadulla, Idangoda, Elahara, Buththala, Balangoda, where gems are mined in abundance.

Young Gem Merchant

However almost the entire neighbourhood of China Fort has been in the gem trade for generations. Much of the gem world’s coloured precious stones are traded through these merchants, China fort is the largest market in Sri Lanka for cut and polished stones. It is where the gem merchants are highly concentrated for generations hence act as the gem trading hub connecting buyers and sellers from different parts of the world bringing varied types of gemstones mined from different parts of the Sri Lanka and add value to these stones by cutting and polishing to suffice the need of any locals, jewellers, or international buyers and collectors.

The China fort Gem buyers and experts has been inheriting knowledge of gem business for generations and most of these techniques comes naturally to them due to familiarities as it gems are seen in the day today lives of children similar to furniture in all households. China fort, traders carries experiences to an extent where most of them are able to spot the stone as semi-precious, precious or fake, approximate weight, value by a glance or when the stones beings placed in their fingers without having any formal education of gemmology. The trend of knowledge passing is now changing at a greater phase where the merchants send their children to obtain formal education on gemmology from universities.

The frequent, intimate relationship with the gems for generations shaped and laser sharpened their senses of touch and eye sight, well organized readily available knowledge regarding the types, colours, density, weighing, and market price per carat of gem stones etc.

Trust and integrity are critical factors for these men. They are highly valued among the china fort merchants. A person with a sound background of integrity and trust can leverage them as capital for starting their career in this business. Typically, those you are entering to gem trading at 16 does not bring much capital of their own, these young ones are trusted with the several thousands to millions worth of gemstone with appropriate guidance where they learn the art of trade and making the profit earned as a capital to independently start and excel in the business.

The World Famous "Pathe" Gem Market in Chinafort

"Pathe" is a popular street in the centre of China fort where the gem merchants from all over the island gather for trading their gems. It is also known as the "Pathe Gem Street" where gems of any types, sizes and prices can be found, while majority of the merchants do business on the street, there are over 200 air-conditioned offices also located in both sides of the street making it easier for buyers and sellers to trade premium stones, despite the market is highly active with millions of dollars worth gems being traded every day, there has been no safety concerns encountered so far in the streets of "Pathe" gem market, hence the market has been also regarded as one of the safest open gem markets in the world.

World Famous Pathe Chinafort Gem Market

The "Pathe" china fort gem market is a very welcoming and there is no restriction as to age or nationals which has fostered gem business over the several decades. The miners and rough gemstone dealers from Rathnapura, Balangaoda, Nithigal, Elehara, and Galle also visit here to trade their gems. There are several traders who have started their career as gem trader early as at 16 and been doing for more than 40-60 Years. In any given day, a visitor can witness a trader as young at 16 to 75 age dealing in the Pathe market. The market is enriched with all types of stones with various calibres from points to grams and can be found and bargained with thousands of suppliers.

International Buyer in Chinafort

The market is open for international buyers where they can acquire valuable stones such as Sri Lankan blue, yellow, pink, Padparadscha, violet, sapphires, emeralds Mozambique, Burmese Tanzania rubies and blue sapphires, Kashmir Blue sapphires, , Somali, Kenyan Tsavorite, and Spinals, garnets of various sorts , alexandrite, Aquamarines, Topaz, Tourmaline etc. from different parts of the world. China fort has direct sources for world almost all the mines in the world. The locals travel all the locations that displays the rough stones, buys and process them in china fort to be sold locally or to be exported.

The Paththa Gem market is famous for trading offices where International buyers & collectors visit, Most of the buyers physically visit here not only to see a particular type of stone. But also see the variety of other stones. A buyer who came looking for a blue sapphire will get to see other types of such as Padparadscha, Ruby, Tsavorite, Alexandrite, Spinel, garnet, cat's eye, and star sapphire unlike in other auction. At any given day a buyer can find any type of stones from small to medium to masterpiece in the market. The market is not only famous among many nations for fair pricing, honest traders and there are more than eight certified and recognized gem laboratories to provide certifications in the very same day.

Ceylon Sapphires

The market is opened all days except for Fridays where Muslims gathered for congregation prayer (jummah). This day is common holiday where traders spend their day with family, attending Jummah Sermon, having a good meal to reinvigorate themselves for Saturday where the business peaks. Though the market is active in all days except for Friday, the main days of the business are Wednesday and Saturday where most of the international buyers from china, India, Germany, Britain, America, and many other nations visit here to buy varied types of loose gemstones.

