Diamond is derived from the Greek word “adamas” which translates to “unbreakable.” It is more than just aesthetically beautiful. It’s an enduring symbol of love, romance, and commitment. This symbolic meaning lends itself well to the diamond’s historic commemoration of eternal love.
The earliest recorded history of the diamond dates back over 3,000 years ago when they were found in India in 4th century BC. Although the youngest of these deposits were formed 900 million years ago. A majority of these early stones were transported along the network of trade routes that connected India and China, commonly known as the Silk Road. At the time of their discovery, diamonds were valued because of their strength and brilliance, and for their ability to refract light and engrave metal. Diamonds were worn as adornments, used as cutting tools, served as a talisman to ward off evil, and were believed to provide protection in battle.
In the Dark Ages, diamonds were also used as an anecdote and were thought to cure illness and heal wounds when ingested. Another anecdote, written by St Hildegarde, relates how a diamond held in the hand while making a sign of the cross would heal wounds and cure illnesses.
During the Middle Ages more attention was given to the value of diamonds, rather than the mystical powers surrounding them. Due to the heightened public awareness of their value, mine owners perpetuated myths that diamonds were poisonous. This was to prevent the mineworkers swallowing the diamonds in an attempt to smuggle them out of the mines.
Until the 18th century, India was thought to be the only source of diamonds. When the Indian diamond mines were depleted, the quest for alternate sources began. Although a small deposit was found in Brazil in 1725, the supply was not enough to meet world demands.
The mid-nineteenth century discovery of diamonds near the Orange River in South Africa. These findings sparked a rush of thousands of diamond prospectors to the region and led to the opening of the first large-scale mining operation which came to be known as the Kimberly Mine. This newly discovered diamond source increased the world’s diamond supply substantially, resulting in a significant decrease in their value. The elite no longer considered the diamond a rarity, and began to replace this “common” stone with colored gemstones. Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires became more popular choices for engagement ring stones among the upper class.
During the mid-nineteenth century, diamonds were also being discovered in eastern Australia. However, it was not until late 1970’s, after seven years of earnest searching, that Australia’s alleged potential as a diamond producer was validated. On October 2, 1979, geologists found the Argyle pipe near Lake Argyle: the richest diamond deposit in the world. Since then, Argyle has become the world’s largest volume producer of diamonds, and alone is responsible for producing over a third of the world’s diamonds every year. Currently, most diamonds are mined in the following countries: South Africa, Zaire, Russia, Canada, Australia, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Brazil, Ghana, and China. The major cutting centers of the diamond world are in Antwerp, Bombay, Tel Aviv, and New York.