Diamond History

The Greek word "Adamas" meaning unconquerable and indestructible is the root word of diamond. Diamonds have been sought the world over, fought over, worshipped and used to cast love spells.

For the last 3000 to 4000 years, diamonds have 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 diamond acquired its 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 unraveled 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 before.

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 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 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 Poland.

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, India, Israel, South Africa, and the USA.

Diamond Facts
  1. The largest Diamond ever found: Cullinan at 3,106 carats.
  2. What is the hardest natural substance on Earth? The Diamond. 80% of the world's diamonds are not suitable for Jewelry.
  3. Is a Diamond Indestructible? No. The fact that Diamonds are a hard substance refers to their ability to withstand scratching. But that is different than toughness, which refers to the ability to withstand breaking or cleavage.
  4. How old are most diamonds which are found in nature? 1 billion to 3 billion years, by most accounts.
  5. How do diamonds reach us?They are formed deep within the Earth's crust, and come to the surface via Volcanoes. Most diamonds are found in Kimberlite, which is volcanic rock.

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