Purchasing Gems in Pathe

The market can start in these days as at 9:00 in the morning and remain until 5 pm at the evening. On these days the road for vehicle access will be closed due to congestion of traders walking and trading in the middle of the streets. The travelling and transports are rerouted to avoid disruption to business. All types of stones such as Rubies, emerald , Alexandrite, star sapphires of varied colours, Honey coloured cat’s eye, Peacock Blue, Royal Blue, Corn flower Blue, Golden Yellow, Green, Purple, Violet, Pink, White, Pinkish orange (Padparadcsha) Sapphires, in diverse colours, sizes are available in the market.

Apart from sapphires, all colour spinal pink to red, pale blue to deep blue, Bluish green to Violet, Black to near colour less spinel, garnets, Tourmaline, Aquamarine, Moon stone, topaz, opal, geuda (sapphire with milky- heat treatment can clear the milky and make them expensive sapphires) can be found in dedicated section of the market.


China Fort does not have mining of its own, however it acts as the hub of gem trading where all types of gemstones are brought from different mines from all over Sri Lanka as well as from other popular mining countries in the world.

Local Sourcing

Chinafort traders has decades of strong relationship and trust among the local gem miners and dealers from different mining areas such as Rathnapura, Nithigala, Idangoda, Elehara, pelmadulla. Traders from Chinafort visit each and every corner of the island where gemstones are found and purchase rough gemstones directly from the source, which will then be brought down to Chinafort to cut and polish and other value additions before it's been released to market for trading. Traders from Beruwala usually travel to Idangoda early as at 4:30 am where the market is operating from 6.30 am until 9am. The traders then will make the route from there to Ratnapura to buy rough stones where the city has its own reputations for producing extraordinary sapphires in enormous sizes, among many the most recent one was in 2016 where the city has produced the largest sapphire in the world weighing 1404 carats.

Rough Gemstone

China fort, traders highly rely on the credible suppliers to leverage the business relationship that they have built over the years with the local miners. Some traders often stationed there for several days until they find what they are looking for. Chinafort buyers use several techniques to evaluate the stones involving traditional and new methods. For sound and clear observation buyers usually use the combination of techniques. Some of the stones are kept under direct sun light for the period of more than 8 hours to verify the actual nature of the stone. Any artificially coloured stones will lose the colour and in some cases the colour of the stone will increase its saturation. This technique is very handy in finding whether stone is artificially sprayed.

Other traditional technique to identify the colour distribution in rough and polished stones used by experts and buyers is dipping the stone in to clean water with a white background. This technique is highly effective and the property of the water will remove any distortions of colour due to direct light and geometry of the stone reflecting lights in different direction. The china fort merchants will usually see the gemstone by placing in between hands and using different sources of lightings such as white, yellow sources and holding between fingers in differing angles to identify the inclusion and other critical details of the stone before the deal is finalized. Provided having relationships established the suppliers will offer one to two days to test the stone and transfer the money at a later date.

Rough Gemstone Trading

Some "day traders" from Chinafort who are more experienced in purchasing small sized stones which are less than 4 carats will start their day early morning and travel all the way to Nithigala or Idangoda, Rathnapura purchase the stone bring them to china fort, cut and polish them within the same day. The stones will be ready to be sold in the following day. Some other less risk takers will sell the rough stone in the dedicated section in the china fort market. Typically, these stones will be sold for cash and where the cash will be put into usual routine.

There are committed sections in chain fort where only rough stones trades are dealt. Purchasing of rough stones requires patience and thorough knowledge to avoid losses subsequent to purchase. The Rough stone purchaser needs years of experience to understand the quality of stone to differentiate the artificial coloured stones, synthetics from the naturally occurring stones, market demand, current price for the particular type cut and polished stones, trusted sources of supply, yield colour saturation after cutting and polishing, ability to identify the intrusion, inclusions in rough, suitable type of cut etc. The risk involved in purchasing rough stones are immense requiring high return. The purchasing of rough stones often involves significant gains and losses where the china fort merchants dominates the market with their ability to take risks.

Reputation of the traders plays a significant role in the china fort gem industry. A reputed trader will be entrusted with stones worth millions of dollars without obtaining any source of guarantees.

International Sourcing

Apart from locally sourced gemstones in Sri Lanka. China fort Traders travel across the globe in search of extraordinary stones to many countries. They visit Madagascar mining areas known as (illakka and Andrononondambo locally known as Ikaka and Ambathoor in search of blue sapphires and padparadscha) where finest quality padparadscha next to Sri Lanka is found.

