Diamond—king of all precious gem stones—has captured man’s attention and imagination for thousands of years. From the earliest recorded history, diamonds have been one of the earth’s greatest and most sought after treasures. The first diamond mines—located in the Golconda province of India—date to the eighth century B.C. In the centuries before Christ, diamonds were valued for their strength as well as for their supposed power as a magical protector against snakes, fire, poison, illness, thieves and all the other assorted forces of evil. The early Christians believed that diamonds protected one from moral and physical evil. Ancient writings show that the exportation of diamonds to Rome and Arabia was common by one hundred B.C.
The name diamond is derived form the Greek word “Adamas” which can be variously translated into uncontrollable, indestructible, untamable, invincible, and unconquerable—all of which are fitting appellations for one of the world’s most enigmatic possessions. Romans were fascinated by the stone’s rarity, hardness, colorlessness, and fire-resistance. Diamonds were considered real property and the wealthier Romans passed them along to their heirs—we should thus thank the members of the early republic for giving those of us now living the first family heirlooms.
In the Dark and Middle Ages, diamonds adorned suits of armor worn by great Knights as well as the crowns of kings and queens. The diamond’s allure was further strengthened when, in the late 15th century, Lode Van Berckman from Bruges, Antwerp originated the first cutting techniques and was able to unleash the fire and brilliance possessed by no other stone. By the 1500s, it was commonly said that a diamond enhanced the love of a husband for his wife. And suddenly the modern diamond industry was begun.
The earliest known important diamond is the Koh-I-Noor from India and dates to 1304. The oval shaped stone set in Queen Elizabeth II’s crown can now be found with the rest of the Crown Jewels safeguarded in the historic Tower of London.
The world’s most important diamond, discovered by tradesman Jean Baptiste Tavenier in the early 1600s, was, like most famous diamonds, discovered in India and pulled from the Kollur mine. The original diamond was said to have originally weighed a gargantuan 112.25 carats. Tavenier then sold what was to become the world’s most famous and storied diamond to King Louis XIV for 3,000,000 British Pounds in the year 1669. Re-cut to 67.50 carats and named the Blue Crown Diamond, it was stolen in the “Garde Meuble” theft of 1792 and lost to history for almost 50 years. This historic stone next reappeared in Belgium in 1830. Mysteriously then weighing less than half its original weight at only 44.50 carats, it was purchased by Henry Thomas Hope—the stone was said to have been cut to this weight while leaving the sister stone, the Blue Brunswick, 13.75 carats and the exact same ultra rare color of sapphire blue.In 1851, the Hope Diamond, as it is now known, was displayed in London at the World Exhibition in Hyde Park’s Crystal Palace. The diamond then found its way into the hands of the Duke of Newcastle who, interestingly, was required by virtue of a clause in the stone’s testament of ownership transfer to assume the name “Hope.”
The Hope diamond was later purchased by New York Jeweler Jos Frankel to pay off all the Duke’s debts. In 1908, Frankel too was ruined by economic crisis and the diamond was sold in Paris for $4,000,000 to the bloodthirsty sultan Abdul Hamid II. Hamid was known as the “Red Sultan” for his brutal and cruel rule of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul’s brother Mehmet V helped add to the stone’s terrible history of death and failure by blaming the fall of the Ottoman Empire on the Red Sultan and ordering his abduction and murder. Now considered cursed, the Hope was sold to American billionaire Ed. B. Mac Lean of Washington for the paltry sum of $154,000 dollars. Mac Lean found the stone to be as unlucky for him as it was for its previous owners when he was lost to the sea aboard the Titanic in 1923. In 1947, famous jeweler Harry Winston purchased the cursed diamond for $180,000 dollars. Mr. Winston then wisely donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institute a decade later where you can still view the stone today—if you dare.
The Industry Today
The modern diamond trade is controlled by De Beers Consolidated Mines, incorporated in 1888, and who, via considerable manipulation and questionable ethics, acquired the world’s most important diamond mine, the Kimberly central, for $5,338,650 British Pounds. This famous check still hangs framed on the De Beers boardroom wall in Kimberly South Africa. De Beers currently controls most of the world’s diamond production and is considered by the United States government to be a monopoly with many indictments awaiting its key personnel should they ever visit America. Regardless, this control has shaped the current diamond world market, holding firm both prices and availability. Diamonds are now mined on most continents with important mines located in Canada, Russia, Australia and many in South America. The world’s major cutting centers are located in India, Israel, New York and Antwerp. More major or large stones are cut in New York than any place in the world, but, due to the increased labor costs, it is economically infeasible to cut smaller stones in the US.