Journey of diamonds
Diamonds have a long history as beautiful objects of desire. In the first century AD, the Roman naturalist Pliny stated: “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.”
The stone’s name is derived from the Greek word adamas, which translates to “unconquerable.” This symbolic meaning lends itself well to the diamond’s historic commemoration of eternal love.
Diamonds have always been considered as a mark of purity, durability and luxury. The earliest diamonds were found in India in 4th century BC, although the youngest of these deposits were formed 900 million years ago. A majority of these early stones were transported along the network of trade routes that connected India and China, commonly known as the Silk Road. At the time of their discovery, diamonds were valued because of their strength and brilliance, and for their ability to refract light and engrave metal. Diamonds were worn as adornments, used as cutting tools, served as a talisman to ward off evil, and were believed to provide protection in battle. In the Dark Ages, diamonds were also used as a medical aid and were thought to cure illness and heal wounds when ingested.
Surprisingly, diamonds share some common characteristics with coal. Both are composed of the most common substance on earth: carbon. What makes diamonds different from coal is the way the carbon atoms are arranged and how the carbon is formed. Diamonds are created when carbon is subjected to the extremely high pressures and temperatures found at the earth’s lithosphere, which lies approximately 90-240 miles below the earth’s surface.
Until the 18th century, India was thought to be the only source of diamonds. When the Indian diamond mines were depleted, the quest for alternate sources began. Although a small deposit was found in Brazil in 1725, the supply was not enough to meet world demands.
In 1866, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs was exploring the banks of the Orange River when he came across what he thought was an ordinary pebble, but turned out to be a 21.25-carat diamond. In 1871, a colossal 83.50-carat deposit was unearthed on a shallow hill called Colesberg Kopje. These findings sparked a rush of thousands of diamond prospectors to the region and led to the opening of the first large-scale mining operation which came to be known as the Kimberly Mine. This newly discovered diamond source increased the world’s diamond supply substantially, resulting in a significant decrease in their value. The elite no longer considered the diamond a rarity, and began to replace this “common” stone with colored gemstones. Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires became more popular choices for engagement ring stones among the upper class.
In 1880, Englishman Cecil John Rhodes formed De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd in an effort to control the diamond supply. Although DeBeers was successful in their efforts to control the supply of diamonds, demand for the stone was weak. By 1919, diamonds were devalued by nearly 50%.
Diamonds are known to make a long arduous journey before they reach your jewellery box. The story of a diamond begins 100-200 miles below the Earth’s surface. Diamonds were formed billions of years ago due to extensive heat and pressure on carbon crystals. Subsequently, volcanic activity forced diamonds up Earth’s surface through pipes or openings in the Earth. Some of them made their way to river beds, streams and seas but the majority of diamonds settled back into the Kimberlite pipes. It is said that the first diamonds were found as glittering pebbles near the course of an ancient river.
Once the diamonds are found, the process to obtain them can be long and cumbersome. It is said that it takes more than 250 tonnes of ore to produce just 1 carat of rough diamond. The ore goes through different stages of blasting, crushing and processing to procure the diamonds.
Now that the rough diamonds have been released from the ore, they go through sorting and classification according to their shape, size, quality and colour. Before they’re passed on to diamond cutters, expert sorters scan these rough pieces under X-rays which enables them to detect and sort them for their natural characteristics.
Cutting & PolishingThe diamonds are then brought to life by master craftsmen who transform the rough diamonds to a sparkling expression of deep emotion. Using meticulous and laborious cutting methods, its brilliance is revealed. The cutter uses cleaving, sawing or laser cutting to separate the original rough into smaller, workable pieces. The bruter grinds the stone’s edges for that remarkable outline. Faceting trails next where 18 facets of the table, pavilion, culet and bezel are cut and polished then the next 40 facets – star facets, upper and lower girdle facets follow suit. Although, most of the polishing work is computerized, some of the work is still done by hand to bring out its true shine. The best cutting process brings out maximum brilliance and most carat weight. An ideal cut and polished diamond, even if small in size, will stand out more than a poorly cut big diamond. In fact, Mumbai is one of the key diamond cutting and trading centres in the world.
Manufacturing and SettingThe finished gem is then boiled in acids to get rid of all dust and oil. The diamonds are now ready to go out into the world and be set into finished pieces of jewellery. They are sold to either wholesalers, who work as middlemen to sell the manufacturer’s goods to the retailer or sold directly to the retailer by the manufacturer. From jewellery showrooms and retailers, it slowly makes way into hearts of buyers as eternal memories and moments of joy.