What is a birthstone?
It is believed that the idea of assigning a birthstone to each month dates back to early biblical times. The breastplate that Aaron (older brother of Moses) wore was adorned with 12 gemstones that represented the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In those days people wore the gemstone assigned to a month as a talisman and bringer of good luck. In 1912 the American National Association of Jewellers created an official list of gemstones that represented each month that was based on the original tale.
She who from April dates her years, Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears For vain repentance flow; this stone, Emblem of innocence, is known. – Gregorian birthstone poem
The History of the Diamond
Diamonds were first recognised and mined in India, along the rivers of Penner, Krishna and Godavari, over 3,000 years ago. In South Africa, the story of diamonds started much more recently, when in 1866 a 15 year-old boy (Erasmus Jacobs) came across a transparent rock on his father’s farm on the south bank of the Orange River. The rest, as they say, is history – and over the next few years, South Africa yielded more diamonds than India had in over 2,000 years, becoming a global hub for this precious stone.
Where are diamonds found?
Apart from South Africa, diamonds are found and produced especially in Russia, Botswana, the DRC, Australia and Canada. Diamonds are generally formed in what is called kimberlite, a type of igneous rock. It is formed deep in the earth’s mantle as magma, which rises under great pressure towards the surface and cools to form kimberlite pipes. Some diamonds make their way to the surface by volcanic eruptions, some remain in pipes until mined – and others often weather out of the kimberlite by natural processes and are transported downstream by water. The latter are called alluvial deposits and are a common source of diamonds along the coast of South Africa.
The diamond is a perfect 10 on Moh’s hardness scale. This means that a diamond is the only thing able to make a scratch on a diamond. This property makes it ideal for daily wear – contributing to its popularity as the preferred gemstone in engagement and wedding rings.
A diamond’s lustre is known as adamantine, the highest non-metalic lustre. This gives diamonds their highly reflective quality and “sparkle”.
Things you might not have known
The name diamond comes from the ancient Greek αδάμας (adámas) meaning “proper”, “unalterable”, “unbreakable”, “untamed”.
Diamonds can be almost any colour in the rainbow. Those with shades of yellow are the most common, followed by colourless diamonds. Blue, black, reddish, and greenish diamonds are more valuable and rare.
The famous Cullinan diamond is the largest diamond stone ever found. It was discovered in 1905 in South Africa and named after the chairman of the mine, Thomas Cullinan. The stone was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and cut into several polished stones of which Cullinan I (or the Great Star of Africa) is the largest at 530.4 carats. Today, this spectacular diamond can be found mounted in the head of the United Kingdom’s Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.
The first known record of a diamond engagement ring is in 1477, when Archduke Maxmillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a gold ring featuring an M spelled out in diamonds.
In 2004 scientists discovered a planet, named “55 Cancri e”, that they believe is composed mostly of carbon, and is one-third pure diamond. 55 Canri e (also named Janssen) has a diameter twice that of the Earth’s, and closely orbits its Sun-like star.
The most common diamond for engagement rings - thanks to a very successful marketing campaign by De Beers - is a white round brilliant-cut, but there are lots of interesting alternative shapes and colours: take a look at some of the unique diamond pieces by Studio Loubser, using some more unusual diamonds.