Diamonds, the ones that make our lives brighter and happier, are some of the earliest precious stones found on Earth. During their long existence, they have contributed a lot to the development of our craftsmanship, which gives us the freedom to say that they have created a whole new universe which belongs only to them. That is why the history of diamonds should never be underestimated, but truly appreciated instead.
Have you ever asked yourself where does the diamond come from and how it has worked its way up through time to become the most appreciated and of course, the most expensive precious stone of all? Not really? No worries, because this article is exactly what you need to discover your favorite gem in a brand-new light like you have never seen it before. So, let’s start our time machine and go back in time to explore the life journey of our dear, sparkling and irreplaceable diamonds.
THE EARTHLY ORIGINS
Diamonds are not only distinctive for their sparkling beauty and value, but also for their apparition in our world. In other words, a diamond cannot be formed anytime, anywhere and under any circumstance. Instead, there are just two places on this planet where it can be formed:
The uppermost mantle makes part of the hardest outer layer of Earth and it is the most common place where rough diamonds are formed. Hence, a diamond starts to form into the depths of the uppermost mantle on an average of 88 - 200 miles down. But, that is not all. It requires a specific pressure and temperature, which can be provided only by particular continental plates. Generally, the longer a diamond lies in the depths of Earth’s crust, the bigger it grows.
But, the paramount question is: “How diamonds make it to the Earth surface?” The answer is very simple –they are carried within massive rocks from Earth’s crust to Earth’s surface by big volcanic eruptions. It is like they come out of the heart of the planet and are generously put at the disposal of mankind.
Around meteorite-impact craters
Known as ‘impact’ diamonds, these gems are a very particular group of diamonds that do not originate from Earth’s crust and volcanic eruptions, but from meteorite-impact craters formed by a meteorite strike that took place three billion years ago. These diamonds are mostly mined in Africa and South America.
THE FIRST DIAMONDS FOUND BY MAN
It is said in the history of diamonds that the very first diamond samples were discovered in the Golconda River’s alluvium in India, around 3000 years ago. This place was abundantly rich with diamonds and it quickly became the most renowned trading commodity in India in those times. Golconda itself became a synonym of vast wealth and a brand name for any rich mine in the world. This place was targeted by many powerful nations back then, but mostly by English and Europeans. This is how India built its reputation as the most affluent diamond destination where the most spectacular gems were coming from, like for example, the famous Daria-i-Noor diamond heavy astonishing 185 carats.
Diamonds were usually possessed by rulers and rich people. Another huge reason that contributed a lot to the popularity of these stones was their exceptional hardness and durability that made them being treasured as amulets too.
THEIR JOURNEY TO EUROPE
In 300BC, the gems with stunning beauty and mystical powers were brought to the European land by the Alexander the Great. They still maintain their reputation as gift and tools of the gods that have plenty of magical and healing properties. In the history of diamonds is mentioned that one of their most important properties that was particularly believed in was protection, such as protecting the wearer from the enemy, mortal diseases, thieves, poisonous snakes and evil spirits. It was also believed that owning a diamond brings good luck and plenty of food, at first place.
However, it is important to note that in the times of ancient Greeks and Romans, diamond cutting was not developed yet, so diamonds were used as jewels and amulets in their rough forms. More precisely, first uncut diamonds made their apparition in Rome in the period between the 1st and 3rd century. A lot of knowledge about the significance and use of these heavenly stones, as they were popularly known, was passed by Indians to ancient societies and this is how first encyclopedias were written. Ancient Greeks used to call diamonds ‘tears of gods’ falling down to Earth. Another very common name used for diamonds was ‘adamas’, which means ‘invincible’ and it stands for their impressive hardness, durability and resistance.
In the 13th century, Venice became the capital of diamond trade that supplied the most of European cities with silk and diamonds. This was the beginning of the diamond industry’s growth and Bruges (a city of northwest Belgium) was the first place where diamonds started being processed. In the mid 15th century, Lodewijck van Berken, a Burges citizen and diamond cutter became worldwide famous for inventing a revolutionary device in diamond cutting – the scaif. This important invention marked as a milestone in the history of diamonds contributed a lot to the industry and to the increasing popularity of diamonds themselves.
THEIR USE IN ENGAGEMENT RINGS
For the first time in the history of diamonds, a diamond jewelry adornment was given in the name of love and commitment in the 15th century. In 1447, the archduke Maximilian I of Austria proposed Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring and that is how the tradition of using diamonds as a symbol of love started. At first time, it was practiced only by royalty families, but with time it became accepted by all classes.
THE EVOLUTION OF DIAMOND CUTS
In the 16th century, the rose cut was introduced to jewelry and it resembled to an opening rosebud. Later on, other cuts were created, including the oval, the pear and the marquise cut. Diamond cutters of those times used to work on the highest floors of their houses in order to take an advantage of great amounts of daylight.
Written by: Liljana Tomova