The History of Diamonds and its Many Aspects

“Diamonds have nourished men’s fantasies and are synonymous with power, not even human but from non-human divine forces.  They are the gift from the Gods.”  Pliny the Elder

“I do not care about diets. The only weight I am interested in is the weight of a diamond.” (May West 1892 – 1980)

 

A few facts about diamonds

Diamonds are crystallized pure carbon and are the only stones consisting of one element.

A diamond is one to three billion years old and is the hardest known natural material.

80 % of the mined diamonds are only good enough for industrial use.

One diamond out of a million will be a 1 karat of high enough quality to be considered gem class.

Diamonds have gotten their name after the Greek word Adamas (invincible), an adequate word for the hardest stone.

King Louis IX of France is credited with a proclamation that diamonds can only be worn by the royal house.  But by the 15th century, diamonds were finding their way to the masses.

 

The 4 things you have to take in consideration

There are four ways to determine the value of a diamond; color, clarity, cut, and carat.

Carat:

The history of finding out what is a carat is actually quite interesting.  Jewelers in the bazaars of the near east used the seeds of the Saint Johns-bread tree, because of their consistent weight and size, to establish the weight of a precious stone.  In the year 1907, the carat weight was officially set as 1/5th of a gram.

Cut:

In modern times, the preferred presentation of a beautiful stone is to cut it so it has faces or facets.  This was not always the accepted way to show a stone.  In Roman times, it was considered vulgar to wear faceted stones.  It is interesting to note that a stone in the cabochon shape type derived its name from the Norman-French word caboche, which means head.

In current times, cut refers to the arrangement of facets and proportions of the diamond.

Currently, the ideal cut is considered the brilliant cut.  The evolution of the brilliant cut was contributed to by various people.

One of them being Vincenzio Perruzzi, a Venetian grinder, from the 18th century developed a pattern for cutting the stone to increase the number from 17 to 33 facets.

Henry Morse, who in 1860 opened the first diamond grindery on American soil in Boston, is considered the father of the American cutting industry.  His foreman, Charles M. Field, is credited with inventing the modern diamond cutting machine.  He was the first man to cut what is called the American cut diamond.

These photos of two pieces of antique jewelry belonged to my great-great grandmother, shows the diamond before the brilliant cut was invented.  You can see on the back side, that the stones were covered with gold.

 

Antique diamond brooch

Antique diamond brooch

back of the antique brooch

back of the antique brooch

 

the back of antique diamond hanger

The back of the antique diamond hanger

Antique diamond hanger

Antique diamond hanger

Mr. Tolkowsky and the brilliant cut

The Russian mathematical genius, Marcel Tolkowsky (a member of the biggest and most powerful diamond dynasty of the time), calculated the required steps for the ideal brilliant cut, which he describes in his book, Diamond Design published in 1919.  Mr. Tolkowsky developed the round brilliant cut.  The evolution of the diamond cutting industry has not stopped at the round brilliant cut.  Different shapes and cuts with more facets have been invented since.  Modern shapes include; the Round Brilliant, Oval, Marquise, Pear, Princess, Emerald, Trillion, Radiant, the Eighty-Eight and the Crown of Light(TM) with 90 facets.

The admiration of the diamond grew in the 1950s, especially with engagement rings.  This continued to grow with the popularity in Hollywood with manufacturers like DeBeers providing jewelry for such notable movies as “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”.

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) established the diamond purity and color scale.  As presented on their website, GIA states “ Diamond Clarity refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes”.

Clarity:

 FL: Flawless No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
 IF: Internally Flawless No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
 VVS 1 – 2: Very Very Slightly Included. Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification.
 VS 1 – 2: Very Slightly Included. Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
 S 1 – 2: Included. Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
 I 1 – 2: Imperfect, Eye Visible Inclusions. Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

 

Color:

Grades of color follow the English alphabet; the purest or most colorless diamond is rated with a D to F grade.  See the following for more grades.

GIA DIAMOND COLOR SCALE

Colorless  

While there are differences in color between D, E, and F diamonds, they can be detected only by a gemologist in side by side comparisons, and rarely by the untrained eye.  D-F diamonds should only be set in white gold/platinum. Yellow gold reflects color, negating the diamond’s colorless effect.

Near Colorless  

While containing traces of color, G-J diamonds are suitable for a platinum or white gold setting, which would normally betray any hint of color in a diamond.  Because I-J diamonds are more common than the higher grades, they tend to be a great value. An I-J diamond may retail for half the price of a D diamond. Within the G-J range, price tends to increase 10-20% between each diamond grade.

Faint Color  

Beginning with K diamonds, color (usually a yellow tint) is more easily detected by the naked eye.  Set in yellow gold, these warm colored diamonds appeal to some and are an exceptional value. Others will feel they have too much color. Due to its perceptible color tint, a K diamond is often half the price of a G diamond.

Very Light Color  

Diamonds in the N-R color range have an easily seen yellow or brown tint but are much less expensive than higher grades.

Light Color  

For almost all customers, S-Z diamonds have too much color for a white diamond.

The old history of diamond mining

The declining market dominance of DeBeers syndicate, new sources in Russia and Canada, and the disaster around blood diamonds have intensified the importance of the origin of the diamond.  Before the year 1725, when diamonds were found in Brazil, India was the only source worldwide.  And it can be documented that the diamond mining in India goes back to at least the year 800 BC.  Presently, some 65 percent of diamonds come from African countries.

One could continue writing about this beautiful stone.

 

Is your diamond an investment?

If you consider your diamond as an investment, it, of course, should be a good one.   If not as an investment, I think when you see a stone, it should be love at first sight.  It is the brilliance you see first.  The four C’s would come as a secondary concern.

Traditionally, one would go to the trusted shop in town but in modern times, buying online is a common practice.  One must be sure to find a trustworthy source.

 

Photo Source: Private Photos

 

Comments

Martin

Thanks for the information and the content about the diamond. I remember some few years back I had a clear mineral which I guess was a diamond as I was cutting glass and could also scratch them. One day we were seated somewhere with an Indian guy I asked him what Gem was this he told me this just a useless colourless stone. And with those few word I threw it away I regret why I did that because even today I feel that could might have been a precious stone because it was even breaking in unique shape..Oooooh Poor Me

Jun 22.2017 | 12:25 pm

    admin

    Good afternoon Martin,

    First of all, thank you for visiting my website.
    Now I must say I am sad to hear your story as it might have been a diamond. It is too late now to cry about it but it is still a shame.
    If you ever again should find a pretty stone do not throw it away anymore, better investigate and find out what it is.

    Wishing you all the best for the future.

    Regards, Taetske

    Jun 22.2017 | 02:14 pm

Aisha

Thanks Taetske for providing such insight on diamonds. You are not far from the truth when you stated that “when you see a stone, it should be love at first sigh”. I always go oh…ah whenever I walk into a diamond shop, they always seem to have this explainable impact on one’s emotion.
Thanks for sharing, one thing I have definitely learnt from reading your article is ways to determine the value of a diamond through it’s colour, clarity, cut, and carat.

Best wishes

Aug 17.2017 | 02:52 pm

    Taetske

    Good afternoon Aisha,

    I am happy to hear you found this information interesting. I am like you, in a shop like that I can go a bit funny. A stone has to speak to you that is why I used the term love at first sight. I love the pieces which I inherited with the old diamonds and wear them on special occasions. Hope to see you again.

    Regards, Taetske

    Aug 17.2017 | 03:22 pm

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