History of Diamonds

The name diamond is derived from the Greek word adamas, meaning invincible, which was probably applied by the Greeks to any hard stone, such as corundum.  The first distinct and undoubted reference to diamonds occurs in Roman literature of the 1st century A.D.  The diamonds known to the Romans undoubtedly came from India.  Until the 18th century, India was the only known source of the stones, and they were believed to be found only in the fabled mines of Golconda.  Golconda was in fact the market city of the diamond trade, and gems sold there came from a number of mines.  In 1726 diamonds were discovered in Brazil, and in 1866 in South Africa.

During the mid-nineteenth century, diamonds were also being discovered in eastern Australia. However, it was not until late 1970's, after seven years of earnest searching, that Australia's alleged potential as a diamond producer was validated. On October 2nd 1979, geologists found the Argyle pipe near Lake Argyle: the richest diamond deposit in the world. Since then, Argyle has become the world's largest volume producer of diamonds, and alone is responsible for producing over a third of the world's diamonds every year.

A number of individual diamonds have become historic, chiefly because of their size.  The largest of all known diamonds is the Cullinan, which was discovered in the Premier mine in South Africa in 1905 and was presented to Edward VII, King of Great Britain, by the government of the Transvaal.  The Cullinan weighed 3106 carats before cutting, and was pronounced by crystallographers to be a cleavage fragment of a considerably larger stone.  When the stone was cut a total of 105 gems were produced weighing 1063 carats in all.  The largest of these was a drop shaped stone called the Star of Africa the largest cut diamond ever in existence weighing 530.2 carats.  The Vargas diamond, found in Brazil in 1938, weighed 726.6 carats before cutting.  When cut in 1945 it produced 29 stones that weighed a total of 411 carats.  In 1934, a diamond of almost the same weight, the Jonker diamond, was found in an alluvial deposit near the Premier mine, where the Cullinan was found.  The Jonker is the finest large diamond ever found.  It was cut into twelve gems ranging from 125.35 to 5.3 carats.  In 1967 the Lesotho diamond was discovered.  It weighed 601.25 carats uncut.

The Great Mogul diamond, reported to have weighed 240 carats has disappeared since it was first described by the French traveler J.B. Tavernier in India in 1655.  Some authorities believe that the Koh-i-noor diamond , which now weighs 106.1 carats and is one of the British crown jewels is part of the Great Mogul diamond.  The Pitt or Regent diamond, an Indian stone of 136.9 carats, was originally the property of Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras.  He sold it in 1717 to Phillippe II, duc d'Orleans, at that time the regent of France.  This diamond was stolen during the French Revolution but was later returned and placed in the Louvre in Paris.  A nameless blue Indian brilliant diamond weighing 67.1 carats was stolen at the same time and was never found.  Some experts believe that the Hope diamond, 44.5 carats, which has the same color is part of the stolen gem.  The Orloff diamond weighing 194.8 carats was supposedly stolen from the eye of an idol in an Indian temple.  It was mounted in the Imperial Russian sceptre.  Other noteworthy diamonds include the Jubillee, 245.3 carats, the Florentine, 133.2 carats, the Tiffany, 128.5 carats, the Star of the South, 125.5 carats, the Stewart, 120 carats, and the Dresden Green, 40 carats.