Even though the diamond is the hardest of all gemstones known to man, it is the simplest in composition: it is common carbon. The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars fallen to earth. It was even said by some that they were the tears of the Gods or perhaps crystallized lightning or hardened dew drops. The truth is, however, that the exact origin of diamonds is still something of a mystery, even to scientists and geologists.
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.
Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April, and besides being the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, is the anniversary gem for the10th and 60th years of marriage. Diamonds are found in Australia, Congo, Botswana, Russia and South Africa.
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.