They also have direct sources for Mahenge Spinel, Winza ruby, and all types of stones including spinel and Tsavorite from Tunduru , darus salam, Arusha in Tanzania. Mozambique – Montepuez Rubies and Pink sapphires are famous in China fort market commanding higher price for its vivid colour saturation.

Kenyan Nairobi is famous for producing Tsavorite garnet. These lustrous green garnet have less hardness and cleaner than Emeralds. These Tsavorites are famous in Pathe, Chinafort Gem market which then be exported to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore etc.

Kashmir blue sapphires are extremely beautiful due to its vivid blue colour saturation. It has the highest price per carat in blue sapphire. Although the actual mining is restricted Kashmir the china fort traders have their ways of reaching these marvellous stone, with the use intermediaries and some even direct travel despite the tense situation in the territory.

Burmese Ruby and Blue sapphire and Nigerian Blue are not exception. The integrate connection among these traders are wide spread. Some of them travel looking for and other have their sources to bring the dazzling stones to china fort.

Rough Gem Lot

This hunting of these perfect exquisite gem stones which worth millions of dollars requires patience of a tiger. Some of them even stay for as long as 6 months parting families risking their lives, without adequate food, transport facility, health and hygienic environment, clean water, and civil war territories putting their lives on the lines on to bring the finest of gem stones to the market. Not all expeditions return the profit and there are instances where the investment amounts are not even recoverable. Yet the jackpot is too tasty to ignore.

The China fort business men typically travel across the world looking for Rubies, huge blue sapphires, Tsavorite (green Garnet), Pink sapphires, Tourmaline, Emeralds for, Spinals, Alexandrite, Padparadscha and other valuable stones which will be brought to china fort, cut and polished by finest gem cutters with decades of experience.

Cutting & Polishing Gemstones

With several decades of experience and knowledge rooted into the system along with the abundance of rough stones brought into the market, Chinafort stands as one of the world's popular market for faceting of gemstones of various types and range, Chinafort market contains a pool of world class experts in gem cutting & polishing industry which has been one of the main reason for the market to stand out unique in the international arena.

Locals are known as "high risk takers", a stone can either win or lose after it went under cutting from it's oringal rough state. Hence cutting a stone and polishing Involves significant risk, one could compare it to gambling due to high risk high return nature of the operation. This very nature of the locals and abundance of stone created demand for the gem cutters. As a result, china fort, is filled with top class lapidaries where you can cut and polish the stones within a day or two.

Gem Cutting & Polishing

Gem Cutting

Chinafort Gem Cutting

Gem cutting is the art of working with the gemstone to turn them from rough to magnificent eye catching lustrous sparkling worn in the Jewels. Cutting plays a vital role in any gemstone from precious stones such as Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphires to semi-precious stone of Garnets, Spinals, Topaz, tanzanite or aquamarine etc.

Cutting involves serious work background, accurate eye sight, instinct, experience of cutting varied types of stone, judgment, also appropriate equipment, excellent hand eye coordination and artistic sense which are invaluable know-how shared by china fort gem cutters to turn the gravel to sparkling gemstone.China fort Gem cutters has been doing this for centuries now and mastered all fancy faceted shapes like Emerald Cut, Brilliant Cut, Step Cut, Ceylon Cut , Ovals, Hearts and Pears, Marquis Cut, Cushion Cut, Shield Cut and faceting styles of Faceting Styles, etc.

Although there are plenty of cuts available few of them are very common due to several factors such as to retain the carats, obtain better lustre and colour. The china fort buyers of the rough will usually have an idea, what the stone will realize in term of colour, weightage, shape of the stone, lustre, and how the stone should be cut to reflect the light to give the brilliance, conceal the inclusion so it will not show in the facet, after it went under cutting the stone will be brought to one of his preferred expert cutters in Chinafort. The cutter will look at the stone using different techniques for different types of stone, both experienced trader and the cutter exchange ideas with open minded to see both point of view and then come to agreement on what is the best approach to go that will yield the best sparkling stones that besets in Jewells of collectors.

Gem Cutting

Once both agree on the shape they want the stone will initially go under cleansing process removing the in dirt, combination of other minerals that concealing the true beauty. This work indeed need meticulous attention and experience as a wrong turn in obtaining the culet, table for the stone can entirely turn the gem stone worthless. Some rough buyers tend to direct the cutters chiefly to save the carats as the market would offer price for carats and not for points, however this is now being evolved towards focusing more on the quality outcome instead of size specially keeping the export market in mind.

