A Diamond is the hardest mineral on earth rating at 10 on the Mohs scale, it is the most highly prized of all gems, its brilliance, lustre, fire and refraction has been its attraction since time immemorial. It is formed in so many colours other from the clear, pink, yellow, blue, red, grey and black.
How are Diamonds formed?
Diamond are formed at high temperatures and pressures. However, when India and Brazil were the main producers diamonds tended to be found in secondary sources such as river gravels. However, since the discovery of diamonds in Kimberite rock in South Africa (around 1870) the process has involved the extraction from millions of tons of South African rock. Australia is one of the world’s leading producers today, but Ghana, Sierra Leone, the USA and Brazil are other major suppliers of diamonds. Diamonds are graded in what is known as the 4 Cs.
Carat weight, that is the weight of the stone, originally named from the seed of the carib tree, the colour, that is various grades of white from blue white to yellow white, clarity, that is how clean or flawless is the stone, to cut, being how is it cut, maybe brilliant, step, or princess as a few examples.
The history of the diamond is a long one. First found in the 4th century BC in India, from deposits formed some 900 million years ago. They were traded between China and India along the Silk Road. It was believed then that diamonds would ward off evil, cure illness and heal wounds.
Diamonds are in fact carbon, in other words- coal! However, it is the way that the atoms within are arranged that determine the difference. In 1866 a 15 year old boy, Erasmus Jacobs was playing along the Orange River. He found what he thought was unusual pebble, it turned out to be a 21carat diamond! It is this sort of discovery that sparks a rush of prospectors, and another 81 carat stone was found in Colesberg Kopje in South Africa led to a mass influx of hopeful miners now known as the Kimberley mine. However it was Cecil Rhodes who formed the De Beers company in 1880 who managed to control the flow of diamonds and the supply. However in 1919 diamonds were devalued by 50% due to weakness in demand.
But diamonds are still seen as a successful De Beers campaign coined the phrase, ‘ A diamond is a girl’s best friend’, true, if she has a boy to buy her one! De Beers were very good at promotion, and in 1947 the phrase ‘A diamond is forever’ was coined.
Engagement rings have been used as far back as ancient history, the Romans particularly used a betrothal ring, and the third on the left hand was the place for the ring, as the vein called the vena amorous was said to run directly to the heart. However, it was in 1215 when the current Pope of the time, Innocent III declared that there should be a suitable waiting time between betrothal and marriage. It was though in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria seemed to be the first recorded person to present his fianće with a diamond ring, accepted by Mary of Burgundy, but very much an upper class and a Royalty procedure for the time being. However, the late Victorian period saw the rise in popularity of the diamond engagement ring, and today nearly 80% of all rings sold contain a diamond with without other gemstones.
Modern stones are now cut by lasers rather than by hand, and so are almost perfect in their 52 facet cut. Other popular shapes are now available. However, diamond deposits are slowly being depleted, and less than 2% are seen as top grade or investment diamonds as 75-80% are used in industry. It takes 250 tons of ore to produce a one carat diamond for a ring!
Its the birthstone for April, and for the 60th wedding anniversary. Go to www.vintagetom.co.uk for a wonderful selection of pre-owned and antique diamond rings like the rings below, or visit our store in Somerset for a lovely range of new diamond rings.
A Selection of our Vintage and Antique rings