Diamonds have had a long and embattled history, playing many roles throughout this world’s many different cultures. They have been the source of myth and legend, war and wealth for centuries, prized both for their beauty and for their utility. Not only are they one of the most prized gemstones on the planet, they are also one of the hardest materials in the world, which can be used to improve the durability and functionality of many of the manufacturing tools that shape our world.
The Early Years
Diamonds first entered our history 3,000 years ago. Records from the early days of India show that diamonds were valued not just for their unique color and strength, but also for the special way they refract the light. At this time, it was not just a beautiful gem stone to wear in headdresses and on jewelry, it was also used to protect from the evil eye and to protect soldiers who went off to war.
Diamonds in the Dark Ages
During the very early years of the English kingdom, diamonds were believed to have medicinal properties. They were used, according to written records from the time period, as talismans. When waved in a cross formation over a cut or afflicted body part, it was believed that the diamond would draw out the bad spirits and restore the body to its whole state. When he was dying, Pope Clement reportedly unsuccessfully attempted to use diamonds to restore his health.
The Middle Ages
As time progressed, less focus was given to the supposed (and largely unfounded) belief that diamonds could heal and protect the wearer. Instead, diamonds began to be praised for their beauty and durability. Because it was very difficult both to find and to mine diamonds, their rarity made them a favorite among the monarchies of the time. They actually become so valuable and sought after that those who owned mines began spreading the lie that diamonds were poisonous, just so their workers would be dissuaded from swallowing the stones to remove them from the mines for their own use.
The Renaissance and Beyond
The Renaissance could be called the “Diamond Rush.” Huge mines were found in India and in South America, spurring greater exploration. As explorers searched for diamonds the world over, most of the popular mines became depleted. There was not another large diamond discovery until mines were found in South Africa in the middle of the last century. During the Renaissance and up until recent history, there have been hundreds of conflicts, centered on the ownership of diamond mines and their contents.
Diamonds in Recent History
Diamonds are still one of the rarest and most valued gemstones on the planet, though some debate the reality of their scarcity. The most recent collections of diamonds have been found in Australia, which most people believed to be completely devoid of these stones. India, the country where our diamond history began, is still the hub of the diamond industry, with the largest collection of diamond appraisers, cutters, and polishers in the world.