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Diamonds for Everyone

Diamond History


Diamonds are thought to have been first recognized and mined in India (Golconda being one of them), where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could then be found along the rivers Penner, Krishna and Godavari. The earliest written reference can be found in the Buddhist text, the Anguttara Nikaya another sanskrit text, the Arthashastra, which was completed around 296 BCE and describes diamonds hardness, luster, and dispersion

Diamonds quickly became associated with divinity, being used to decorate religious icons, and were believed to bring good fortune to those who carried them. Ownership was restricted among various castes by color, with only kings being allowed to own all colors of diamond.

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 diamonds 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".

In China, diamonds seem to have been used primarily as diamond tools for engraving jade and drilling holes in beads. Archaeological evidence from Yemen suggests that diamonds were used as drill tips as early as the 4th century BCE. In Europe, however, diamonds disappeared for almost 1,000 years following the rise of Christianity because of two effects: early Christians rejected diamonds because of their earlier use in amulets, and Arabic traders restricted the flow of trade between Europe and India.

Until the late Middle Ages, diamonds were most prized in their natural octahedral state, perhaps with the crystal surfaces polished to increase luster and remove foreign material. Around 1300, the flow of diamonds into Europe increased via Venices trade network, with most flowing through the low country ports of Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam.

During this time, the taboo against cutting diamonds into gem shapes, which was established over 1,000 years earlier in the traditions of India, ended allowing the development of diamond cutting technology to begin in earnest. Over the following centuries, various diamond cuts were introduced which increasingly demonstrated the fire and brilliance that makes diamonds treasured today: the table cut, the briolette (around 1476), the rose cut (mid-16th century), and by the mid-17th century, the Mazarin, the first brilliant cut diamond design. In 1919, Marcel Tolkowsky developed an ideal round brilliant cut design that has set the standard for comparison of modern gems; however, diamond cuts have continued to be refined.

However, within a century diamonds were popular gems among the moneyed aristocratic and merchant classes, and by 1477 had begun to be used rarely in wedding rings. Diamond wedding rings didnt gain widespread social significance until the De Beers company started marketing the idea through cinema beginning in the 1940s. A number of large diamonds have become historically significant objects, as their inclusion in various sets of crown jewels and the purchase, sale, and sometimes theft of notable diamonds, have sometimes become politicized.

The Diamond Industry

The diamond industry can be broadly separated into two basically distinct categories: one dealing with gem-grade diamonds and another for industrial-grade diamonds. While a large trade in both types of diamonds exists, the two markets act in dramatically different ways.

Gem Diamond Industry

A large trade in gem-grade diamonds exists. Unlike precious metals such as gold or platinum, gem diamonds do not trade as a commodity: there is a substantial mark-up in the sale of diamonds, and there is not a very active market for resale of diamonds.

One hallmark of the trade in gem-quality diamonds is its remarkable concentration: wholesale trade and diamond cutting is limited to a few locations (most importantly New York, Antwerp, London, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam and Surat), and a single company-De Beers-controls a significant proportion of the trade in diamonds.[citation needed] They are based in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England.

The production and distribution of diamonds is largely consolidated in the hands of a few key players, and concentrated in traditional diamond trading centers (the most important being Antwerp). The De Beers company, as the worlds largest diamond miner holds a clearly dominant position in the industry, and has done so since soon after its founding in 1888 by the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. De Beers owns or controls a significant portion of the worlds rough diamond production facilities (mines) and distribution channels for gem-quality diamonds.

The company and its subsidiaries own mines that produce some 40 percent of annual world diamond production. At one time it was thought over 80 percent of the worlds rough diamonds passed through the Diamond Trading Company (DTC, a subsidiary of De Beers) in London, but presently the figure is estimated at less than 50 percent. De Beers used its monopoly position to establish strict price controls, and market diamonds directly to consumers in world markets.


Historically diamonds were known to be found only in alluvial deposits in southern India. India led the world in diamond production from the time of their discovery in approximately the 9th century BCE to the mid-18th century AD, but the commercial potential of these sources has been exhausted.

The first non-Indian diamond source was found in Brazil in 1725. While no commercial diamond production exists in the US, Arkansas and Colorado are the only states to have a verifiable source of diamonds.

Today, most commercially viable diamond deposits are in Russia, Botswana, Australia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2005, Russia produced almost one-fifth of the global diamond output, reports the British Geological Survey. Australia boasts the richest diamondiferous pipe with production reaching peak levels of 42 Mct per year in the 1990s.

There are also commercial deposits being actively mined in the Northwest Territories of Canada, Siberia (mostly in Yakutia territory, for example Mir pipe and Udachnaya pipe, Brazil, and in Northern and Western Australia. Diamond prospectors continue to search the globe for diamond-bearing kimberlite and lamproite pipes.


Only a very small fraction of the diamond ore consists of actual diamonds. The ore is crushed, during which care has to be taken in order to prevent larger diamonds from being destroyed in this process and subsequently the particles are sorted by density. Today, diamonds are located in the diamond-rich density fraction with the help of X-ray fluorescence, after which the finalsorting steps are done by hand. Before the use of X-rays became commonplace, the separation was done with grease belts, diamonds have a stronger tendency to stick to grease than the other minerals in the ore.


The Diamond Trading Company, or DTC, is a subsidiary of De Beers and markets rough diamonds produced both by De Beers mines and other mines from which it purchases rough diamond production. DTC performs sophisticated sorting of rough diamonds into over 16,000 categories,] and then sells bulk lots of rough diamonds to a limited number of sightholders a few times a year.

Once purchased by sightholders, diamonds are cut and polished in preparation for sale as gemstones. The cutting and polishing of rough diamonds is a specialized skill that is concentrated in a limited number of locations worldwide.

Traditional diamond cutting centers are Antwerp, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, New York, and Tel Aviv. Traditionally, diamond cutters in these cities are Orthodox Jews or Chasidim. Recently, diamond cutting centers have been established in China, India, and Thailand. Cutting centers with lower costs of labor, notably Surat in Gujarat, India, handle a larger number of smaller carat diamonds, while smaller quantities of larger or more valuable diamonds are more likely to be handled in Europe or North America.

Demonstrating this, India produces 90% of all cut and polished diamonds by number, but only 55% by value. The recent expansion of this industry in India, employing low cost labor, has allowed smaller diamonds to be prepared as gems than was previously economically feasible.

Diamonds which have been prepared as gemstones are sold on diamond exchanges called bourses. There are 26 registered diamond bourses. This is the final tightly controlled step in the diamond supply chain; wholesalers and even retailers are able to buy relatively small lots of diamonds at the bourses, after which they are prepared for final sale to the consumer. Diamonds can be sold already set in jewelry, or as is increasingly popular, sold unset ("loose").

Famous Diamonds

The Cullinan Diamond, part of the British crown jewels, was the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found (1905), at 3,106.75 carats. One of the diamonds cut from it, Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, was formerly the largest gem-quality cut diamond at 530.2 carats, but now that title has been taken by the Golden Jubilee (1985), a 545.67 carat, yellow-brown diamond. The largest flawless and colorless (grade D) diamond is the Centenary Diamond which weighs 273.85 carats. The Millennium Star is the second largest (1990) at 203.04 carats. For more information about famous diamonds please visit this:-


Gemological Institute of America GIA Gem Reference Guide 1995, ISBN 0-87311-019-6

American Museum of Natural History