‘Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all the things in this world.’
Pliny the Elder, first century AD
Though formed of humble carbon, a diamond of the highest grading is internally flawless and perfectly transparent. Across cultures and throughout the centuries the sparkling April birthstone has continued to be bestowed with a status of ultimate perfection.
To the ancients, diamonds were slivers of the moon, splinters of falling stars and the tears of gods; while Cupid, son of Venus, fired diamond-tipped arrows from his amour-giving bow.
Stretching back beyond the realms of classical mythology into Hindu legend, the deity Krishna is said to have gifted his great love Radha with a diamond – believed by some to be the renowned Koh-i-Noor (‘Mountain of Light’) diamond – to reflect her beauty as it shone in the moonlight.
In the early middle ages sumptuary laws decreed that only kings and royalty could adorn themselves with the precious stone, and they are known to have been Queen Elizabeth I’s jewel of choice.
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom collection contains all three of the world’s largest polished diamonds. In order of size these are: the Golden Jubilee Diamond (at 545.67 carats, 109.134 g); the Cullinan I, mounted in the head of the Royal Sceptre; and the Cullinan II, which forms the centrepiece of the British Imperial State Crown. Both the Cullinan gems are cut from the Cullinan Diamond – the largest gem-quality diamond ever found, weighing in at 3106.75 carat (621.35 g) with its widest dimension measuring 10.5cm.
The American poet, Robert Elliott Gonzales, once wrote: “Diamonds are trumps in the game of hearts”. Indeed they have made for many famous lovers’ gifts. From Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave his second wife, Empress Marie-Louise, a necklace set mounted with approximately 263 carats of diamonds, to Richard Burton who trumped Elizabeth Taylor’s £20 million iconic jewelry collection in 1969 when he presented her with The Cartier Diamond. (Taylor later sold the jewel at auction for $5 million following the couple’s divorce.)
Today diamonds have become embedded within popular culture, appearing in song lyrics (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and James Bond novels, to red carpet glamour and the insides of rapper’s mouths (Kanye West).
We have even started ‘growing’ diamonds in laboratories. Synthetic diamonds, as they are often called, first entered the consumer marketplace in the mid-1980s. They still come with quite a price tag attached, yet are becoming increasingly widespread and, as production methods improve, increasingly difficult even for professionals to distinguish from naturally formed diamonds.
Diamonds may be forever but the world’s natural diamond supplies are not. Despite pouring billions into exploration, it’s forecast that mining companies face a steady decline in production from 2019. Conversely, demand is on the rise, pushing-up the value of this most precious gem even further.
With such a prospect looming there’s now even more reason to get your own diamond ring insured.