Why are Diamonds Special ?

 

What makes a diamond special ? 

 

Revered throughout history by numerous cultures and empires for its beauty and brilliance, the diamond has captivated our attention since the 4th century BC. Evidence of diamonds used as a symbol of affection can be traced back to the very beginnings of the Roman Empire. Mounted onto a ring made from copper, these rings were used as a symbol of one’s betrothal (formal engagement to be married, as known during this time) to another.

The history of the diamond, and how it came to be so revered throughout the world, is as storied as that of human history. It is one of conflict, controversy, pride, and celebration - perhaps an explanation as to why we are so captivated by them. This history of brilliance and craftsmanship continues to this day, where new technology and 3D rendering has ushered in a new wave of innovation and creation.

A history of diamonds

It is estimated that the first diamonds discovered were in the Maurya Empire around 4000 BC, and traded along the famed Silk Road as early as 2000 BC. Almost instantly, diamonds were noted for their unique beauty and uncompromising strength. Their distinguishing feature, however, was the way they reflected the natural light back to the human eye. This brilliance and sparkle of light refraction have since become a symbol of fire and passion for many.

During the latter period of the Middle Ages, with demand from the ruling classes for diamonds was high, there was a desire to create more unique and distinctive shapes. This would not be possible if it were not for Lodewyk van Bercken, a Flemish jeweller. He invented the scaif - the first polishing machine - which allowed for all facets of the diamond shape to be made to maximise fire and brilliance.

From here, more unique shapes were being produced, some of which have entered folklore. The heart, oval, and marquise shapes all changed the course of diamond cutting at the time, producing some of the most famous diamonds in history. The now lost Florentine Diamond was the first of these to capture the public’s imagination, followed by the infamous Hope Diamond - said to have cursed the lives of all of its owners.

Revolutions against what was seen as the bourgeois of Europe, coupled with a desire for hard currency as trade routes were opened up to the New World, saw diamonds lose their prestige. It would not be recaptured until the late 19th century, thanks to a South African company called De Beers. De Beers was instrumental and ruthless in enforcing a patent on all open cut mines across the world, effectively controlling flow and price for themselves.

In 1947, the company coined the marketing phrase “A diamond is forever”, which has since entered pop-culture status across many generations. This lead to an explosion in diamond sales, further increased by the expiry of the De Beers patent and the resulting drop in price. The creation of the three most popular diamond cuts - the round, princess, and radiant - during the 20th century made the diamond a sought-after commodity once again.

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