A Brief History Of Diamonds

The History of Diamonds

Diamonds have long been a symbol of power and wealth, and the subject of much envy and desire, but these precious stones were valued long before the conception of the glistening cut gems such as we know today.

Where do Diamonds Come From?

Naturally forming, diamonds were first mined in India as early as the 4th century BC. Derived from the Greek word for ‘indestructible’, the durable nature of these gemstones was recognised by the ancient Greeks who believed Eros’ arrows were tipped with them, able to penetrate anything they touched. Ancient Indians attributed them with similar religious value, believing their light-reflecting properties warded away evil.

When was the First Diamond Discovered?

While India is commonly cited as the location of the first diamonds ever to be mined, many of the world’s most famous diamonds are known for being the ‘first’ of a unique and exceedingly rare form of the precious stone. One such example is the Pink Agra Diamond, possessed by the first Mogul emperor in 1526, or the Tiffany Yellow, mined in 1877. The “Hope Diamond” remains one of the world’s most famous and oldest diamonds having been owned by several monarchs, including King Louis XV, and can be dated back 1.1 billion years.

History of Diamond Cutting

1074 marked the first time that diamonds were used in jewellery, displayed in a Hungarian queen’s crown, albeit in their untouched, uncut form. In the mid-14th century the ‘Point Cut’ was created, transforming rough diamonds from their natural state in order to appear more aesthetically pleasing. Grinding the stone to create a point which mimicked the natural shape of the gem, the point cut sought the preserve the diamond’s natural charm, quite unlike the many-faceted designs commonly seen today.

By the 1550s Antwerp had established itself as the diamond capital of the period, with a diamond cutters guild based in the city continuing the delicate craft first started in Venice some 200 years earlier. While many unique diamond cuts prevailed during this time, including the emerald and cushion cuts, it was not until 1919 that Marcel Tolkowsky created the cut which revealed the true lustre of the stone and bought diamond cutting into the modern era: the Round Brilliant Cut.

The Diamond Engagement Ring

Perhaps most notable moment in diamond history was in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian presented his wife with a diamond ring and changed the history of diamonds forever with this precursor to modern engagement jewellery. This opportunity was further seized many years later by the De Beers diamond company when, in 1938, a marketing campaign began which emphasised the importance of diamonds in an engagement ring. The trend was to become a tradition and successfully established diamond engagement rings as the quintessential proposal gift.

Diamond Timeline


3.3 Billion years ago


Almost 200 kilometres below the earth’s surface carbon began to evolve under extreme pressure and heat, the beginnings of the formation of the most valued commodity on earth, the Diamond.


800 BC


Diamonds first mined in India.


327 BC


Alexander the Great brings Diamonds to Europe.


322 BC - 185 BC


Diamonds begin to appear in Europe as accent decoration in other forms of Jewellery. King Louis IX of France bestows rarity to diamonds and establishes intrinsic value on them. Within 100 years diamonds appeared in royal jewellery of both men and women, then among the greater European aristocracy.


296 BC


The Arthasatra an ancient Sanskrit text mentions a diamond.


074 AD


Hungarian Crown one of the first examples of diamond jewellery.




The Briolette of India, a legendary 90 carat diamond believed to have been brought to England by Eleanor of Aquitaine.




The earliest diamond-cutting industry is believed to have been in Venice, a trade capital, starting sometime after 1330.




The Point Cut is developed.




A diamond circlet made for Queen Anne of Bohemia.




Louis van Berquem designed the light yellow 137 carat Florentine Diamond for the Valois Family commissioned by Duke of Burgundy.




The Archduke Maximillian of Austria “proposes” to his wife to be Mary of Burgundy with a Diamond Ring, a symbol of his betrothal. Hence the first recorded engagement rings. It was worn on the 3rd finger of the right hand, in order to be against a specific vein that goes directly to the heart.




The Rose Cut was created.




The first Mogul emperor, Babur acquired the Pink Agra Diamond.




In Antwerp, Belgium, the most important diamond centre of the period, a Diamond-cutters' Guild was soon to be established.




The pale yellow Sancy Diamond was purchased in Constantinople by the French Ambassador to Turkey, Nicholas Harlai, the Seigneur de Sancy.


1600 – 1750


The diamond was the first and foremost symbol of ultimate wealth and prosperity in Europe. India was the only know source of diamonds, with the discovery of diamonds in Brazil soon to follow.




Jean Baptist Tavernier made a series of six voyages to India where he saw some of the world’s most fabulous diamonds and gems. Tavernier purchased the Koh-i-Noor and the Hope diamonds for his patron King Louis XIV of France. He wrote the book "The Six Voyages of John Baptiste Tavernier" which was published in Paris, 1676.




The Grand Condé, a light pink pear-shaped stone, was given to Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé by King Louis XIII of France.




Cardinal Jules Mazarin, serving the French King Louis XIV, collected diamonds from Catherine the Great and is credited with the first 'Brilliant cut' diamonds, which were called Mazarins Double-Cut Brilliants.




The Wittelsbach diamond formed a gift from King Philip IV of Spain to his 15-year-old daughter, the Infanta Margareta Teresa to celebrate her betrothal to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria in 1664. It was a a rare dark blue color.




