All About Diamonds
Created over epochs of time a hundred feet below the surface of the earth, pure carbon formed by intense heat and pressure, brought up to the surface of the earth by volcanic activity, diamonds are a highly prized precious stone. Mined from the earth and cut to perfect clarity and brilliance, they have a long history of significance all across the world.
In modern culture, diamonds have been closely linked with love and romance. In 1947, De Beers, a jewelry company, proclaimed that “a diamond is forever.” In 1953, Marilyn Monroe sang, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Nowadays, 83% of all engagement rings feature a diamond as the centerpiece.
Most diamonds are retrieved from mines, which are wide, deep holes chiseled out of the ground. The first diamonds were mined from India, and in the 1700s, Brazil rose to prominence as the center of the diamond trade. In the late 19th century, diamonds were discovered in South Africa, which created a great diamond rush on the continent. These days, diamonds are mined all over the world, notably in Botswana, Canada, and Russia, which is currently the largest supplier of diamonds. Of all diamonds mined today, only 30% are of jewelry-level quality.
Where did the word “diamond” come from? It finds its roots in a Greek word. Adamas means unconquerable or indestructible. This referred both to its remarkable hardness—diamond is the hardest substance known to man, a perfect 10 on the Moh’s scale—as well as its mythic qualities.
Diamonds have long had a magical reputation. Ancient Romans and Greeks thought that diamonds were tears of the gods or splinters from shooting stars. It was said that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds, an early association of diamonds with romance. Pliny, a first century naturalist, is quoted as saying, “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of things in the world.”
Diamonds are thought to have been traded in India as early as the 4th century BC. Ancient Hindus believed in the protective powers of diamonds, and many cultures saw diamonds as a source of strength and courage in battle, to the point where some kings’ armor was set with diamonds. In the Middle Ages, diamonds were seen as a powerful healing substance, able to cure a range of illnesses.
The first diamond engagement ring on record was a gift from Archduke Maximilian of Austria to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy. It was a gold ring set with diamonds in the shape of an M.
In the Victorian era, it became popular to give ornately decorated rings as engagement gifts, often featuring diamonds along with other colorful stones. The 1940s created the engagement ring as we know it: a solitaire diamond set on a gold band, a symbol of life-long love and commitment.
While these days, most of us don’t choose diamonds for their supposed powers, they do hold a strange enchantment. They are stunningly beautiful, with a rich and varied history, and through the years they have risen to prominence in the jewelry world. Will diamonds continue to represent love and romance for centuries to come? Only time will tell.