Diamonds are one of the most sought after gemstones in the world holding symbolic meanings which date back to ancient times. But how were these precious gemstones discovered and how did these sparkling stones find their way from hidden deep beneath the ground into an international symbol of love, luxury and fashion?
It is impossible to know when the first human discovery of a diamond occurred as these precious stones are more ancient than human civilization itself. What we do know is that the first human record relating to diamonds was at around 300BC in ancient India.
It is written in an ancient accounting book in the 4th Century BC in Sanskrit and documents the diamond as being found in the Golconda River. It reveals that even in these ancient times diamonds were regarded as precious trading commodities.
In ancient Egypt people believed that diamonds held mystical powers and forces. If worn on the hand it was believed this would create a magical force through the veins straight to the heart, symbolising love and eternity.
Ancient Greeks regarded diamonds as the tears of god and the word for diamonds, ‘adamas’ meant invincible and the adjective ‘adamas’ translates as ‘the hardest substance’.
From the start of the 13th century Europe became heavily linked with the world of diamonds and Venice acted as the key point of diamond trade between India and Northern Europe. Diamonds were still exceptionally rare and in the 13th century Louis IX of France declared a law which reserved all diamonds for only the King.
The first known instance of a diamond ring being gifted as an engagement gift dates back to 1477, where it is reported that Arch Duke Maximilian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring following his proposal of marriage.
In 1498 the trading centre for diamonds moved from Venice to Lisbon as Vasco de Gama discovered a direct sea route to India, thus increasing the distribution of diamonds from South East Asia to Europe.
Whilst much of the world’s diamonds were coming from India these resources were being rapidly exhausted and so diamond mines sprung up across South America to meet European demand.
However it was the discovering of vast and rich diamond mines in South Africa which was to change the diamond industry in a seismic way. Known as the ‘ Eureka Diamond’ the first diamond discovered in South Africa weighed 21.25 carats and is on display today at the mine museum in Kimberly, South Africa.
Before this time diamonds were still incredibly rare and worn mainly by the exclusive elites and aristocracy, however this soon changed and after the South African diamond discovery diamonds and diamond jewellery became more available to the wider public. In 1871 world annual production exceeded 1 million carats for the first time.
The Modern Brilliant Cut
In the 19th Century Henry Morse discovered the modern brilliant cut. It is this cut of diamond which harnesses light to travel through a diamond giving it maximum brilliance and fire. This cut was soon mathematically perfected by Marcel Tolkowski in 1919.
The Kimberly Process
December 200 marked a pivotal event in the history of the diamond trade as the United Nations supported the creation of an international certification programme for all rough diamonds. In 2003 The Kimberly Process was introduced.
The scheme was introduced due to a very small proportion of the world's diamonds being used to fund rebel movements and finance armed conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments. The Kimberly process works to prevent the circulation of conflict diamonds. All countries which have signed up to the scheme ensure that production, export and importing of diamonds complies to strict trading regulation ensuring the ethical standard of the Kimberly Process are upheld and that all diamonds are conflict free. Here at Gold Arts we only buy from reputable suppliers which agree to The Kimberly Process ensuring that all of our diamonds are sourced conflict free.