The Spoonmaker's Diamond (aka the Kasikci diamond) was found on a rubbish heap at Egrikapi in Istanbul.




Vincent Peruzzi, a Venetian diamond polisher, introduced the "Triple-Cut Brilliant" or "Peruzzi Cut" diamonds by doubling the number of crown facets from 17 to 33. These are also referred to as 'Old Mine cuts' or Cushion cuts.




The Hortensia diamond, a pale orangey-pink diamond, was added to the Crown Jewels of France by King Louis XIV.




The colorless Regent diamond discovered by a slave in the Parteal Mines on the Kistna River.




The Dresden Green diamond, named after the capital of Saxony, was sold to King Frederic August I by Marcus Moses who acquired the stone in India. It has a fancy green colour, weighs almost 41 carats, has 58 facets and has a pear shaped cut




The Orlov (also known as the Orloff) Diamond was mounted in the Russian Imperial Sceptre, during the reign of Catherine the Great. It has a bluish-green tint.




The Shah Diamond,an 88.70-carat, was found in Golconda, India. It was included in the Great Imperial Crown for Catherine the Great which was made by a jeweller called Jeremia Posier.




A large blue diamond, called the "Hope Diamond," appears in the gem catalogue of Henry Philip Hope.




The Black Orlov (also known as the Black Orloff) Diamond was acquired by the Russian Princess Nadia Vyegin-Orlov (aka Orloff).




The Star of the South was found in the Bagagem Diamond Mines in Brazil.




The discovery of diamonds near Hopetown, south of Kimberley in South Africa, gave birth to the modern diamond industry. The 1870s and 1880s in the Northern Cape saw a mad rush to the newly discovered diamond fields.




The Eureka Diamond was cut from the first diamond found in South Africa.




The Star of South Africa, a 47.69-carat old style pear-shaped diamond, was found in South Africa.




The colourless Porter Rhodes Diamond came from the claim of Mr Porter-Rhodes in the Kimberly Mine.




The Iranian Yellows - African diamonds acquired by Nasseridin Shah.




The Jubilee Diamond, a colourless, cushion-shaped diamond, was found in the Jagersfontein Mine.




The Spirit of de Grisogono at 312.24 carats was also found in the early 1900's and is the world's largest cut black diamond.


The Archduke Joseph, a colorless cushion shaped diamond, was found and named after a Hungarian prince Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962)




Asscher Brothers of Holland introduce their cut known as the Asscher cut, popular to this day. The Cullinan (aka the Star of Africa) was found by Frederick Wells, the superintendent of the Premier Mine in South Africa, and named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, who opened the mine and was visiting that dayAbraham and Joseph Asscher cut the enormous 3,106 carat Cullinan diamond at the request of King Edward VII in 1902 when the Asscher cut was patented.




The world's largest gem quality diamond, the Cullinan, was found in South Africa. Uncut, it weighed 3025 carats. It was presented to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday.




The Blue Heart diamond weighs 30.82 metric carats and was cut by Atanik Ekyanan of Neuilly, Paris.




The Tereschenko Diamond was secretly taken out of Russia on the eve of the Russian Revolution.




Uncle Sam is the nickname for the largest diamond discovered in the United States which was discovered by W. O. Bassum at Crater of Diamonds state park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.




La Favorite Diamond was mined in South Africa and exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair.




The Jonker Diamond was found by 62-year-old Johannes Jacobus Jonker in South Africa.




The criteria for diamonds established. The standards and the 4 C’s, Cut, Colour, Carat, and Clarity are published.




The Walska Diamond, a 95-carat yellow briolette cut stone, was bought by Ganna Walska who was a Polish opera singer.




The Allnatt Fancy Vivid Yellow 101.29 carat Diamond was found at the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa. It was named after its original owner, Alfred Ernest Allnatt.




The Nepal (also known as the 'Ageless Diamond') was purchased by Harry Winston from an Indian dealer.




Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond was used as a centrepiece of the tiara designed for the wedding of Empress Farah to the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.




The Asscher cut Krupp Diamond, originally named after Vera Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, was sold at Sothebys to Elizabeth Taylor.




Princess cut is developed; swiftly becoming the most popular fancy cut diamond.


1967 - 2000


Botswana becomes the largest producer of Diamonds by value in the world. The Centenary, found in 1986, was polished from a 599 carat gem. The rough diamond was cut into various stones, the largest of which bears the name Centenary and, at 273 carats, is the Largest Modern Cut, Top Colour, Flawless Diamond in the world.




The Beluga Diamond (a 41-carat stone from the Golconda area of India) was cut by the William Goldberg firm from a 265.82-carat rough and weighs 103-point-some carats: The Ashoka cut diamond was developed by the William Goldberg firm, the first of its kind was named the Ashoka diamond.


The legacy of the Diamond will continue. It existed at the dawn of civilized man and will adorn for years to come. It will be part of Weddings, celebrations, a part of love and prosperity, a part of intrigue and beauty and a part of every woman’s heart that keeps one on her finger. Men will always swear love by it, and love will always maintain the brilliance of earth.