History Of Diamonds - This Is Your Complete Diamond History
Where in history did we first see the value and
beauty beheld in a diamond? The word, diamond, historically derived
its roots from "Adamas", a Greek word which means unconquerable or
indestructible. Diamonds have traveled our many different cultures
throughout diamond history affecting everyone in every possible way. The
ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were tears from the Gods.
Diamonds were thought to be mystical and powerful stones that
affected the heavens and the hearts. The Diamonds today continue to hold
this fascination as it did throughout the diamond history.
HISTORY OF DIAMONDS
The Greek word "Adamas" meaning unconquerable and indestructible
is the root word of diamond. Diamonds in history have been sought the world
over, fought over, worshipped and used to cast love spells.
For the last 3000 to 4000 years, the history of diamonds has held special magic
for Kings, Queens and their subjects. Diamonds have stood for
wealth, power, love, spirit and magical powers. Kings in olden days
would wear into battle heavy leather breast plates studded with
diamonds and other precious stones. It was believed that diamonds
were fragments of stars and the teardrops of the Gods. The diamonds
possessed magical qualities of the Gods and held powers far beyond
the understanding of the common man. Because of these beliefs, the
warriors stayed clear of the Kings and others who were fortunate to
have the magical diamonds in their breast plates.
Until the 15thCentury only Kings wore diamonds as a symbol of
strength, courage and invincibility. Over the centuries, the
acquired unique status as the ultimate gift of love. It was said
that cupids' arrows were tipped with diamonds that have a magic that
nothing else can equal.
Since the creation of diamonds they have been associated with
romance and legend. The Greeks believed the fire in the diamond
reflected the constant flame of love.
For millions of people around the world, the mystery and magic, the
beauty and romance shining out from a simple solitaire says all the
heart feels but words can not express. It wasn't until 1477 when
Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of
Burgundy, that the diamond engagement ring was introduced. Placing
the ring on the third finger of the left hand, dates back to the
early Egyptian belief that the Vena Amors, vein of love, runs
directly from the heart to the tip of the third finger.
The first river-bed (alluvial) diamonds were probably discovered in
India, in around 800 B.C. The volcanic source of these diamonds was
never discovered, but the alluvial deposits were rich enough to
supply most of the world's diamonds until the eighteenth century,
when dwindling Indian supplies probably spurred the exploration that
led to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil, which became the next
important diamond source. Beginning in l866, South Africa's massive
diamond deposits were discovered, and a world-wide diamond rush was
on. The South African diamond output was unrivaled until major
deposits were found in Siberian permafrost in l954. And currently
Western Canada is the site of the world's newest diamond rush.
Throughout much of history, diamonds were mined from the sand and
gravel surrounding rivers. But in South Africa in 1870 diamond was
found in the earth far from a river source, and the practice of
dry-digging for diamonds was born. More sophisticated mining
techniques allowed deeper subterranean digging, as well as more
efficient river (and, most recently, marine) mining, than ever
The cutting of diamonds into the complex faceted forms we now
associate with these gems is actually a relatively recent practice.
For centuries, rough diamonds were kept as talismans, and often not
worn at all, though natural octahedral (eight-sided stones) were
sometimes set in rings. A Hungarian queen's crown set with uncut
diamonds, dating from approximately l074, is perhaps the earliest
example of diamond jewelry. We know that the royalty of France and
England wore diamonds by the 1300's. In sixteenth century England,
fashionable lovers etched romantic pledges on window-panes with the
points of their diamond rings, known as "scribbling rings".
The earliest record in the history of diamonds of diamond-polishing (with diamond powder) is
Indian, and probably dates from the fourteenth century. There are
also contemporary references to the practice of diamond polishing in
Venice. The earliest reference to diamond cutting is in l550 in
Antwerp, the most important diamond center of the period, where a
diamond-cutters' guild was soon to be established.
Diamond Routes and Centers:
Indian diamonds in history reached Venice by two Mediterranean routes: the
southern route was by way of Aden, Ethiopia, and Egypt, and the
northern route was through Arabia, Persia, Armenia, and Turkey.
Then, thanks to the Portuguese discovery of the direct sea route to
India, Antwerp flourished as a diamond center, as the city was
well-situated to receive vast supplies of rough from Lisbon as well
as from Venice.
After Spanish attacks on Antwerp in1585, many diamond cutters
relocated to Amsterdam. And the Netherlands, with its liberal civil
policies, attracted diamond craftsmen (including many Jews) who were
fleeing religious persecution in Spain, Portugal, Germany and
In the late1600's, as the English fortified their interest in India,
which was still the world's central diamond source, London became an
important cutting center. Later, London became the primary world
market of diamond rough.
Today, there are cutting centers all over the world, most notably in
Belgium, Indian, Israel, South Africa, and the USA.
