From ancient times Ratnapura is known as the city of gems. The name comes from Sinhala and 'ratna' means 'gems' while 'pura' means city. There is no other reason to call this city 'the city of gems' other than that most of Sri Lanka's world-renowned precious stones such as blue sapphires, rubies, are found in the Ratnapura area.
Located about 100 km south east of Colombo and above 21m from sea level, Ratnapura is the capital of the Ratnapura District which is one of the two districts of the Sabaragamuwa Province. Gem mining has been the long-established major industry in the region and today most of its people depend on this glittering industry. Sri Lanka's major gem traders operate from Ratnapura where a large number of local and foreign gem traders gather to sell and buy precious stones. Nivitigala, Eheliyagoda, Kahawatte, Opanayaka, Rakwana, Pelmadulla and Kuruvita are the suburban gem mining and trading townships of Ratnapura. All these areas have produced the world's most precious and rarest gemstones making Sri Lanka 'ratna dveepa' the island of gems renowned world over. Blue Giant of Orient (466 cts), Logan Blue Sapphire (42 3cts), Blue Belle of Asia (400 cts), Rossar Reeves Star Ruby (138.7 cts), Star of Lanka (393 cts) and the Ray of Treasure (105 cts Cat's Eye) are some of the planet's priceless gemstones found in the Ratnapura area.
Agriculture is yet another major industry in the area and tea and rubber plantations surround the town. In addition paddy cultivations can be seen while fruits and vegetables are also grown as market products.
Towards the booming tourism in Sri Lanka, Ratnapura plays a significant role accounting for a number of religious, natural and other attractions among which the mountain Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), Pothgul Viharaya, Diva Guhava, Maha Saman Devale, Bopath Ella, Katugas Ella, Kirindi Ella, the Gem Museum, National Museum (Ehelepola Walauva) and Pompakelle Forest Park are most attracted by locals and foreigners alike. Also Ratnapura is a transit base to the world famous Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, Uda Walawe National Park and Kitulgala. The route leading to hill country is gorgeous. The surrounding area is a popular trekking destination and a good place for bird watching and to view traditional gem mining and cutting operations.