Diamonds Throughout History
Ninth so firmly believed that diamonds were meant for kings that he passed a law preventing commoners from owning the gems.
The diamonds used throughout most of human history have been found in river beds by carefully searching. The fact that diamonds could be mined was not discovered until late in the Nineteenth Century – in South Africa in 1870 a diamond was unearthed miles from any river and the country very quickly went on to become a world diamond power.
Diamonds are measured in carats, a unit of Diamonds have been around for ages. The youngest examples of this gem are about a billion years old! That’s because diamonds are produced when carbon is compressed under the earth for a long time, under intense pressure and in high heat. In fact, it takes a temperature of about two thousand degrees Fahrenheit to produce a sparkler!
These ancient artifacts make their way up from over ninety miles under the crust of the planet by hitching a lift on some passing volcanic magma. Volcanoes that start this deep are quite rare, which explains why diamonds are also fairly rare. Diamonds are made from carbon, so are very close relatives of the coal that we burn and the graphite we sketch with. Coal and graphite never became diamonds simply because they did not reach the same high temperatures or pressures.
Diamonds have been precious throughout history. Before the birth of Christ, citizens in India were using these beautiful stones as decorative items. In Ancient China, they were put to a different, more practical use. Since they are incredibly hard–the word “diamonds” comes from the Greek term “impossible to tame”–the Chinese used them to engrave jade, which they considered a more valuable substance.
But diamonds have not always enjoyed the immense popularity they do now. Trade restrictions between Europe and India hundreds of years ago gave diamonds a bad reputation, especially as the stones were often used in non-Christian amulets. This didn’t play well in the heavily Christian Europe of the time.
When trade pick up in the 14th century, diamonds became increasingly popular. People in India continued to enjoy the stones in their raw, uncut state, but Europeans started cutting the gems to show off their intrinsic beauty. Cutting the diamonds allowed them to sparkle as they had never done before.
The art of diamond cutting has been through many changes throughout diamond history. The aim of the cutting is to let the diamond shine most beautifully – to show off what diamond experts call the fire of the diamond. Their are many cuts, with names like point, table, rose and Mazarin cuts. One of the finest patterns was developed by a German mathematician and diamond lover named Marcel Tolkowsky. He used his athematical gifts to calculate the ideal shape to show a diamond its best.
Even though diamonds are rare, they are now owned by people from all backgrounds. This was not always the case. In France, King Louis the weight. One hundred and forty seven carats add up to one ounce. Even a one carat diamond is expensive, so you are likely to come across diamonds measured in points – 50 points is half a carat.
Today it’s possible to manufacture diamonds in laboratory conditions, but these man-made items aren’t as expensive and valuable as the real thing. Diamonds that are almost as old as the earth itself continue to have a cachet that, seemingly, will never diminish.
Adala Fendham is a leading jeweler and authority on gems and diamonds.