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History of diamonds

Published: 05, October 2021

The first diamonds were found in the Golconda River alluvium in India, but the exact time of discovery is not known. In a fragment of a tax book written in Sanskrit dating back to the 4th century BC, there are records, that prove, that diamond was a commodity, which was commonly traded in India at this time. In the possession of rulers and rich people, they were kept in the rough and the perfectly beautiful crystals were highly prized. The diamond enjoyed great popularity as a talisman because of its exceptional hardness and other excellent properties. It was a symbol of courage and virility - qualities of men.

Egypt and the vein of loveThe mystical power of diamonds was discovered in ancient Egypt, where wearing a diamond on four fingers of the left hand was supposed to ensure that the vena amoris ("vein of love") would lead from the fingers directly to the heart. The placement of diamonds and also diamond dust on the fingertips was supposed to guarantee a direct path to the connection of love with eternity.

The first diamonds in EuropeDiamonds were probably first brought to Europe by Alexander the Great. At first, they were considered mysterious rarity, attributed with magical and healing properties. It is said that when Alexander the Great arrived at the Valley of Diamonds, he saw its floor littered with precious stones, guarded by giant snakes with murderous stares. But Alexander tricked the snakes and took their diamonds.

GreeceIn ancient Greece, people considered diamonds to be "the tears of the gods that fell to the earth". To emphasize the hardness of the diamond, they called it "adamas", invincible. 60 years before Christ, Plinius wrote about diamonds in his Natural History. The first uncut diamond appeared in Rome between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

Diamond marketsIn the 13th century, Marco Polo mentions Ormuy as the main Persian diamond market. At this time, Venice was the main market and centre for diamonds in the West. From the beginning of the 13th century, most of the major cities of Europe maintained trade with them. Silk and diamond traders came from there to Bruges. Bruges became not only the centre of the diamond trade, but also the place where diamonds were processed. The diamond industry soon grew enormously. Bruges-born Lodewijck van Berken, the inventor of diamond cutting, also contributed to this.

Diamond cuttingThe diamond cutting process was kept secret for a long time. Until the 14th century clear octahedrons were polished on a pad of wood or copper covered with diamond dust. This method had been used earlier for working other precious stones and ivory. In the case of diamonds, however, it was a very lengthy process. From the 15th century, working techniques were improved and the irregular crystals began to be cut by cleaving. However, the cutting process still respected the shape of the original rough. The pyramid-shaped stones were set in rings. The main purpose of the cutting was to rid the diamond of surface irregularities and blemishes. Samples of such stones have been found in fragments of jewellery and old pottery. The invention of cutting on a steel pad covered with diamond dust gave cutters more options for working the stones: at the end of the 15th century, 'table' cuts in the shapes of a diamond, square, rectangle or rosette appeared.

Symbol of the eternal bondThe discovery of a direct route to India in 1498 by the seafarer Vasco de Gama moved the centre of trade from Venice to Lisbon. From the end of the 14th century, Antwerp became the world centre of the diamond trade. The diamond is the perfect symbol of the eternal bond. This tradition of endless love has been maintained for centuries.

The first diamond in an engagement ringThe first mention of the gift of a diamond as a unique symbol of love dates back to the 15th century. The tradition of giving a diamond ring as an engagement gift began in 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy. Since then, the tradition of diamond engagement rings has spread around the world from aristocratic families to the families of industrialists and, in the last century, to the families of "ordinary mortals".

16th - 19th centuryIn the golden age of the 16th century, the diamond trade was mainly in the hands of Portuguese Jews and Italian merchants.  

In the 17th century, the era of cutting a variety of shapes began. Diamonds were cut as ovals, drops, marquises and others. However, the craftsmen working on diamonds came from Antwerp and worked on the top floors of houses where the light was best.

By the end of the 18th century, the Indian mines had been exploited, but despite the discovery of the first mines in Brazil in the second half of the 18th century, Antwerp's prosperity was not restored.

In the second half of the 19th century, after extensive experimentation, Henry Morse in the USA came up with the first modern brilliant cut, which he later improved. It was mathematically justified and described in 1919 in the USA by Marcel Tolkowskiy, now considered the inventor of the modern brilliant cut.


The first diamond cartel De BeersIn 1871, the De Beers brothers, owners of a small farm in Kimberley, gave permission to Dutch diamond hunters to explore their land. It emerged that diamonds were everywhere. The news spread like wildfire and the farm was besieged by treasure hunters.

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