In most cases the colour of sapphires is of the stone and not widely disperse compared to semi-precious stone, if the colour is saturated under bottom and a mistake in obtaining the culet in the right location will make the stone colourless when looked from the top. Therefore it is vital for the cutter to exercise diligence in their work. Then the cutter will work the stone carefully to obtain the culet, table, and shape for the stone that will retain the colour and provide brilliance when it goes for polishing.


The cutting process typically will obtain shape for a stone to be square, oval, round, heart etc. The polishing is where the stones will receive its brilliance going through faceting cycles. The China fort locals' expertise involves polishing the stones within an hour irrespective of the size of the stone. This important role of the polisher is the most critical aspect which decides the prices of the stone. A polisher from this market knows how to increase or reduce the colour saturation for the stone.

These techniques are highly useful and valuable in deciding the price for the polished lose stones. A sapphire with a darker tone can be cut and polished to receive a vivid colour, brilliance and a similarly a stone with lower colour can be saturated. These are the same polishers who recut the stones to achieve well cut stones that are exhibited in the world class Jewellerys and proud possession of collectors.

 Gem Polishing Chinafort

The local polishers are diligent and having a proprietary knowledge that makes them the best in the market. The polisher knows exactly, what the proportion the stone requires to achieve the maximum lustre and vivid colours. Mastering these arts makes them outshine in the cutting industry.

Gem Testing & Laboratories

The gem laboratories in china fort are equipped with all the latest technologies and the personnel are highly educated in world recognized gemological institutes and universities. Gemstones rich environment have polished their skills over the years. Typically, the gem is given for testing to identify whether the stone is heat treat or find out whether they are synthetics in rare scenarios. This also helped the International buyers visiting Chinafort gem market to ensure the authenticity of the gemstones before they complete the transaction and provide ease of mind. The exporters of gems also usually test the gems and accompany the report to provide guarantee and to win the trust of buyers who remotely do business.

Gem Testing & Lab in Chinafort

Gemmologist will use a hand loupe (10x magnification) for preliminary testing. Gemmological Binocular Microscope are used under different magnification for research, identification air bubbles, inclusions and differentiation of natural gemstones from synthetics. Looking through this Binocular Microscope will literally reveal the history of the stone and help the gemologist not only to identify the stone with certainty but also to find the origin.

At the end the gemstone provided for testing will go through several screening and testing process that may differ lab to lab before the final conclusion is provided. The conclusion in the report can be provided by a standard or detail report will be issued as per the requirement of the client. A standard gem report will be give the generic name of the type of stone, Date, bar code or serial number, weightage, dimensions, Colour, variety and comment on indication of treatment if any. Detail report will include additional information such as cut, clarity, origins etc.

All these testings are performed according to international standards and reports can be obtained within 24 hours in the China fort market. Some of the Major and Gem Laboratories located in china fort market are listed below.

Reaching International Market

Some exquisite stones from Chinafort are commonly exported to International markets to obtain better price by reaching the right buyers, China fort businesses have built connections that they have extended by being in the trade for decades, Traders travel to countries across the world such as China, India, Bangkok, Thailand, Indonesia, USA, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, France etc. with Exquisite variety of stones ranging from small to medium that are demanded by each region.

These businessmen also carry millions of dollars' worth of gemstones where those will be exhibited in the private gem exhibition in the museums, net worth individual private collectors and Jewellers which then will be sold when they met their expectation or highest bid in the case of auction. The expertise, experience that passed on generation to generations and risk takers makes the small china fort, the heat beat of Gem Industry in Sri Lanka.

Further International gem and jewellery exhibitions has also been an important channel for Chinafort gem dealers to showcase their precious gems and build new connections, hence big companies usually visits popular Trade Shows.

Gem Exhibitions and Trade Shows

Representatives and Businessmen visit popular gem trade shows across the world & open gem booths to display their premium gemstones in order expand the market throughout the world. The main objective of the business here to explore and enhance the brand reputation for their business along with obtaining international customer base.

The masterpieces to other small to medium l0ose stones that are perfect fit for Engagement rings, Ear piece pairs, large stones for pendants and other small collections that will fit with any Jewelleries will be displayed for selling. The price at these shows will be competitive and therefore, visitors enjoy seeing variety of stones and buying them that attracts their thoughts and soles.

Sri Lanka Pavillion Gem Exhibition

It will not be exaggeration to say there is no gem show in the world without China fort gem business taking a part in it. Hong Kong Gem International Jewellery show is one of the important international show for the china fort businesses,Some of the other key gems shows where china fort gem business visit regularly includes


Licence Dealer of National Gem and Jewellery Authority
Member of Chinafort Gem and Jewellery Trade Association (CGJTA)
Registered Exporter of Sri Lanka Export Development Board

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