Moonstone mine and gem palace

Meetiyagoda village situated 10 km north of Hikkaduwa  is famous for Sri Lankan largest Moonstone mines. Moonstone is a semi precious gemstone, Sri Lankan moonstones are of highest value due to their dark blue reflection.  The stone is a member of the feldspar family, a combination of two species, orthoclase and albite, stacked in thin alternating layers. Meetiyagoda sits on the earth’s largest pegmatite vein of moonstones.  Villagers believe that this piece of land is blessed by the moon. The moonstone is grey, yet finer versions are blue. The finest and rarest moonstones have an almost transparent colorless body with a strong blue shine. Moonstone deposits occur deep below the surface, 10-40m. Moonstones are extracted by shaft mining. Upon entering the property one encounters a mine shaft that can be peer into. It is a deep, four walled, box-like structure fortified inside against collapse. The eye follows the mine bottom to a tunnel configuration running roughly at right angles to the main shaft. These mineshafts are called yati illama, the sides are reinforced with coconut logs and lined with branches and leaves of the kekilla fern; the latter acting as a sieve which holds back the dense soil while allowing ground water through, thereby reducing the overall pressure of the earth and allowing deeper mining than would otherwise have been possible. Once the pegmatite layer is reached, usually at a depth of 10-20m, mining can begin. In the lapidaries of Meetiyagoda, electric cutting machinery has largely replaced the traditional hand-powered hannaporuwa, but even these simply add speed to a process that is essentially done by hand, individual moonstones being polished one at a time by being held against the spinning wheel. The large stone glows in a variety of pale blues when held to the sun.