Cut | Color | Clarity | Carat Weight | Certification | Care | About Diamond Cutting | History | Q & A
The first river-bed (alluvial) diamonds were probably discovered in India, in around 800 B.C. The volcanic source of these diamonds was never discovered, but the alluvial deposits were rich enough to supply most of the world's diamonds until the eighteenth century, when dwindling Indian supplies probably spurred the exploration that led to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil, which became the next important diamond source. Beginning in l866, South Africa's massive diamond deposits were discovered, and a world-wide diamond rush was on. The South African diamond ouput was unrivaled until major deposits were found in Siberian permafrost in l954. And currently Western Canada is the site of the world's newest diamond rush.
Throughout much of history, diamonds were mined from the sand and gravel surrounding rivers. But in South Africa in 1870 diamond was found in the earth far from a river source, and the pratice of dry-digging for diamonds was born. More sophisticated mining techniques allowed deeper subterranean digging, as well as more efficient river (and, most recently, marine) mining, than ever before.
The cutting of diamonds into the complex facetted forms we now associate with these gems is actually a relatively recent practice. For centuries, rough diamonds were kept as talismans, and often not worn at all, though natural octahedra (eight-sided stones) were sometimes set in rings. A Hungarian queen's crown set with uncut diamonds, dating from approximately l074, is perhaps the earliest example of diamond jewellery. We know that the royalty of France and England wore diamonds by the 1300's. In sixteenth century England, fashionable lovers etched romantic pledges on window-panes with the points of their diamond rings, known as "scribbling rings".
The earliest record of diamond-polishing (with diamond powder) is Indian, and probably dates from the fourteenth century. There are also contemporary references to the practice of diamond polishing in Venice. The earliest reference to diamond cutting is in l550 in Antwerp, the most important diamond center of the period, where a diamond-cutters' guild was soon to be established.
Diamond Routes and Centers:
Indian diamonds reached Venice by two Mediterraen routes -- the southern route was by way of Aden, Ethiopia, and Egypt, and the northern route was through Arabia, Persia, Armenia, and Turkey. Then, thanks to the Portuguese discovery of the direct sea route to India, Antwerp flourished as a diamond center, as the city was well-situated to receive vast supplies of rough from Lisbon as well as from Venice.
After Spanish attacks on Antwerp in 1585, many diamond cutters relocated to Amsterdam. And the Netherlands, with its liberal civil policies, attracted diamond craftsmen (including many Jews) who were fleeing religious persecution in Spain, Portugal, Germany and Poland.
In the late 1600's, as the English fortified their interest in India, which was still the world's central diamond source, London became an important cutting center. Later, London became the primary world market of diamond rough.
Today, there are cutting centers all over the world, most notably in Belgium, Indian, Israel, Sourth Africa, and the USA.
Famous diamonds often have complex and even contraversial histories because of the secrecy surrounding such stones
The Star of Africa
At 530.20 carats the Cullinan I or Star Africa diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world. Pear-shaped, with 74 facets, it is set in the Royal Scepter (kept with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London). It was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullian, the largest diamond crystal ever found. The Cullian was discovered in Transvaal, South Africa in l095 on an inspection tour of the Premier Mine.
The Cullian was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before determining how to divide it. It eventually yeilded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant-cut stones. When the Cullian was first discovered, certain signs suggested that it may have been part of a much larger crystal. But no discovery of the "missing half" has ever been authenticated.
Probably the second largest stone ever found (if the lost Braganza cannot be found and authenticated). A high-clarity, blue-white stone, it was found in l893 by a South African mine worker who picked it out of a shovelful of gravel. Because of its irregul ar shape, it was cut into 21 polished stones, of which the largest was a marquise of 69.80 carats. A smaller, 18-carat marquise stone cut from the Excelsior was displayed a the l939 World's Fair by De Beers.
The Great Mogul
The world's third largest gem-quality diamond was named after Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. It was found in the mid-seventheenth centure in Hyderabad, India. It's whereabouts are not presently known, and it may no longer exist as a single large stone. It has been confused with several other famous diamonds, most importantly the Orloff, which has also been described as a faintly blue rose-cut stone.
It is said that the stone was so badly cut that the lapidary, instead of being paid by the Shah, was forced to pay a heavy fine. When Tavernier so the Mogul, he described it as looking like an egg, and weighing 280 old carats.
The Darya-i-Nur is a flawless, transparent pink stone, estimated at 175 to 195 carats. It is the largest and most remarkable gem in the Crown Jewels of Iran, and was one of the spoils of Persia's attack on Delhi in l739. It is now set in a gold frame with other diamonds, topped by a crown bearing lions with ruby eyes, holding scimitars. It was worn by the last Shah for his coronation in l967.
