The History Of Diamonds
The images and symbols abound with just the
mention of this mineral, a natural crystalline substance that exemplifies
wealth, prosperity, status, and everlasting love. Even lightning,
magic, healing, protection and poisoning have been associated with
The story of the diamond transcends numerous cultures and localities.
It is the oldest item that anyone can own - it's three billion years
in age, a strategic and high tech super material that is formed
in the earth's interior and shot to the surface by extraordinary
volcanoes. It is carbon in its most concentrated form, the chemical
element fundamental to all life, thus it is a native element. It
is also extremely pure, containing only trace amounts of boron and
nitrogen. The diamond's nearest relatives are mineral graphite and
It should come as no surprise that our culture was not the first
to be lured by the hypnotic spell the diamond casts. The cultures
that played a role in bringing the diamond into prominence are numerous.
They are Greek, Indian, Old English, French, German, Hebrew, Latin,
Arabic, Polish, Japanese, American, African, Korean, and Chinese.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed diamonds were tears of the
Gods and splinters from falling stars. The Hindus attributed so
much power to these precious stones they went so far as to place
diamonds in the eyes of some of their statues. In unraveling the
history and associations of diamonds, we also need to know the history
of the words attached to it: did the words spoken by the Indians
and Greeks signify the same things they do today, or something very
different? These cultures associated tremendous value with these
stones and clues as to why may be found in the language associated
with them. "Diamond" comes from the Greek adamao, transliterated
as "adamao," "I tame" or "I subdue."
The adjective "adamas" was used to describe the hardest
substance known, and eventually became synonymous with diamond.
Knowledge of diamond origin starts in India where it was first
mined. The first known reference to diamond is a Sanskrit manuscript,
the Arthsastra ("The Lesson of Profit") by Kautiliya,
a minister to Chandragupta of the Mauryan dynasty (322 BC - 185
BC) in northern India.
Small numbers of diamonds began appearing in European regalia and
jewelry in the 13th century, set as an accent point among pearls
in splendid wrought gold. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance period,
every ring that was set with a precious stone was not considered
as much a piece of jewelry, as an amulet that bestowed magical powers
like fearlessness and invincibility upon the wearer. Not only was
it believed that diamonds could bring luck and success, but also
that they could counter the effects of astrological events. There
were many that wore diamonds as charms believing in their ability
to heighten sexual prowess and attract others. Plato even wrote
about diamonds as living beings, embodying celestial spirits. These
myths laid the groundwork for monarchs to begin wearing diamonds
as symbols of power.
An act of Louis IX of France (1214-1270) that established a sumptuary
law reserving diamonds for the king bespeaks of the rarity of diamonds
and the value conferred on them at that time. Within 100 years diamonds
appeared in royal jewelry of both men and women, then among the
greater European aristocracy.
The earliest diamond-cutting industry is believed to have been
in Venice, a trade capital, starting sometime after 1330. In 1456
Louis de Berqueur discovered how to cut facets of a diamond By the
16th century the diamond became larger and more prominent as the
result of the development of diamond faceting which enhances brilliance
In the 17th and 18th centuries the diamond presided as the ultimate
in representing all that was wealth, prestige and power, and the
huge import of diamonds during this period was nothing short of
Until the 18th century India was the only known source of the stones,
believed to be found only in the fabled mines of Golconda, though
Golconda was in fact only the market city of the diamond trade and
gems sold there came from a number of mines. Brazil then became
the main producer after diamonds were found there in 1726. It was
not until the 1867 discovery of diamonds near Hopetown, south of
Kimberley in South Africa, that the modern diamond industry was
born. The 1870s and 1880s in the Northern Cape saw a frenzied rush
to the newly discovered diamond fields.
The world's largest gem quality diamond, the Cullinan, was found
in South Africa in 1905. Uncut, it weighed 3025 carats. The Centenary,
found in 1986, was polished from a 599 carat gem. The rough diamond
was cut into various stones, the largest of which bears the name
Centenary and, at 273 carats, is the largest modern cut, top colour,
flawless diamond in the world.
Diamond Wedding Tradition
The custom of exchanging wedding rings dates back as far as the
comic Roman poet Plautus in the 2nd century BCE. Wedding rings were
then valued because of interior inscriptions recording the marriage
contracts signed in the presence of the Emperor's image. The custom
was continued and mostly Christianized by the 4th century by St.
Augustine. Byzantine wedding rings are thick gold bands with round
or oval bezels depicting the couple face to face, or receiving Christ's
blessing of their union. The tradition of giving rings in the engagement
and marriage ceremony as tokens of everlasting love has taken the
diamond into its present-day popularity.
Today as throughout the centuries, the diamond continues to embody
deep human expression of purity, strength, solarity and eternal
The color of a diamond has a significant impact on its value. The
color scale ranges from D to Z, from colorless to light yellow,
The farther from colorless that a diamond's grade is, the less rare
and therefore less valuable it is. When buying a diamond, take into
consideration that it is often very difficult to detect the difference
between a colorless diamond (D-F) and a near colorless diamond (G-H),
especially when it is mounted in jewelry. Diamonds with a L-Z color
grade usually have yellow shading that can be detected by the naked
eye, however, a well cut stone with good proportions will still
release the brilliance and fire of a lower colored diamond, dispersing
light in such a way so as to create a beautiful stone.
Diamonds also come in a range of natural fancy tones, such as
blue, pink, green, and red. Such diamonds have so much color that
they are not graded on the normal scale D-Z. Believe it or not,
these fancy diamonds are particularly rare, and like their colorless
counterparts, can also come attached to a high price tag. Bear in
mind that color does not have an exclusive impact on a diamond's
value. The value of a stone is affected by a combination of qualities
including clarity, cut, and carat weight, as well as its color.
When gemologists inspect diamonds for overall quality, they must
painstakingly determine the clarity of the diamond. Using a 10x
magnification loupe, gemologists determine the size, type, and position
of the imperfections.
Members of the industry refer to these imperfections as "inclusions."
Gemologists then put the stone into one of the following classifications
based on the results of their inspection:
- No internal flaws or external blemishes.
- No internal flaws.
very slightly included
- Inclusions are difficult for a trained profession to see with
a 10x magnifying loupe.
- Inclusions can be seen with a 10x loupe, but are not visible
to the naked eye ("eye clean").
- Inclusions are detected with a 10x loupe and may sometimes,
with scrutiny, be detected by the naked eye.
- Inclusions can be seen by the naked eye under close examination.
Within the VVS, VS, and SI classifications there are additional
gradations denoted by a number 1 or 2. For the the included class,
the subdivisions are denoted with a number from 1 to 3. Because
most diamonds have flaws, stones with clarity between FL and VVS2
are considered particularly rare and are consequently particularly