What's The Story About Diamonds?
The birthstone associated with the month of April is the diamond so I thought it would be fitting to dive into the history of this gem to find out where all the hype originated. Call it an exposé if you will. Are diamonds really a girl’s best friend? Or are they yet another material object sensationalized by the Western world?
The (Ancient) History:
The earliest recording of diamonds dates to 4th century Indian Sanskrit text which described the gem as a “precious stone”. By 1725, diamonds had been discovered in Brazil and were making their way around the world to places such as China where it was believed that diamonds were worn to fend off evil energy.
The (Modern) History:
In 1860, the era of diamond mining began in Kimberley, South Africa where the first large scale diamond mine was built. The first diamond (Eureka Diamond) was found in 1866 on the shoreline of the Orange River. A farm owned by the De Beers brothers helped give rise to the “New Rush” with the discovery of an 83.50 carat diamond in 1869.
Approximately 50,000 miners dug the Big Hole from 1871 to 1914 which produced over 2500 kg of diamonds. During this time, small scale mining companies were united to form what became known as De Beers. De Beers later amalgamated with The Kimberley Mine to form De Beers Consolidated Mines, a conglomerate which dominated the diamond industry until 2005 when the company faced an antitrust lawsuit in the United States of America. It’s safe to say that the diamond industry is a risky business.
The annual rough diamond production worldwide is estimated at 130 million carats (that’s 26 tons or FIFTY-SEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS!!). Most of these diamonds are cut and polished in India and approximately 50% of these cut diamonds are traded in Antwerp, Belgium (the modern diamond centre of the world). Technology used to produce near perfect diamonds synthetically was developed in the 21st century. These synthetic diamonds have been called visually identical to those mined from the ground.
So, what about engagement rings
Starting in 1938, De Beers began running marketing campaigns in attempt to sell the large inventory of diamonds that resulted from the mining success in South Africa. The marketing initiative was successful, leading the Chairman to predict that the diamond trade would continue to prosper “so long as men are foolish and women are vain”. But don’t let your romantic side waiver! The Ancient Romans have been said to have valued diamonds based on their supernatural powers, namely combating poison, fending off insanity and dissipating fears. What’s not to love?! Ancient Italians further developed this belief by referring to the diamond as Pietra della Reconciliazione or the stone of reconciliation - it maintained harmony between a wife and her husband. Furthermore, diamonds were said to give victory to those who wore it on their left arm even if they had a seemingly insurmountable list of enemies.
I guess it’s safe to say that history shows that diamonds are substantially less romantic than that diamond guy with the annoying voice would have you believe (here’s looking at you Spence). But that doesn’t mean that engagement rings or diamonds are overrated; they do, after all, have the highest thermal conductivity and hardness of any bulk material and that’s got to stand for something.