He also said that the rock had been hauled out of a gem mine, not a well, and that he had asked journalists to withhold some details from their articles for security reasons. He estimated the sapphires embedded in the rock to be worth $100 million.
“It will be a great exhibit for a museum or for someone collecting rare gems,” he added.
At least two Sri Lankan media outlets reported correctly on Wednesday that the gems had been discovered in a mine. The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
It is not uncommon for some people in Ratnapura to have small-scale gem pits in their backyards. It is also not uncommon for people in Sri Lanka to obscure the details of a gem discovery, said P. R. K. Fernando, the president of the Gemmologists Association of Sri Lanka, an industry group. News about such discoveries can sometimes trigger a frenzy of digging.
“That can be problematic,” he said.
But he said the news of this discovery could help rejuvenate an industry that had struggled during the pandemic.
On social media, the episode prompted some users to wonder if selling the sapphires would at last generate enough foreign currency to help Sri Lanka escape its punishing debt crisis.
Anushka Wijesinha, an economist in Colombo, said that selling the gemstone for $100 million would raise the equivalent of about a third of the annual prepandemic export revenues of the country’s gems and jewelry trade.