Diamonds: Their Origin and History
The word ‘diamond’ comes from the Greek word ‘adamao’, meaning invincible. This referred to the extraordinary hardness of this mineral. According to ancient myths, diamond is also supposed to have magical properties to protect against any poison or attack.
First discovered in India
Diamond was first discovered and mined in India. In Sanskrit it was addressed as ‘vajra’, ‘thunderbolt’ and ‘indrayudha’ – warrior god Indra’s weapon. Early descriptions of diamond date back to the 4th century BC, by when diamonds were a valuable material already. The earliest known mention of a diamond was found in a Sanskrit manuscript by a minister in a northern Indian dynasty, dated from 320-296 BCE.
Diamonds in Europe
It was only in the 13th century that some diamonds began appearing in the European lands. After the development of diamond faceting, diamonds became larger and more prominent by the 16th century. These beautiful stones gradually started dominating small jewels by the 17th century and the larger ones by the 18th century. France’s Louis IX established a law in the 13th century, reserving diamonds for the king due to its rarity and value. Later diamonds made it to the jewellery of royal men and women, then the European aristocracy and then the wealthy merchant class.
Earliest diamond-cutting industry
Due to the increased demand for diamonds, the earliest diamond-cutting industry was set up in Venice (trade capital), sometime after 1330. By the 14th century diamond cutting made its way to Paris and the diamond trade route later went to Bruges and Antwerp by the late 14th century.
The role of diamonds changed
Diamonds became more abundant and prominent after Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route. Later the discovery of diamond deposits in South Africa in the 1870s and the French crown jewels sold in 1887 changed the way people looked at diamonds. Diamonds were being incorporated in designs much more than any coloured stone. The production of diamond increased exponentially.
Diamonds are mined in about 25 countries today. Their production has also increased enormously; India producing around 100 million carats annually. South Africa, Australia, Botswana, Russia and Congo Republic dominate the diamond production industry.