The word diamond comes from the Greek word Adamas, meaning “unconquerable.” It is believed that the earliest diamonds were found in India in the 4th century BC, although the youngest of these deposits were formed nearly 900 million years ago! A vast majority of these early stones were transported along the trade routes that connected India and China, commonly known as the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in trade between 130 BCE-1453 CE.
From the time they were discovered, diamonds have always been valued because of their strength and brilliance. Diamonds were worn always as adornments, but were also used as cutting tools, served as talismans to ward off evil, and were believed to provide protection in battle. 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.
In 1866, a 21.25-carat diamond was found on the banks of the Orange River by a 15-year-old boy. A few years later, in 1871, a breathtaking 83.50-carat deposit was unearthed on a shallow hill in Colesberg Kopje, South Africa. As word spread of these findings, there was a rush of diamond prospectors to the region to get their hands on some of these precious stones. This led to the opening of the first large-scale mining operation which came to be known as the Kimberly Mine. It was because of this newly discovered diamond source that the world’s diamond supply increased substantially, which resulted in a significant decrease in the value of diamonds. The upper class and elite no longer considered diamonds a rarity, and began to replace the “common” stone with colored gemstones. Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires became more popular choices for engagement ring stones among the upper class.
If you’re sitting here wondering when diamonds came back in style as engagement rings, I’m getting there! In 1947, DeBeers, the British company that mined diamonds in South Africa, coined the slogan “A diamond is forever.” Their advertising campaign was wildly successful and is still considered a contributing factor to today’s widespread embracing of the tradition of diamond engagement rings. As demand for diamonds grew, jewelers began experimenting with ways to enhance the diamond’s visual appeal and presentation. This quickly led to new cutting techniques to help increase the stone’s brilliance. Several prominent shapes emerged as the most popular varieties and still are today. Click here to read up on the various circular and rectangular diamond shapes.
Nowadays more than 78% of engagement rings sold contain diamonds. At such a high premium, we are slowly depleting the world's diamond deposits. It is suspected that less than 20% of the diamonds mined in the present-day are of gem quality. Less than 2% are even considered “investment diamonds.” This has led to a rise in “man-made” or lab-growth diamonds which has, in turn, started a shift in engagement ring preferences. Of course, the diamond is still a popular option but more and more brides are opting for colored stones and rings made out of unique materials.
So, what is your preference? The eternal diamond, or something unique and different?