The name of this diamond means "Montain of Light" and its history, dating back to1304, is the longest of all famous diamonds. It was captured by the Rajahs of Malwa in the sixteenth century by the Mogul, Sultan Babur and remained in the possession of later Mogul emperors. It may have been set in the famous Peacock Throne made for Shah Jehan.
After the break-up of the Persian empire the diamond found its way to India. It may have traveled to Afgahnistan with a boydyguard of Nadir Shah, who fled with the stone when the Shah was murdered, to be later offered to Ranjit Singh of the Punjab in exchan ge for military help (which was never delivered). After fighting broke out between the Sikhs and the British, The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity, and then presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850. When the stone came from India, it weighed l986 carats; it was later recut to l08.93 carats. It was first worn by the Queen in a brooch. It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, and 1937 was worn for by Queen Elizabeth for her coronation. It is kept in the Tower of London, with the other Crown Jewels.
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond receives its name from, Henry Thomas Hope. Long before the fabled bad luck associated with its owners, the Hope Diamond has an illustrious history. It was discovered centuries ago in southern region of India, where it was believed to have a great mystical powers that surrounded this unusual size and unique color, a deep indigo blue. The Hope was reputedly used to adorn the statue of a Hindu idol.
In 1642, the famous Blue Tavernier Diamond from Europe, was in the hands of King Louis XIV who had it cut to bring out its brilliance. Later, the diamond was discovered stolen during the French Revolution. For many decades, the Hope Diamond could not be found. It was rumored, according to legend, that the blue stone, which sultans, Kings, English royalty, Jewelers and thieves had previously acquired the stone. Some say, those who owned the blue stone, had some kind of bad luck associated with them where ever they went.
At the turn of the century, in 1911 the diamond was purchased by a young American socialite heiress named Evalyn Walsh McLean who bought the Hope Diamond from Cartier for $185.000.00. This gift was given to Evalyn by her husband Ned, who owned the Washington Post and Cincinnati Enquire newspapers. Evalyn supported the diamond every where. For instance, wearing it in the swimming pool, allowing her great Dane to wear it around the house to protect, loaned it to brides for their special day and allowing her grand daughter, Mamie, to play with it in her sand box and teething on it. Evalyn too saw her share of tragedy. She was ultimately convinced that the true power of the Hope Diamond came from the joy and awe which filled the faces of those who gazed upon it. Mrs. McLean, was the longest private owner and she owned the diamond for 36 years until her death in 1947.
When Harry Winston Jewelers of New York, a diamond merchant, bought the Hope in 1949 from the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean, many clients refused to touch the stone. In 1958, the Hope was given a permanent home at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Today, the Hope Diamond can be enjoyed be millions of people who can see the most sought after exhibit in the world and the most valuable stone in the world. Worth, quarter of a billion dollars. ($250.000.000.00) To learn more about the personal side of Evalyn Walsh McLean and the Hope Diamond, you can go on www.fable-hdc.com and the fairy tale story will fascinate you just like others have come to enjoy year after year.
Diamonds were once believed to hold many magical, mystical and medicnal properties. The phospherescence of certain diamonds (their ability to glow in the dark) was considered a proof of the stone's extraordinary powers. Diamonds were thought to calm the mentally ill, and to ward off devils, phantoms and even nightmares. They were supposed to impart virtue, generosity and courage in battle, and to cause lawsuits to be determined in the wearer's favor. A house or garden touched at each corner with a diamond was supposed to be protected from lightning, storms and blight.
The ancient Indians beleived the the human soul could pass through various incarnations, animating gemstones as well as plants and animals. And Plato, the Greek philospher, shared the belief that gems were living beings, produced by a chemical reaction to vivifying astral spirits. Later philosphers divided precious stones into male and female specimens, and even claimed that they could "marry" and reproduce!
Minerals were among the first medicinal ingrediants. In the middle ages it was beleived that a damond could heal if the sick person took it bed and warmed it with his body, of breathed upon it while fasting or wore it next to the skin. A diamond held in the mouth would correct the bad habits of liars and scolds. Diamonds were worn as a talisman against poisoning. Diamond powder administered internally, however, was a legendary poison. The Turkish Sultan Bajazet (1447 - 1513) was perhaps murdered by his son, who slipped a large quantity of powdered diamond in his father's food. In l532, his doctors dosed Pope Clement VII with fourteen spoonfuls of pulverized gems, including diamond, which resulted in death for the patient, as well as a very high bill for his treatment. In the same century, Catherine de Medici was famous for dealing out death by diamond powder, and Benvenuto Cellini, the famous Italian goldsmith, described an attempt on his life by an enemy who ordered diamond powder to be mixed in his salad. But the lapidary resposible for grinding the diamond filched the stone, replacing it with powdered glass (thereby saving Cellini).
The association of diamonds with poison may have been promoted to discourage the practice of stealing diamonds by swallowing them, particularly during mining.
back to the top