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Galle Jewellers

Galle Jewellers

Photographer: Bourne and Shepherd

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1872

Shelfmark: Photo 210/1(52)

Item number: 21052

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of four jewellers from Galle, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), displaying their wares, taken by Bourne and Shepherd in c.1872. Galle, on the south-western coast of the island, has a natural harbour and is one of the most ancient settlements of Sri Lanka, a port from pre-Christian times. It is protected by a promontory called the Rock or Galle Point. Galle was the main port of the island even though entrance to its harbour was dangerous because of submerged rocks and reefs, until supplanted in the 1870s after the construction of breakwaters in the development of Colombo's harbour. The Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century and built the small fort of Santa Cruz here which they reinforced with fortifications under Dutch pressure. It was after Galle was captured by the Dutch in 1640 that it achieved its greatest prosperity. The English replaced the Dutch in 1796 but made few changes to the town and today it is the surviving Dutch architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries which lends Galle its charm. Sr Lanka is well-known for its gem deposits and has developed a corresponding depth of tradition in jewellery and the goldsmith's art, supported by royal patronage. Artisans had their own caste, the Navandanno. In the 19th century, the gem and jewelley industry flourished particularly around Galle, encouraged in part because of the European visitors to this scenic port who would usually make a trip to the surrounding villages such as Magalle to pick up gems and jewellery or simply view the jewellers at their craft.

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