The History of Diamonds

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?

When Were Diamonds First Discovered?

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.

History of Diamonds

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.

What do Diamonds Symbolise?

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.

History of Diamonds

What does the word Diamond mean?

The ancient Greeks regarded diamonds as the tears of god and the word for diamonds, ‘adamas’ meant invincible. The adjective ‘adamas’ translates as ‘the hardest substance’.

Who gave the first Diamond Engagement Ring?

The History of Diamonds

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.

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The Diamond Trade in Europe

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.

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.

History of Diamonds

The Discovery of Diamonds in South Africa

In the early days most of the world’s diamonds were coming from India but these resources were being rapidly exhausted. Soon 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.

The Eureka Diamond

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.

Who Discovered the Modern Brilliant Cut Diamond?

Diamonds are the one of the hardest substances known to man, so cutting them is no easy task! If you look at the diamonds used in jewellery throughout history, you can see the evolution of how each generation of diamond cutters has improved the cut of a diamond. The most basic cutting of rough diamonds seen in very early examples looks closer to a natural rock crystal. But by the time we get to Victorian jewellery, the ‘old mine cut diamond’ has the familiar round diamond shape we recognise today.

The major breakthrough was the development of the Modern Brilliant Cut, largely attributed to Marcel Tolkowsky, after his release of a manuscript ‘Diamond Design’ in 1919. He had studied how light travelled through a diamond and mathematically calculated the exact proportions for the 'ideal cut'. His design maximised both the brilliance (how light reflects and sparkles) and the fire (how light refracts to show a rainbow of colours).

Marcel Tolkowski

Our Jewellery shops in Brighton, Chichester and Eastbourne all have a fantastic range of Antique, Vintage and Pre-owned jewellery – there’s always new items being added, with wonderfully unique jewellery in styles from each era.

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What is the Kimberly Process?

December 2000 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.

Kimberly Process Diamonds

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.

The Future of Diamonds? - Natural VS Synthetic Diamonds

The most technological advancement in the history of diamonds must be the creation of Laboratory-Grown diamonds or Synthetic Diamonds. Laboratory-Grown Diamonds combine the beauty of nature and the wonders of science. A Laboratory-Grown Diamond or Synthetic Diamond is almost indistinguishable to a natural diamond in terms of the physical, chemical and optical characteristics. The only difference is that it has been created by scientific means rather than created by nature and mined from a natural resource.

It is unlikely that the demand for Laboratory-Grown Diamonds produced in a factory will ever overtake the desire to own a natural diamond formed naturally over billions years, but their production has opened up the market for higher clarity large diamonds at lower prices, giving consumers more choice when selecting a diamond.

Learn more about Laboratory-Grown Diamonds in our updated blog “Understanding and Identifying Natural Diamonds vs Synthetic Diamonds”

Browse our collection of Diamond Stud Earrings. Most of our Diamond stud earrings are natural diamonds, however we do also have some Laboratory Grown Diamond stud earrings

Gold Arts has been selling beautiful diamond jewellery since 1979, and we are still an independent family owned business. Our Jewellery shops in Brighton, Chichester and Eastbourne all wonderful diamond jewellery and fantastic knowledgeable staff. We would love to meet you in one of our stores or you can always contact us via email.

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Understanding and Identifying Natural Diamonds vs Synthetic Diamonds

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