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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The History of Diamonds and Their Use in Diamond Jewellery

The History of Diamonds and Their Use in Diamond Jewellery

Author: Daniel Jones

When it comes to history, diamonds have a very long and fascinating record as one of the most intriguing gemstones on the planet. You may be familiar with the term, ‘Diamonds are Forever’, made popular by the De Beers advertising campaigns and for good reason. Forged billions of years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the planet, they have survived the forces of nature to reach us. They have been used throughout the ages as bearers of mystic powers and incredible beauty. Through the centuries they have been revered and admired by many civilisations.

Part of the credit for the almost mythical reverence to diamonds throughout the years belongs to the fact that these beauties are quite rare in their most sought after gemstone quality form. Not only are these diamonds rare in numbers but also in the number of skilled artisans that can compliment their exquisite beauty.

Diamonds are the hardest of precious stones. The word “diamond” itself is a derivative of the Greek word adamas, which means “unconquerable”. It is the undiminished beauty of diamonds that has made them so highly prized throughout several centuries. This does not mean that a diamond cannot be damaged only that they are difficult to damage requiring a very precise strike in an exact location in order to damage the surface.

It is believed that the first diamonds were discovered nearly 3000 years ago in India. They were considered valuable because of their ability to refract light and were used as either decoration or as talismans - for protection and warding against evil.

During the Dark Ages, diamonds were believed to hold medicinal value. There were instructions that those suffering illnesses or having wounds should hold a diamond in the hand and make a sign of the cross for healing. Some even believed that ingesting diamonds could assist in recovery (and even a cure) from various illnesses.

As time progressed into the Middle Ages, diamonds were more often viewed as items of value rather than items of mystical healing powers. As a result of the growing demand and value of diamonds, mine owners began spreading rumours that diamonds were poisonous if swallowed. This prevented workers in the mines from swallowing the diamonds for the purpose of smuggling.

Today, India suffers from a relatively depleted supply of diamonds. Smaller finds have been discovered in Borneo and Brazil, though nothing as significant as those reserves once found in India.

Diamonds were discovered in South Africa by a child playing with brightly coloured stones by a river in 1866. One of the stones was recognised to be a diamond and the gem cut from it was appropriately named "Eureka". This created a massive diamond rush and the start of a new beginning for diamonds. Diamonds mined in South Africa still continue to make up a large percentage of the world’s diamond jewellery, though there are gem quality diamonds that are being discovered all the time in other countries around the world.

More recently, Australia has become a contender when it comes to the production and mining of exquisite gem quality diamonds. Other countries for diamond mining include Africa, Canada, Russia, and South America in addition to those mined in Australia.

One thing that is worth noting is that the vast majority of diamonds discovered around the world are not gem quality stones. In fact, only about one fifth of the diamonds that are mined are diamonds that are considered to be gem quality. Those that are not considered to be gem quality are used for drilling and similar applications.

Diamonds are not all clear either – the stones come in many colours; the least common of the colours red. They are very rare. Coloured diamonds command huge prices and are highly prized by collectors.

Diamond rings are today considered to be a token of love, particularly when given to one by a suitor. The tradition of diamond rings being used for engagements is believed to have begun when Austria’s Archduke Maximilian made a gift of a diamond ring upon his engagement to Mary of Burgundy.

The wearing of a diamond ring on the ring finger, or fourth finger of the left hand, is derived from the ancient Egyptians. This is due to their belief that the vein that extends from this particular finger to the heart is also the “vein of love”. This tradition is still practiced today, much like the giving of a diamond ring as a symbol of engagement and true love.

Most people associate the wearing of diamonds to rings for engagement to be married. There are plenty of occasions that warrant diamonds and diamond pendants, diamond bracelets and diamond earrings make excellent choices for marking a special occasion or memorable life moment. Remember, diamonds have for quite a while been (and will certainly continue to be) a girl’s best friend. Any celebration that is cause for joy is an excellent occasion for a gift of diamonds.

Among such occasions to be considered are: a girl’s sixteenth birthday (or any other birthday that you deem to be special), the birth of a child, religious milestone events, personal achievements, holiday gifts etc. Perhaps the best reason of all to give a woman the gift of a diamond is “just because”. If you have a special person in your life, whether it’s a lover, a wife, a sister, a daughter, or a mother - you can rest fairly well assured that a diamond makes an excellent gift for almost any occasion.

Before you consider buying a diamond , it is important to understand the four “C’s”. They are excellent indicators of the value of the diamond. For those who are not familiar with the four C’s of diamonds they are: colour, clarity, cut, and carats. You will want to consider each of these when selecting a diamond to make sure your investment will stand the test of time and hopefully become more valuable over the years. The more spectacular the occasion, of course, the more stunning you will want your diamonds to be. Of course you will want to keep in mind your budget, your setting, and the metals that will be used in conjunction with the piece of jewellery you are creating or purchasing. Each of these will have an impact on the finished product. Good choices for diamonds are 18ct gold or platinum. In recent years platinum has become the choice for diamond jewellery as the metal is very hard and durable complimenting the gemstone properties.

When purchasing diamond jewellery, it pays to do your research ahead of time. Thanks to the growth of ecommerce on the internet, you will find that the prices of diamonds these days from one jeweller to the next are rather competitive. Better quality at better prices can now be found online instead of in the high street. Another thing to consider when buying your diamonds is whether or not they are conflict free. “Conflict free” diamonds are diamonds that do not lead to the funding of wars and that are not mined under conditions that are deemed unethical by the Kimberly Process. Always insist on Conflict Free diamonds from your jeweller.

Enduring, romantic, magical. Diamonds continue to captivate and enchant as symbols of hope and great expectations for the future. Enjoy.

About the Author:
Daniel Jones has worked in the jewellery industry for over 30 years and currently enjoys designing contemporary jewellery with the use of gemstones.

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