The history of diamonds claims stories of famous diamonds often have complex and even controversial histories
because of the secrecy surrounding such stones
The Star of Africa
At 530.20 carats the Cullinan I or Star Africa diamond is the
largest cut diamond in the world. Pear-shaped, with 74 facets, it is
set in the Royal Scepter (kept with the other Crown Jewels in the
Tower of London). It was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan, the
largest diamond crystal ever found. The Cullian was discovered in
Transvaal, South Africa in l095 on an inspection tour of the Premier
The Cullian was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who
examined the enormous crystal for around six months before
determining how to divide it. It eventually yielded nine major, and
96 smaller brilliant-cut stones. When the Cullian was first
discovered, certain signs suggested that it may have been part of a
much larger crystal. But no discovery of the "missing half" has ever
Probably the second largest stone ever found (if the lost Braganza
cannot be found and authenticated). A high-clarity, blue-white
stone, it was found in l893 by a South African mine worker who
picked it out of a shovelful of gravel. Because of its irregular
shape, it was cut into 21 polished stones, of which the largest was
a marquise of 69.80 carats. A smaller, 18-carat marquise stone cut
from the Excelsior was displayed a the l939 World's Fair by De
The Great Mogul
The world's third largest gem-quality diamond was named after Shah
Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. It was found in the mid-seventeenth
century in Hyderabad, India. It's whereabouts are not presently
known, and it may no longer exist as a single large stone e. It has
been confused with several other famous diamonds, most importantly
the Orloff, which has also been described as a faintly blue rose-cut
It is said that the stone was so badly cut that the lapidary,
instead of being paid by the Shah, was forced to pay a heavy fine.
When Tavernier so the Mogul, he described it as looking like an egg,
and weighing 280 old carats.
The Darya-i-Nur is a flawless, transparent pink stone, estimated at
175 to 195 carats. It is the largest and most remarkable gem in the
Crown Jewels of Iran, and was one of the spoils of Persia's attack
on Delhi in l739. It is now set in a gold frame with other diamonds,
topped by a crown bearing lions with ruby eyes, holding scimitars.
It was worn by the last Shah for his coronation in l967.
The name of this diamond means "Mountain of Light" and its history,
dating back to1304, is the longest of all famous diamonds. It was
captured by the Rajahs of Malwa in the sixteenth century by the
Mogul, Sultan Babur and remained in the possession of late r Mogul
emperors. It may have been set in the famous Peacock Throne made for
After the break-up of the Persian empire the diamond found its way
to India. It may have traveled to Afghanistan with a bodyguard of
Nadir Shah, who fled with the stone when the Shah was murdered, to
be later offered to Ranjit Singh of the Punjab in exchange for
military help (which was never delivered). After fighting broke out
between the Sikhs and the British, The East India Company claimed
the diamond as a partial indemnity, and then presented it to Queen
Victoria in 1850.
When the stone came from India, it weighed l986 carats; it was later
recut to l08.93 carats. It was first worn by the Queen in a brooch.
It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen Alexandra and
Queen Mary, and 1937 was worn for by Queen Elizabeth for her
coronation. It is kept in the Tower of London, with the other Crown
The ironically named Hope diamond (named for its purchaser, Henry
Thomas Hope) may have had a long and illustrious history before it
became associated with a run of bad luck for its o owners. It is
thought to be a part of the famous Blue Tavernier Diamond, brought
to Europe from India in l642. The Blue was purchased by King Louis
XIV who had it cut to 67.50 carats from 112 carats to bring out its
brilliance. The diamond was stolen during the French Revolution, and
a smaller diamond of similar color was sold in l830 to Hope, an
After inheriting the diamond, Hope's son lost his fortune. It was
eventually acquired by an American widow, Mrs. Edward McLean, whose
family the n suffered a series of catastrophes: her only child was
accidentally killed, the family broke up, Mrs. McLean lost her
money, and then committed suicide. When Harry Winston, the New York
diamond merchant, bought the stone in l949, many clients refused to
touch the stone. It is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute
Diamonds were once believed to hold many magical, mystical and
medicinal properties. The phosphorescence of certain diamonds (their
ability to glow in the dark) was considered a proof of the stone's
extraordinary powers. Diamonds were thought to calm the mentally
ill, and to ward off devils, phantoms and even nightmares. They were
supposed to impart virtue, generosity and courage in battle, and to
cause lawsuits to be determined in the wearer's favor. A house or
garden touched at each corner with a diamond was supposed to be
protected from lightning, storms and blight.
The ancient Indians believed the the human soul could pass through
various incarnations, animating gemstones as well as plants and
animals. And Plato, the Greek philosopher, shared the belief that
gems were living beings, produced by a chemical reaction t o
vivifying astral spirits. Later philosophers divided precious stones
into male and female specimens, and even claimed that they could
"marry" and reproduce!
