DIAMONDS THROUGH THE AGES

Introduction

The history of diamonds stems over billions of years and the tale is one of mystical power, beauty, wealth and spirit. The word diamond is derived from the Greek word ‘adamas’ meaning unconquerable or indestructible.

The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were tears from the Gods. Diamonds were thought to be mystical and powerful stones that affected the heavens and the hearts. For the last 4,000 years, diamonds have been relieved to hold a special power for Kings, Queens and their subjects. Today, diamonds continue to hold our fascination as modern technology brings a diamond to life in fire, brilliance and scintillation.

3.3 BILLION BC

3.3 BILLION BC

Diamonds were formed around 3.3 billion years ago under intense heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s crust, more than 150km below the surface in a area known as the mantle which consists of volcanic magma. Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man. Made from pure carbon, a diamond can produce more brilliance than any other gemstone on earth. As testament to a diamond’s rarity, on average 250 tonnes of ore must be mined in order to produce a single carat gem quality polished diamond. Thus, only a small amount of diamond rough makes it to the surface, and fewer still are of gem quality suitable for diamond jewellery. South Africa is among the top diamond producing countries in the world. Learn more

2500 BC

2500 BC

First Diamond Sighting in India The first diamond discovery is believed to have occurred in India around 2500 BC as alluvial deposits along the rivers of Penner, Krishna and Godavari. Initially, these rough diamonds were not valued for their brilliance as they are today, instead these were known to be extremely hard, early tales describing it as indestructible, and were used in tools of that era. The Indian alluvial deposits were virtually the only source of diamonds for centuries yielding some world famous stones including the The Great Mogul and the Koh-i-Noor.

322 BC

322 BC

Diamonds first used as decoration In 322BC, diamonds appear in Europe as accent decoration to royalty in the form of jewellery reserved only for Kings because they stood for strength, courage and invincibility.

1330

1330

Diamond cutting established as industry The earliest diamond cutting industry is believed to have started in Venice, Rome a widely recognised trade capital. The earliest form of diamond cutting is the point cut, with eight symmetrical facets in the shape of an octahedron. This cut was later improved to a Table Cut, achieved by cutting off part of the top half at the Point Cut to create a table.

1477

1477

First diamond given as an engagement ring The Archduke Maximillian of Austria proposes to his wife to be, Mary of Burgundy, with a diamond ring symbolising his betrothal. It was worn on the 3rd finger of the right hand, against a specific vein that goes directly to the heart. Learn about the history of the first engagement ring.

1550

1550

First Diamond Centre Established The first, and most important diamond centre of that period was established in Antwerp, Belgium.

1660

1660

Diamonds worn as a symbol of wealth From 1600 – 1750 diamonds symbolised ultimate wealth and prosperity in Europe among men and woman. During that period, India was the only known source of diamonds, and Brazil followed shortly thereafter.

1867

1867

Diamonds discovered in South Africa The story of diamonds in South Africa begins between December 1866 and February 1867 when 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs found a transparent rock on his father’s farm, on the south bank of the Orange River. It was this discovery that led to the boom of diamond industry and attracted tradesmen from a far. The further discovery of diamonds near Hopetown, Kimberly gave birth to the modern diamond industry and radically affected not only the world’s supply of diamonds, but also the conception of them. The 1870s and 1880s brought a mad rush for diamonds in the Northern Cape, encompassing the mines that produced 95% of the worlds’ diamonds. As annual world diamond production increased more than 10 fold during the 10 years, a once extremely rare gem became more accessible to men. Today South Africa remains a leading diamond producer.

1905

1905

Cullinan Diamond Discovery of the Cullinan at 3,106ct. The largest diamond every found. Learn more about the world’s most famous diamonds.

1919

1919

Ideal Cut Diamond proportions developed Marcel Tolkowsky revolutionises diamond cutting with the creation of the Modern Brilliant and Ideal Cut. Learn more about diamond shapes and cuts.

1939

1939

4Cs established The 4Cs – cut, colour, clarity and carat weight is established by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) for the grading of diamonds. Learn more about the 4Cs of diamond grading.

1988

1988

Centenary Diamond De Beers unveils the Centenary, the largest modern fancy cut diamond. Learn more about the Centenary and other famous diamonds.