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Diamonds Really Are Forever
A Reason to Choose Diamond Engagement Rings
by Margaret Burgon Klemp
N.W. Ayers & Son, the public relations agency for the African based De Beers Consolidated Mines diamond cartel, coined the famous advertising slogan "A Diamond is Forever". It appears that were probably right. Diamonds have been around for eternities. The hard glittering stones were first mined as a precious gem in India, but diamonds can be found all over the world.
Diamonds first came to the earth's surface through volcanic eruptions. For millions of years they formed deep inside the core of the earth, and then flowed with the hot magma that burst out upon the vastness of the firmament as lava. They were first produced by volcanic activity about 1.2 billion years ago. The actual formation of diamonds is supposed to have occurred around 400 million years ago. After eruptions the pieces of crystallized carbon did not lay at rest, but later when the earth began to cool and the oceans filled the basins the stones were carried by torrential rains to other areas. Then there was the possibility that deposits ended up in rivers and streams which eventually fed into larger bodies of water. The journey of a single diamond to its' final resting place might have been a very long one.
Diamonds are made up of carbon and are the hardest of all known precious stones. The word .diamond. is derived from the Greek word "adamas" which means "unconquerable". Diamonds formed when solid matter became spheres. This process was caused by the high temperature and pressure inside the earth, and crystallization of the carbon took place. There are three types of deposits where diamonds are found: alluvial gravels, glacial tills and kimberlite pipes. Both alluvial gravels and glacial tills are released by glacial or liquid erosion of the kimberlite, and then redeposited in rivers and streams. Kimberlite is an altered form of perdotite, and vertical "pipes" where diamonds are embedded can be found underneath the rock. A pipe is a roughly funnel-shaped extrusion of volcanic rock that can contain diamonds.
Diamonds were probably first thought to be unique about 5000 B.C. Dravidians arrived from Persia on India.s west coast in 2500 B.C. By 800 B.C. they had started mining for gold, and probably discovered diamonds by accident. India became the sole source for diamonds until they were discovered in Borneo in 600 A.D. The diamond was really not thought of as an ornamental item at that time. They were considered to have magical qualities because of the warmth that emits from them. Today we know that this is caused by the very high thermal conductivity of the stone. Some religions of the time thought diamonds came from a God. Buddhists believed that diamonds had ecstatic qualities, and Indian physicians used them to heal illness. Author Marian Fowler in Hope: Adventures of a Diamond quotes an early Sanskrit manual that dates back to 500 A.D., .He who wears a diamond will see dangers recede from him whether he be threatened by serpents, fire, poison, sickness, thieves, flood or evil spirits..
Fowler follows the trail of the famous Hope Diamond, and in doing so includes a lot of good information about diamonds and the whole diamond trade which exploded into Europe during the 17th century. This is when a whole new business and industry was truly born. Diamonds originally became a commodity during the reign of Candragupta (321-298 B.C.), and they were traded to some extent. Romans believed that diamonds were a deterrent against poison, and they would eliminate hallucinations and calm the mind. While smaller gems were traded outside the country the largest and finest diamonds stayed in India because rulers believed carrying them into battle would insure victory. But, trading diamonds on a large scale did not occur until India began negotiating with western traders.
One of the most notable of these was a French globetrotter and entrepreneur named Jean Baptiste Tavernier. Born in 1605, he was the son of an engraver and mapmaker. His whole family ended up being involved as engravers or goldsmiths. His great love of travel came about because he listened to his father discuss geography and his maps with friends and clients. He became fascinated with the Far East, and devoured every manuscript he could find on Marco Polo. Marco Polo visited the famous Golconda mines in India. He recounted finding diamonds after the monsoon rains washed them from their clefts and hideaways in the mountains.
Tavernier learned several foreign languages, and started preparing the travel to the East. His first of five trips happened in 1638. Each trip lasted for 5 years each. He went to Persia (modern day Iran) and bought pearls, rare fabrics and Persian rugs and brought them back to Europe and then sold them for a profit. During this time he also apprenticed himself out to a Jewish jeweler in Paris to learn as much as he could about all types of precious gems. The goods that he advertised were in great demand in Europe, and he fashioned a very lucrative business in exotic items specializing in precious gems.
He loved diamonds, and on his 4th trip to India he attempted to visit all the diamond mines there. Tavernier bought the famous Hope Diamond at the Golconda mine, and upon returning to France sold it to King Louis XIV who called it .the blue diamond of the French crown.. The rest is history. There is a whole legendary journey associated with this diamond that was supposed to have been cut by a sun god. There was a widespread belief that the stone was cursed. All the owners had calamity befall them after the diamond came into their lives. It actually became The Hope Diamond when a British banker named T.H. Hope purchased it at an auction. It finally fell into the hands of Henry Winston who, instead of keeping it, donated it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. John Baptiste Tavernier became and extremely wealthy businessman, and was highly regarded all over Europe. However, his most important contribution was fostering a whole new industry which is still thriving today.
India was the center of the diamond world until the 18th century when the stones started turning up in other areas of the world such as South America and Africa.
Gems: A Lively Guide for the Casual Collector, by Daniel J. Dennis Jr., Henry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York, New York
Gemstones: Symbols of Beauty and Power, by Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona
Hope: Adventures of a Diamond, by Marian Fowler, The Ballentine Publishing Group, New York, New York
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