A History of Diamonds
Diamonds have a long and fascinating history. They have been sought after for centuries because of their beauty, brilliance, and hardness. Diamonds, of course, have been around for millions of years. They are formed far below the surface of the earth, and emerge via volcanic activity to be mined. Purposeful mining did not begin until about 4000 years ago in India at the Golconda mines. Indian successes in this area later sparked interest in other countries.
South Africa, one of the major modern sources of diamonds, began mining in earnest in the 1800's. (Diamonds were discovered there in 1866.) Other regions later found diamond mining profitable as well, the Congo, Canada, Botswana, Russia, and Australia. In total, there are about 25 countries that currently have profitable mining operations. Diamond trading is centered around Amsterdam, New York, and Israel.
There are many legends about diamonds. Some people believe that wearing a diamond will protect them from harm. Others believe that wearing a diamond will grant good luck unless the diamond is a very large one. Diamonds have long been a symbol of fortune and strength. Diamonds are associated with the month of April as a birthstone. In western society a diamond ring is given by a man and accepted by a woman to indicate intention to marry. Much tradition surrounds the manner in which a ring is offered in different societies.
Famous Diamonds in History
There have been many unique and famous diamonds throughout history. Among the most famous include The Mountain of Light, The Orloff, The Regent, The Blue Hope, and the fictional Heart of the Ocean from the movie Titanic.
The Mountain of Light, also known as the Kohinoor Diamond, is a very unique oval shaped diamond. It originally weighed 186 carats, which is astonishingly large for a diamond. It was a part of the peacock throne that belonged to Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal. But before this it had a long history, being owned by Sultan Babar, the first Mogul Emperor, and passed to succeeding rulers. Finally, in the 1850s it was acquired by the British Empire. Queen Victoria had it resized and shaped (now 108.93 carats) to give it additional luster. It then became part of the crown jewels. It was said to be bad luck for any man who wore it. But two women wore it to good effect, Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II.1
The Orloff Diamond weighed even more than The Mountain of Light at 300 carats! It got its name from a suitor of Catherine the Great of Russia who acquired it and gave it to her. It is now in the diamond treasury in Moscow, Russia. It was once fixed in an idol as one of the eyes of Sheringham, in the temple of Brahma. Looking at the image (above/left), it is easy to see how it could be seen as an eye.
The Regent Diamond was even bigger yet, weighing in at 410 carats. It was cut for William Pitt, an English Prime minister. He had it resized to about 140 carats. He then sold it to the Duke of Orleans. It would later become part of Louis XV's crown. Later, the Regent Diamond was given to Napoleon Bonaparte and placed in his ornamental sword. It is currently housed in the Louvre in France.
Though these diamonds are famous, the most well known diamond is the Hope Diamond. Louis XIV owned this diamond. It was later stolen and purchased by a man named Henry Phillip Hope. There is an interesting piece of legend attached to the diamond. Every person in Henry's family died in poverty while he owned it. Since then, people possessing the diamond have been renown for having very bad luck. The diamond is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution, where it will, hopefully, do no harm.
Finally, the movie Titanic made a fictional diamond famous. It is called The Heart of the Ocean, and is a beautiful blue stone. It is given to the main character, Rose, by her arrogant, but rich fiancé Caledon. When the ship sinks, the diamond is thought to be in the safe, when in reality Rose had it in her pocket. Divers fail to find it when the Titanic is discovered. Ultimately, Rose consigns the diamond to the deep.
Whether fact, fiction, or legend, diamonds have captured the hearts and minds of romantics and investors for many years, and because of their brilliance and beauty they will remain a cultural icons in the future.
Next Page: Where Diamonds Come From
1. Ref to: http://nc.essortment.com/kohinoordiamond_rlps.htm - Mountain of Light
2. Diamond Images from http://etc.usf.edu/clipart - etc.USF.edu