Nothing so small has ever been as fascinating to mankind as diamonds. Each diamond, no matter how tiny, has its own story and a distinctive charm to it. Cherished for their ability to reflect light, they are a symbol of purity, perfection, and strength. Both a mineral and a precious stone, the hardest substance naturally found on our planet is also one of the most revered and sought after materials at the same time.
Immersed in mythology and rooted in legends, in the hands of modern alchemists diamonds are given a whole new value. From ancient myths about diamond-filled valleys protected by mythological creatures, up to the industry that developed around these precious stones today, the history behind diamonds has always been associated with folklore. While some admire diamonds simply for their beauty and perfection, others make a fortune from processing and trading this spectacular carbon shape.
Diamonds throughout history
Mined at great depths, approximately 93 miles down toward the core of the Earth, diamonds have been born at high temperatures some 4 billion years ago, making these minerals 600 times older than our oldest ancestor. Despite their rarity, they are a form of carbon, the most widespread mineral on Earth. Carbon is formed during the incandescent death of a star. When a star dies, it explodes, throwing billions of tons of carbon into space, some of which have landed upon our planet.
The first documents recalling the use of diamonds date back from 800 BC in India, but it seems that they have been known to mankind for more than 3 millennia. However, it wasn’t until 327 BC that Alexander the Great brought the first diamonds from India to Europe. Back then, they were not processed the way they are today. They were worn exactly the way they were extracted from the mine. Many would wear them to protect themselves from evil forces or as good-luck charms on the battlefields. The Ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were pieces of stars or tears of the gods fallen on Earth.
During the Middle Ages, mankind renounced the cultural values the ancients cherished, and returned to superstitions. They believed that if they made the cross holding a diamond in their hand, all illnesses would be cured, and they would be perfectly healthy once again. Meanwhile, mine owners began to realize how valuable these gems really were. They took advantage of people’s lack of knowledge and spread the rumor that diamonds were poisonous in order to control their workers and convince them to give up the habit of swallowing diamonds to steal them from the mines.
In 1458 in Belgium, Lodewyk van Berquem managed to make the first diamond cut using residual powder from the cut itself. It was during the Middle Ages that famous diamonds like the Hope and The Mountain of Light were discovered in India.
The biggest diamond mine in history was Golconda in India, presently closed because all deposits have been exhausted. The mine had been active for almost 2,000 years, since 300 BC until the 18h century. Together with the mine in Borneo, the two were the main sources of diamonds until 1725, when deposits were discovered in Brazil and, later, near the Orange River in South Africa and along the Argyle River in Australia
By the 19th century, the demand was already higher than the offer. The black market boomed. More recently, diamonds became the main reason behind many wars and conflicts in third-world countries. Extracted in war zones, the so-called blood diamonds are sold on the black market to finance troops and support terrorism, especially in central and western Africa. The United Nations identified blood diamonds trading in 1998 as a source for financing wars, and adopted the Kimberley Process, a campaign that seeks to obtain documents of origin for each diamond that comes from these third-world countries, thus keeping the black market under control. However, what’s even more alarming is that exploiting these diamonds is translated through terrible abuse and total violation of human rights.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, or at least, that’s what Marilyn Monroe used to say. However, you cannot deny that any woman would be thrilled to have one. Diamond trading is nowadays one of the most flourishing industries in the world, with hundreds of skilled jewelers authorized to analyze, process, and sell millions of diamonds, most of them no more than a few carats, making them accessible to women who crave for a diamond ring or necklace. These precious stones have always been considered the symbol of absolute beauty and purity, as well as a sign of supreme wealth. They make the perfect engagement or marriage ring, as their deep clarity emphasizes sincere and profound love. The first diamond ring in history was offered by Archduke Maximillian of Austria when proposing to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. It is safe to say that was the moment when diamonds became a girl’s best friend.
Size is not important, when it comes to diamonds. A big diamond is not necessarily more expensive. There are four things to keep in mind when shopping for a diamond: carat weight, color, clarity, cut proportions and finish. The rarest ones are colorless, the most common ones are yellow, while the most expensive are those that come in shades of pink, blue, or green. The clarity is given by the purity of the material. If it has impurities, its value will drop. Carats are the system used to measure a diamond’s weight, each carat representing 1/5 grams.
Investors are leaving gold behind and turning their heads toward a new treasure: diamonds. The price of precious stones increased by up to 12% during the past five years, while the price of gold dropped by 37% during the last three decades. It is estimated that the price of diamonds will continue to increase over the next four years, due to the extended demand, as new mines have yet to be discovered these past decades, and the current deposits are running out.
Archduke Joseph, an exceptional 76.02 carat diamond, broke the records when it was sold for $21.47 million at an auction held at Christie’s in Geneva in November 2012. The diamond, extracted from the Golconda mine in India, was sold for $282,485 per carat, making it the most expensive diamond in history. The gem is the finest and largest Golconda diamond in the world, considered to have perfect coloring and internal structure. Although, the most famous diamond of all time is the Koh-I-Noor, with its 105 carats, now a part of the famous British Crown Jewels, dominating the Queen of England’s crown, extracted from the same Golconda mine. The Dresden Green diamond, with its 41 carats, the Regent diamond, with its 141 carats, on display at the Louvre and with an estimated value of $80 million, the blue Hope diamond, and The Spirit of de Grisogono, the largest processed black diamond with no less than 312,24 carats, are the purest, most valuable, and most notorious diamonds in the world.
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