Diamond History « BACK

Today diamond symbolizes wealth, durability, status, and peerless quality. Across time and cultures, diamond has also been associated with mystical power beauty,invulnerability, lightning, magic, healing, protection, poisoning & commercial expertise.

Diamonds are thought to have been first recognized and mined in India, where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could be found many centuries ago along the rivers Penner, Krishna and Godavari. Diamonds have been known in India since ancient time. Early references to diamonds in India come from Sanskrit texts. The Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions diamond trade in India. Buddhist works dating from the 4th century BC describe the diamond as a well-known and precious stone but don't mention the details of diamond cutting. Another Indian description written in the beginning of the 3rd century describes strength, regularity, brilliance, ability to scratch metals, and good refractive properties as the desirable qualities of a diamond. Golconda served as an important center for diamonds in central India.

Knowledge of diamond and the origin of its many connations starts in India, where it was first mined. The word most generally used for diamond in Sanskrit is translitereated as vajra, "thunderbolt," and indrayudha, "Indra's weapon." Because Indra is the warrior god from Vedic scriptures, the foundation of Hinduism, the thunderbolt symbol indicates much about the Indian conception of diamond. The flash of lightning is a suitable comparison for the light thrown off by a fine diamond octahedron and a diamond's indomitable hardness. Early descriptions of vajra date to the 4th century BCE which is supported by archaeological evidence. By that date diamond was a valued material.

Writings: The earliest known reference to diamond is a Sanskrit manuscript, the Arthasastra ("The Lesson of Profit") by Kautiliya, a minister to Chandragupta of the Mauryan dynasty in northern India. The work is dated from 320-296 before the Common Era (BCE). Kautiliya states "(a diamond that is) big, heavy, capable of bearing blows, with symmetrical points, capable of scratching (from the inside) a (glass) vessel (filled with water), revolving like a spindle and brilliantly shining is excellent. That (diamond) with points lost, without edges and defective on one side is bad." Indians recognized the qualities of a fine diamond octahedron and valued it. Diamonds eventually spread throughout the world, even though India had remained the only major source of the gemstone until the discovery of diamonds in Brazil. A Chinese work from the 3rd century BC mentions: "Foreigners wear it [diamond] in the belief that it can ward off evil influences". The Chinese, who did not find diamonds in their country, initially did not use diamond as a jewel but used as a "jade cutting knife". The diamonds reached ancient Rome from India. Diamonds were also discovered in 700 AD in Borneo, and were used by the traders of southeast Asia. With the depletion of India's diamond resources, the exploration for seeking out and finding diamonds from other parts of the world began, which led to discoveries in Brazil (1725) and South Africa (Kimberley, 1867). South Africa became the favored center for diamond resources, and quickly rose as the world's biggest diamond producer. Diamonds were traded to both the east and west of India and were recognized by various cultures for their gemological or industrial uses. In his work Naturalis Historia, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder noted diamond's ornamental uses, as well as its usefulness to engravers because of its hardness. It is however highly doubtful that Pliny actually meant diamonds and it is assumed that in fact several different minerals such as corundum, spinel, or even a mixture with magnetite were all referred to by the word "adamas". Today, 92% of the world's diamonds are cut and polished in India, mostly in the city of Surat. Some 85% of the world's rough diamonds, 50% of cut diamonds, and 40% of industrial diamonds are traded in Antwerp, Belgium - the diamond center of the world.