Diamond history stretches back into unknown primordial time. We don’t know when diamonds, the stone, first came into being. However, the diamond’s history with humanity remains more well-documented. This has not kept it immune to a history of lore, however, owing to how important diamonds became to people vying for status and extravagance.
Read on to learn the major facts of diamond history, including the nature of diamonds and the regions of trade that made it the essential fashion accessory it is today.
What is a Diamond?
Unlike many products, the diamond’s origin isn’t immediately clear. That’s the first question before we consider their discovery and fame. Diamonds consist of carbon deposits, compressed by earthly heat and pressure deep underground. Explosions, pockets of pressure release, and other expelling forces “push” diamonds through sediment and crust. This brings them to areas in which they can be discovered or mined by people.
A diamond is a stone and not anywhere near the gorgeous, cut, and shapely ornament in the rings of every wedded couple in the world. It must be excavated, cleaved, cut, and shined into the product we know as the luxury diamond.
Diamond History: The Early Years of Desire
As long ago as the first century, diamonds mentioned by Roman naturalists became well-known objects of value and desire. Pliny wrote on them as a rarity. They didn’t become well-known world favorites until India began discovering them naturally (and plentifully).
India’s landscape places it so near diamond deposits that people began to find them in streams and low-lying rivers by the 4th century. They became mainstays of India’s trading markets during this time. However, they only ended up in the homes of India’s most wealthy people. This changed over the next few hundred years as new trading routes formed out of India and to the wider corners of Western Europe by way of Venice.
During the medieval period and through the 1400s, exotic diamonds from the far corners of India made it by caravan to the courts of middle Europe. Therefore, India should be thanked (or blamed) for the diamond’s ubiquity as a fashion statement for the extremely wealthy.
Diamonds for the People
By the 1700s, India’s declining diamond reserves led to new sources sought out in Brazil after gold miners found them in the rivers. The wealthy classes who bought the diamonds were also in decline owing to political revolutions in France and America. Those who bought diamonds bought them from Brazil nearly exclusively for a century.
As Americans gained their own wealth, the growing diamond market in South Africa supplied them with their demands for diamond fashion through the 1800s. South Africa would remain the world’s most prolific diamond merchant even today. They still employ major marketing tactics to make diamonds seem less plentiful and more luxurious. Despite this, most people can now afford mid-range diamonds when desired.
Diamond History: The Takeaway
Diamond history begins with a natural process and ancient luxury. It ends with a common fashion object that even the middle class can enjoy in moderation like many modern necessities. Now, diamonds, principally from South Africa, represent a well-known, yet sought-after luxury in the civilized world.