Minerals were among the first medicinal ingredients. In the middle
ages it was believed that a diamond could heal if the sick person
took it bed and warmed it with his body, of breathed upon it while
fasting or wore it next to the skin. A diamond held in t he mouth
would correct the bad habits of liars and scolds. And diamonds were
worn as a talisman against poisoning.
Diamond powder administered internally, however, was a legendary
poison. The Turkish Sultan Bajazet (1447 - 1513) was perhaps
murdered by his son, who slipped a large quantity of powdered
diamond in his father's food. In l532, his doctors dosed Pope
Clement VII with fourteen spoonfuls of pulverized gems, including
diamond, which resulted in death for the patient, as well as a very
high bill for his treatment. In the same century, Catherine de
Medici was famous for dealing out death by diamond powder, and
Benvenuto Cellini, the famous s Italian goldsmith, described an
attempt on his life by an enemy who ordered diamond powder to be
mixed in his salad. But the lapidary responsible for grinding the
diamond filched the stone, replacing it with powdered glass (thereby
The association of diamonds with poison may have been promoted to
discourage the practice of stealing diamonds by swallowing them,
particularly during mining.
Many early cultures and many countries used diamonds for their own
reasons, each with their own meanings. Ancient man used the raw
diamond to create tools and carvings. For example, when tribes in
Africa and the Middle East expanded their trade with one another,
these rare stones became a mode of exchange, the world's first hard
currency. The symbols and representations of the Diamond are
expansive and individual. For some it meant the key to magic,
healing, protection and even poisoning. To others its wealth,
prosperity, status, and everlasting love. It was even said that in
ancient Greece and Rome Cupids' arrows were tipped with diamonds
which had an effect equal to nothing. They have been the strength,
power and symbols of Kings and Queens, the ruin of kingdoms, and the
teardrops of forgotten Gods.
Today one of the most common uses of the Diamond from a sociological
aspect is in the Wedding, Engagement ring. Even in the 2nd Century
Rome the ring was used in the ceremony before the Emperor and his
blessing. The custom was then 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 eternal union. Today
the Diamond Ring, commits a man and a woman to each other with the
expression of strength, purity, brilliance and the indestructible
bond of love.
Below is a brief look at the history & evolution of the Diamond :
3.3 Billion years ago
Almost 200 km below the earth’s surface carbon began to evolve under
extreme pressure and heat, the beginnings of the formation of the
most valued commodity on earth, the Diamond.
322 BC - 185 BC
Diamonds begin to appear in Europe as accent decoration in other
forms of Jewelry. King Louis IX of France bestows rarity to diamonds
and establishes intrinsic value on them. 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.
The Archduke Maximillian of Austria “proposes” to his wife to be
Mary of Burgundy with a Diamond Ring, a symbol of his betrothal.
Hence the first recorded engagement ring. It was worn on the 3rd
finger of the right hand, in order to be against a specific vein
that goes directly to the heart.
Antwerp Belgium, the most important diamond center of the period,
where a Diamond-cutters' Guild was soon to be established.
1600 – 1750
The Diamond was the first and foremost symbol of ultimate wealth and
prosperity in Europe. India was the only know source of Diamonds.
Brazil was soon to follow.
A discovery of diamonds near Hopetown, south of Kimberley in South
Africa, gives birth to the modern diamond industry. The 1870s and
1880s in the Northern Cape saw a mad rush to the newly discovered
The world's largest gem quality diamond, the Cullinan, was found in
South Africa. Uncut, it weighed 3025 carats. It was presented to
King Edward VII for his 66th birthday.
The criteria for Diamonds established. The standards and the 4 C’s,
Cut, Colour, Carat, and Clarity are published.
1967 - 2000
Botswana becomes the largest producer of Diamonds by value in the
world. 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 Color, Flawless Diamond in the world.
The legacy of the Diamond will continue. It existed at the dawn of
civilized man and will adorn for years to come. It will be part of
Weddings, celebrations, a part of love and prosperity, a part of
intrigue and beauty and a part of every woman’s heart that keeps one
on her finger. Men will always swear love by it, and love will
always maintain the brilliance of earth’s great gift, the Diamond.
DIAMOND. 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 this
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 amorphous carbon.
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
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
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 and
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.
The earliest producing diamond mines were in the Golconda region
of India. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a Frenchman, is credited with the
discovery of the first gemstone in the region in 1627. Mining was
well-established by the mid-seventeenth century and a single mine
employed 60,000 persons to dig and carry the alluvial gravels that
contained the diamonds.
India's primacy in diamond production lasted until the 1720's. After
1725, the Portuguese discovered diamond alluvial deposits in Brazil
which remained the most important producer until the mid-1800's. The
Brazilian stones were of good quality and the country produced some
16 million carats between 1750 and 1850.
