History Of Diamonds, Where Do They Come From?
The word “diamond” originally comes from the Greek word ‘Adamas’, which means unconquerable. Diamonds have long been appreciated for their beauty, and they are a very popular choice in jewelry today. Around 70-80% of all brides-to-be receive diamond engagement rings. Its pristine shine and hard texture have made these stones a popular symbol of strength, loyalty, and eternal love. Let’s look into the history of diamonds and learn more about this precious stone.
When Was the Diamond Discovered?
The first diamonds were discovered in the ancient lands of India, close to 4th century BC. These deposits were proven to have formed over 900 million years ago through a series of complex processes involving high heat and pressure deep below the surface of the earth. Today, they have successfully been reproduced in laboratories, but the naturally produced diamonds are still considered to be more durable and tough.
The name for a diamond in Sanskrit is ‘vajra’, which means thunderbolt, the weapon choice of Lord Indra due to its shine and hardness. For the longest time, India was the only source worldwide source of diamonds. As such, supply was extraordinarily low, and only the very rich could afford them. Diamonds held great value in ancient India, where people believed that the gem would lend its owner great happiness, prosperity, and a healthy life.
How Did Diamonds Become so Valuable?
Indeed, diamonds have been considered to be immensely valuable for over a millennium now. Besides being a good omen, diamonds were also revered for their beauty in ancient India. In the first century AD, Roman naturalist Pliny wrote. “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of all precious stones but of all things in this world”. Soon after he wrote this quote, in around 1074. The Queen of Hungary would be the first person to use diamonds as jewelry.
Over the next nine hundred years, diamonds would see frequent resurgences in popularity. In 1215, Pope Innocent III declared a waiting period between betrothal and marriage. This led to the popularisation of engagement rings, but only a handful of them carried diamonds. In 1477, Mary of Burgundy was the first royal bride in Europe to receive a diamond engagement ring. That lead to another resurgence in the popularity of diamonds. However, due to limited demand, these trends did not persist for long. Another diamond mine was found in Brazil around the 18th century, but its resources proved to be insufficient to keep up with demand.
How Did Diamonds Become Popular?
It wasn’t until 1867 that the meaning and popularity of diamonds in human history was altered in a permanent way. A 15-year-old boy named Erasmus Jacobs accidentally discovered what he thought was just a shiny rock on his father’s farm. It turned out to be a 21-carat diamond. This was the first of several discoveries made in South Africa of massive diamond deposits and these skyrocketed the global supply.
The deposits discovered in South Africa were far more fertile than those of India. In just a few years after the finding. The country had already produced more diamonds than India had in a millennium. Today, the sub-continental nation is not even in the top ten diamond producers of the world.
The scale to which diamonds have become popular today is hard to convey. In Japan, for example, people never held any value to diamonds. The popularization of the gem in Western culture, however, has influenced the country to the point where it is now one of the largest importers of diamonds in the world. An overwhelming majority of brides who receive engagement rings contain diamonds and they have maintained their status as a symbol of wealth and love.
The Most Famous Diamonds in History
The history of diamonds is dotted with the discovery of several mega-diamonds. Some of these which have very interesting stories, here’s some of them below.
Everyone loves a diamond with a dark story, and that is exactly what the Kohinoor is. “He who owns this diamond will own the world. But will also know all its misfortunes. Only a God or a woman can wear it with impunity.” reads this prediction stipulated around 1306. Since then, the 189-carat diamond has changed hands several times. It was in the possession of several local kings in India before eventually ending up in the possession of Queen Victoria of England. Today, the diamond is only around 110 carats due to it being recut recently and possession of the diamond has been a political issue between India and England.
Just like the South Africa diamond deposits, the story of the Cullinan is one of serendipitous discovery. The owner of a large mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan, happened to visit his mine unexpectedly. This visit culminated in the discovery of the largest & heaviest diamond the world has ever seen. Named after the owner, the diamond weighed a whopping 3,106 carats upon discovery. However, the diamond was later cut into nine big stones and ninety-six smaller ones. The two largest are called the Cullinan I (530.6 carats) and Cullinan II (317.4 carats). Both of them are up on display at the Tower of London.
The Orlov and the Kohinoor have several things in common. Both were discovered in the Golconda mines of India. Both were once in the possession of ruler Nadir Shah, possibly at the same time. However, despite being almost double the weight of the Koh-i-Noor (300 carats). It has arguably been the less popular of the two. The diamond was in the possession of the Mughals for a long time before emperor Shah Jahan decided to have the gem re-cut. However, an extremely shoddy job led to a great reduction in its value. The diamond was eventually gifted to Catherine the Great and remains in Russia today.