In ancient times only kings wore diamonds as a symbol of strength, courage and invincibility. Over the centuries, the diamond acquired its unique status as the ultimate gift of love. It was said that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds that have magic that nothing else can ever-quite equal. But it wasn’t until 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy, that the tradition of diamond engagement rings began. Even the reason a woman wears it on the third finger of her left hand dates back to the early Egyptian belief that the vena amoris (vein of love) ran directly from the heart to the top of the third finger, left hand.
The hardness and durability of the diamond have always stood for an eternally incorruptible principle that protects its wearer from evil. In addition, the fact that white light is composed of all colors convinced the ancients that the diamond, the gem of light akin to the sun, was a combination of all the other precious stones.
The diamond has played a part in almost every religion. In the Talmud, a gem supposed to have been the diamond was worn by the high priest and served to show the guilt or innocence of one accused of any crime. If the accused were guilty, the stone was supposed to turn dim; if innocent, it shone more brilliantly than ever.
The Hindus classified diamonds and rubies according to four castes. The Brahman diamond meant power, riches, friends and good luck; the Kshatriya diamond was reputed to prevent the onset of old age; the Vaisya stone was supposed to bring success; and the Sudra was supposed to bring all manner of good fortune. Soldiers believed that a diamond carried into battle would keep them safe from harm and even render them invisible.
The far-reaching magic of the diamond included indomitable power against poison, fears, nightmares, sorcery, quarrels, lunacy and possession by devils. Diamonds brought power, riches, success, friends, everlasting youth and the promise of serenity and contentment.
Like the emerald, the diamond was reputed to be a reliable test for fidelity. A stone placed on the breast of a sleeping lover was expected to make him tell all. Another device was to rest a diamond on a wife’s head without her knowledge while she slept. If she was faithful, she would turn to her husband in her sleep; if not, she would move away.
An old English ballad tells of the romance of a beautiful princess who gave her suitor a ring set with seven diamonds as a memento on his departure for a sea journey. Some distance from home, he observed that the diamonds had turned pale. He saw this as a sign that the princess had found a new love. He hurried back just in time to prevent her marriage to another. Need we add…they lived happily ever after.
The first recorded history of the diamond dates back some 3,000 years to India, where it is likely that diamonds were first valued for their ability to reflect light. In those early days, this stone was used in two ways, firstly for decorative purposes, and secondly as a talisman to ward off evil or provide protection in battle.
During the Middle Ages more attention was paid to the worth of diamonds, rather than the mystical powers surrounding them. Due to the improved public awareness of the value of diamonds, mine owners perpetuated myths that diamonds were poisonous. This was to prevent the mineworkers from swallowing the diamonds in an attempt to smuggle them out of the mines.
The popularity of diamonds surged during the middle ages, with the discovery of many large and famous stones in India, such as the Koh-I-Noor and the Blue Hope. But when the Indian diamond supply dwindled, smaller finds occurred in Borneo and Brazil, but these were not sufficient to meet the ever-increasing demand for diamonds. The mid-nineteenth century discovery of diamonds near the Orange River in South Africa sparked the world’s biggest diamond rush, and helped to satiate the world’s increasing appetite for diamonds.
On October 2nd 1979, geologists found the Argyle pipe near Lake Argyle: the richest diamond deposit in the world. Since then, Argyle has become the world’s largest volume producer of diamonds, and alone is responsible for producing over a third of the world’s diamonds every year. Currently, most diamonds are mined in the following countries: South Africa, Zaire, Russia, Canada, Australia, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Brazil, Ghana, and China. The major cutting centers of the diamond world are in Antwerp, Bombay, Tel Aviv, and New York.