The Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association (SLGJA) will hold its annual exhibition – FACETS 2011 – from September 8 to 11 at the BMICH, Colombo. Organizers expect a large number of business delegations from different parts of the world to attend this four-day event. Vice Chairman of SLGJA, A.H.M Imtizam, believes that FACETS 2011 will accelerate the government's target of reaching US$ one billion through gem and jewellery exports by 2016. The latest statistics released by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority reveals that the country has recorded a total export earning of Rs. 24.4 billion through gem and jewellery sales during the first six months of this year, an 8.9 percent increase compared to last year. Throughout its long history, Sri Lanka has gained fame for its rare gems of exquisite beauty, with even Marco Polo writing about the 'wonderful Ceylon gems'. The country's gems have found its way to all parts of the world, even adorning the Kings and Queens of the Roman Empire. Out of around 200 minerals that are classified as gemstones, about 75 varieties are found in Sri Lanka, making Sri Lanka one of the most important gemstone locations in the world. According to geological estimates, 90 percent of the island's land mass is potentially gem bearing. Over the centuries Sri Lanka's jewellery makers have refined their hereditary skills, and with the infusion of modern technology, the country's gem and jewellery sector has attained high standards in craftsmanship and sophistication with a modern touch. In addition to exquisite gems, the country is emerging as a design centre offering high quality jewellery in Gold, Silver and Platinum. Among the wide selection of Sri Lankan gems that's in high demand are, Blue Sapphire, Ruby, Alexandrite, Pearl, Zircon, Topaz, Garnets and Amethyst. The country is believed to be the most important supplier of the finest sapphires to the world and according to industrialists, no other country has produced sapphires in size, quality and quantity as Sri Lanka has. The Blue Sapphire, popularly called Ceylon Sapphire, is reportedly unique in colour, clarity and lustre compared to the blue sapphires from other countries. Although blue is the main colour of the Sapphire, yellow, pink, orange and purple Sapphire could also be found. According to experts, Sapphires are best viewed under fluorescent light or daylight; not under incandescent lights, whose output is tilted towards the red end of the spectrum. Buyers are advised to look for stones which are 'eye-clean', meaning that no inclusions should be visible to the naked eye. As for the cut, sapphires are found in a variety of shapes and style. Ovals, cushions, hearts and round are the most sought after shapes, although a slightly high price is paid for round stones. Cabochon-cut sapphires are also common, which is generally used for star stone or those not clean enough to facet. The best Cabochons are reasonably transparent, with smooth domes of good symmetry. Sri Lanka's Gems and Jewellery sector, providing employment to close to 300,000, has three main segments – Precious Stones, Gold and Silver Jewellery and Diamonds. Geudas, Polished Diamonds, Cut and Polished Gemstones, Diamonds and Jewellery being the market leaders as far as export demand is concerned. The boom in tourist arrivals has resulted in an increase in demand for Sri Lankan gems, with industrialists finding it difficult to meet the demand due to the shortage of raw material. The demand for blue sapphires has drastically risen after the Royal wedding, industry sources said. In fact the 400 carat Blue Sapphire which adorns the British Crown, is from Sri Lanka. A Sapphire weighing 42 pounds, known as the largest in the world, was found in the gem pits of Sri Lanka.