Diamond History and Facts

Diamond History

Diamonds have held a special place in the world of gems for over 3000 years. 

Each and every diamond is completely unique with its own personality special beauty. No other gem has the brilliance, fire and hardness of a diamond. 


Men have sought, fought and worshiped diamonds; they were thought to have magical powers worth dying for. 


The name diamond comes from the Greek word "adamas", which means unconquerable. This made diamonds the gem of kings throughout the centuries. A diamond was a symbol of strength, courage, bravery and invincibility. It was also thought that diamonds would scare away the devil. It is diamonds hardness that has made it a symbol of power and strength thru the ages, but its rare beauty has also made it a symbol of love and romance. 


Diamonds were once thought to be splinters of the stars that fell to earth or the tears from the Gods. It is the Ancient Greeks that first made diamonds a symbol of love. The first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by the Archduke of Austria Maximilian.


Th diamond's allure and beauty has even changed the course of history. The Kohinoor diamond, known as the “Mountain of Light”, is said to have been found 5000 years ago and was worn by the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabaharata. The diamond changed hands many times over the centuries and eventually ended up in England where it was re-cut and now is in the queen’s state crown. 


Another famous diamond, the Orloff, was a gift of love to Catherine the Great from Prince Gregory Orloff. France was the original owner of the Regent (Or Pitt) Diamond but pledged it to Holland to fund Napoleon's rise to power. He later reclaimed it and set it in the hilt of his state sword. 


And then there is the most famous of all, the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond’s history is not clear until 1830 when Henry Phillip Hope brought the 45.52 Ct. fancy, dark blue diamond. The diamond had several owners, when in 1911 it was sold to Evalyn Walsh McLean by Pierre Cartier, who may have invented the famous “curse” to help sell the exotic gem. Nonetheless, Mrs. McLean’s luck seemed to be cursed, she lost a son who was hit by a car, her husband divorced her and went insane, her daughter committed suicide and she was a morphine addict. When Mrs. McLean died in 1947 the diamond was bought by Harry Winston who used the diamond to raise money for charity. In 1958 he donated the gem to the Smithsonian where you can see it today.


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Diamond Science

Diamond is pure carbon, the same as the carbon in a pencil. The only difference is how the atoms are bound. 

Diamonds have the simplest composition of all gems and are also the hardest substance known. Only another diamond can scratch a diamond. They can, however, be chipped or cleaved with a sharp blow. 


Diamonds formed deep in the earth, billions of years ago, under the immense heat and pressure that existed at that time in earth history. They are one of the oldest known substances in the earth’s crust ranking in at about 3.4 billion years old.


Each and every diamond you see today is millions of years old. Volcanic eruptions forced the diamonds upward toward the surface where they are mined today. It takes an average of about 250 tons of the diamond bearing rock known as kimberlite to find one carat of diamond. It takes a million minded diamonds in order to find a single one carat diamond. Of all the diamonds mined only 20% are gem quality. The rest is used in industrial applications.


Previous to 1940, no standard existed for the evaluation of a diamonds characteristics that would quantify its rarity and beauty, both of which ultimately determine its value.

There are records dating back to the early 1500s of terms being used like “without flaws”, “with imperfections” describing clarity, terms like “tincture” or “tint” to describe color and “make well” or “made poorly” describing the diamonds cut. In the absence of any sort of systematic way of evaluating and describing diamonds characteristics the use of these terms, as well as others, was totally up to the individual and could mean almost anything.


In 1930, a jeweler named Robert M. Shipley, founded the Gemological Institute of America providing formal gemological training. Shipley also started work on standardizing and defining diamond grading. The results are the four characteristics of a diamond that are evaluated to determine its rarity and value – the 4Cs.

Learn More About The 4C's Here