The History of Diamonds

Diamonds come from the Ancient Greek word “adamas”, meaning “unbreakable”. Because of its extremely rigid structure, it doesn’t get contaminated by many impurities, such as boron or nitrogen.  This is why it is one of the most sought-after gemstones. Diamonds have been a decorative piece for mankind since ancient times. The biggest diamond in the world is called the Hope Diamond, a blue colored diamond necklace weighing almost 46 carats.

The early references to diamonds come from Sanskrit texts in India. The Arthashastra mentions diamond trades in that region. There are also notes in Buddhist works, describing it as a well-known and precious stone, but without mentioning the details or the diamond cutting. Another description, also from India in the 3rd century, describes its strength, regularity, brilliance, ability to scratch metals and good refractive properties. Eventually, this gemstone spread all over India, being later sold around the world.

The modern era for diamonds began in the 1860s in Kimberley, South Africa, with the first large-scale diamond mine. This extraction began when, on the banks of the Orange River, the first diamond was found. This sparked the aforementioned large-scale diamond mine. From 1871 to 1914, the ‘Big Hole’ was dug, being the biggest hole in the world to be ever excavated by hand. It yielded 2722 kg of diamonds, making Kimberley the second largest town in South Africa.

Nowadays, the annual global rough diamond production comes about 130 million carats, or 26 tonnes, 92% of which is cut and polished in the city of Surat, India. The 85% of rough diamonds, 50% of cut diamonds and 40% of industrial diamonds are traded in Antwerp, Belgium, considered the diamond capital of the world. This city also hosts the Antwerpsche Diamantkring, the first and largest diamond bourse dedicated to rough diamonds. The Antwerp’s association with diamonds began in the 15th century, when a new way to polish and shape gems evolved in this city.

The most recurrent use of diamonds is adornment, which dates back into ancient times. Its most important characteristic is its light refraction, making white light appear into different colors. Gemologists, in the twentieth century, have developed methods of grading diamonds based on the characteristics they value as a gem, also known as the four Cs: carat, cut, color and clarity.

The most usual employment for the diamond in jewelry is in engagement rings, which became popular in the twentieth century, although diamond rings have been used as an engagement symbol since the fifteenth century. It is also used for special occasions, making diamond necklaces, bracelets or watches very popular among the wealthy. Nowadays, there are many more objects decorated with diamonds, such as mobile phone cases, pieces of clothing or even cars.


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