A history of diamonds


For thousands of years, gemstones have hypnotized humans with their rich colors, their sparkling appearance, and their rarity.

Many cultures attribute special powers and significance to these stunning stones. The word amethyst, for example, gets its name from a Greek term that means sober. In fact, in Ancient Greece, wine was sometimes served from amethyst goblets in attempts to prevent overindulgence. The Persians had a myth that sapphires were pieces of a huge pedestal that the Earth rested upon, giving the sky its blue color from its reflection. Despite these stories, there was one gemstone that rose above all others throughout history — the diamond.

Durability and brilliance set the diamond apart from other gemstones. None can compete with its strength or the dance of colors that occurs when a beam of light enters the stone, reflects off the many facets and exits back to the viewer. Diamonds were first mined in India as early as the 4th century BCE and gained their name from a Greek word meaning “unconquerable.” It was also noted by famed Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who wrote around 75 CE that the “diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.”

Diamond cuts evolved through several stages before reaching the most common and popular of all diamond cuts — the modern brilliant round. The old mine cut was most popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. It had 58 facets, like the modern brilliant that we often see now, but it was boxier and had very different proportions. The old European cut was common in the early 1900s and is found in art deco jewelry. Diamond cuts that came after the old European and before the modern brilliant are often called transitional cuts, which appeared between the 1920s and 1940s.

Many people seek out these old diamond cuts because of their inherent uniqueness. Each was measured and cut by hand, with special care taken to maximize its brilliance under the warm flicker of candlelight. As a result, no two stones were carved identically. With the advancement of technology and engineering, the arduous process of hand-cutting diamonds was replaced by the use of computer software and high-tech equipment, making these older cuts harder and harder to find.

Olympia Pakis of Stephano Brothers Jewelry contributed this article on behalf of the Hot Springs Antique Dealers Association.

Society on 12/01/2019

Print Headline: A history of diamonds

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