In 1867, a 21-carat stone discovered on the banks of the Orange
River, South Africa, started a great diamond rush. Between 1870 and
1891, no less than six kimberlite pipes were discovered in
Kimberley. The biggest pipe in South Africa was discovered at
Cullinan, near Pretoria, in 1902. The world's largest gem diamond,
the 3,106 carat Cullinan, was found there in 1905.
In the 1950's, Yakutia, a region of the Soviet Union, began to
develop newly discovered diamond resources. This Siberian diamond
field would make their nation one of the greatest diamond producers
of all time.
In the 1960's, diamond fields were discovered in Botswana. The three
diamond mines - Orapa, Letlhakane and Jwaneng - make Botswana the
world's second-largest producer of diamonds and the largest producer
of gem diamonds by both value and number.
In 1991, a diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe was drilled at Lac de
Gras, N.W.T., Canada to begin the largest land staking rush in
Canadian mining history. Production of the BHP/DiaMet pipes is
scheduled to begin in 1998. Work to date indicates several pipes
have gem diamond concentrations and valuations as rich as diamond
mines in Africa.
Global gem diamond demand currently exceeds mine production, thus
ensuring continued development and exploration for these highly
The Magic and the Mystery
The legends, tales, rumours and dreams that have surrounded this
wonder of nature called diamond, has kept it singularly alone at the
pinnacle of gemstones. Men have fought and died for diamonds, and
have used them as collateral to finance their wars.
The name "diamond" came from the Greek adarnas, meaning invincible.
Diamonds became an ornament suitable for military leaders. For more
than 2,000 years, diamond has been sought after as personal treasure
and worn as an ornament of rank or wealth. Some of the legends
surrounding diamond have included the following beliefs in varying
cultures around the world:
The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars
fallen to the earth. It was said by some that they were the tears of
Another legend has it that there was an inaccessible valley in
Central Asia carpeted with diamonds, 'patrolled by birds of prey in
the air and guarded by snakes of murderous gaze on the ground'.
In China, diamonds were carried in the belief that they could thwart
evil spirits and they became a symbol of strength, courage and
The Roman, Pliny, wrote that swallowing a diamond would neutralize
poison and guard against insanity.
Over the centuries, however, the diamond has acquired its unique
status as the ultimate gift of love. The giving of a diamond
engagement ring, the ultimate symbol of the truest love, has lasted
longer than 500 years. Even in ancient times, the Greeks believed
that the fire in the diamond reflected the constant flame of love.
Indeed, it was said that Cupid's arrows were tipped with diamond,
which imparts a magic that nothing else can ever quite equal.
Whatever the myth or legend that has been associated with this
brilliant gem called diamond, no-one can deny man's fascination with
its beauty, its fire, its magic, and its mystery.
Diamond Wedding Band Resource Search -
History of Diamond
It should come as no surprise that our culture was not the first to
be lured by the hypnotic spell the diamond casts. Consider the
ancient Greeks and Romans who believed diamonds were tears of the
Gods and splinters from falling stars. Then, there were the Hindus,
who attributed so much power to these precious stones they went so
far as to place diamonds in the eyes of some of their statues.
The Power of Diamonds
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.
Through the centuries, rings have perpetuated the talismanic role of
the diamond. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance period, every ring
that was set with a precious stone was not considered so much as a
piece of jewelry, but more as an amulet that conveyed magical powers
like fearlessness and invincibility upon the wearer. This myth laid
the groundwork for monarchs to begin wearing diamonds as symbols of
Today, diamonds continue to hold a deep fascination as the world’s
ultimate symbol of love. The diamond’s rarity and natural beauty are
the qualities that have contributed to making the diamond such a
special and magical gift.
How Diamonds Are Formed
One million years in the making
What many people don’t know about diamonds is that they were formed
under immense heat and pressure hundreds of miles below sea level.
After 100 million years of formation, volcanic explosions forced
them upward, exposing their natural beauty to the world. Diamonds
were formed more than 70 million years ago when diamond-bearing ore
was brought to the surface through volcanic eruption. After the
magma cooled, it solidified into blue ground, or kimberlite, where
the precious rough is still found today. Rated 10 on the Mohs scale
of hardness, diamonds are the hardest substances on earth, but their
appeal goes far beyond durability.
Adding to the mystery and aura of what make diamonds so
sought-after, approximately 250 tons of ore must be mined and
processed in order to produce a single, one-carat, polished,
Mining and cutting
It was over 4,000 years ago that the first diamonds were mined in
India. Modern mining as we know it today began in South Africa in
the late 19th century. Today, the top seven diamond-producing
countries, accounting for 80 percent of the world’s rough diamond
supply, are Botswana, Russia, South Africa, Angola, Namibia,
Australia and Zaire