Just wanted to say thank you for such a good job with the engagement ring by ordering something else. You guys are awesome. My fiancÃ© has had so many compliments on her ring. Thanks again.
James Corey II
The word "diamond" comes from the Greek word "adamas" which means unconquerable. It is made up of pure carbon and is the hardest natural substance known to man. Deep deposits of carbon evolve under extreme heat and pressure to form what will be the most precious stone on earth - the diamond. The first riverbed (alluvial) diamonds were probably discovered in India, in around 800 B.C. It is thought that the volcanic source of these diamonds was never discovered but the alluvial deposits were rich enough to supply most of the world's diamonds until the eighteenth century, when Indian supplies were dwindling. It probably spurred the exploration that led to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil which became the next important diamond source.
The first known engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477. The wife to be, Mary, wore it on the third finger of her left hand, now known as the ring finger. This was done so that the ring touched a vein believed to go directly to the heart. Today, more than 200,000 diamond engagement rings are placed on ring fingers every year.
Beginning in 1866, South Africa's massive diamond deposits were discovered and a major deposit was found in Siberia in 1954. Currently Western Canada is the site of the world's newest diamond rush. In 1869, a shepherd boy discovered an 83.4 carat rough diamond in South Africa signaling the beginning of the great diamond rush. Before this, only India and Brazil were considered serious sources of diamonds. Throughout most of history, diamonds were mined from the sand and gravel surrounding rivers. However, in South Africa in 1870, a diamond was found in the earth far from a river source, and the practice of dry digging for diamonds was born. More sophisticated mining techniques allowed deeper subterranean digging, as well as more efficient river mining, than ever before. Most recently marine mining has been used.
The largest rough diamond was discovered weighing in at 3,106 carats in 1905. Edward VII chose Joseph Asscher to cut two stones fine enough for the British Crown Jewels. These two stones remain among the largest cut diamonds in the world today.
The 4 C's were introduced by De Beers in 1939. This helped educate consumers about diamond quality and value. The Cs stand for cut, color, carat and clarity. All factors that should be taken into consideration when establishing the right price for a stone. Consumers can now begin to distinguish the qualities that make up the most valuable diamonds.
The grading of diamonds is a minor art, takes excellent eyesight and long practice. The stones are of varying shades of whiteness. Color is one of the four C's by which diamonds are graded; the others are Clarity, Cutting and Carat weight. (The matter of flaws is classified under Clarity.)
Next in importance to the beauty and value of the stone is the cut. Because of the diamond's great power to refract light, a properly cut modern stone will catch rays of light and direct them toward the center of the stone, from which they will be reflected back through the top, the "table", to give the greatest brilliance.
For centuries, the cutting of diamonds was avoided. In India, where all diamonds were mined until the discoveries in Brazil in the eighteenth century, the stones were simply polished and rough points smoothed off, leaving them as near their original size as possible. Sometime before the first travelers from the West appeared, a workman had found a stone that was flat on both top and bottom and polished it crudely with diamond dust to create the ancestor of the table cut. In some period before the fifteenth century, an unknown genius in India began to shape diamonds by cutting facets, for the first time bringing out their brilliance. Eventually, the idea of faceting crossed to Venice and moved north. The earliest record of diamond polishing is Indian and probably dates from the fourteenth century. There are also contemporary references to the practice of diamond polishing in Venice. The earliest reference to diamond cutting is in 1550 in Antwerp, the most important diamond center of the period, where a diamond cutters' guild was soon to be established.
As most stories in diamond history, there are as many conflicting tales as there are facets about who faceted the first stones in Europe. There is an anecdote about a certain Louis de Berquem, who supposedly lived in Belgium in the fifteenth century and is credited with being the first to cut diamonds to a geometric pattern.
Later sources agree that it was Cardinal Mazarin who gave the impetus in Europe toward the daring innovation of cutting. For it did take daring and some knowledge of diamond cleavage to split or facet a stone correctly, when any error would shatter the gem and leave only a worthless heap of diamond dust.
All of this romance was reduced to cold science in 1919 when a physicist by the name of Marcel Tolkowsky mathematically determined the precise, most advantageous placing of each of the facets, which until then was arranged at the whim of the cutter. The Tolkowsky Cut was so superior that all cutters were glad to adopt it. Even the emerald cut diamond gets its brilliance from faceting: 24 above the girdle, 8 comprising the girdle itself and 24 below.
The cutting of diamonds into the complex facetted forms we now associate with these gems is actually a relatively recent practice. For centuries, rough diamonds were kept as talismans, and often not worn at all. The cutting of a diamond is the only way by which man can enhance the value of a stone; the other three "C's" are either there or they are not. However, cutting can make a vast difference in brilliancy as well as in retail price. There is an ideal cut for diamonds as well as an ideal number of facets, but the ideal cut often reduces the finished stone more than the cutter wishes. To compare a stone to the ideal cut instantly, the diamond office has a "proportion scope", an instrument that magnifies a diamond onto a small screen where the ideal cut is outlined. Too shallow a cut will distort the reflections of light so that they do not flash up through the table properly, but skip away through the sides or the bottom.
Since more than half the weight of a stone may be lost in faceting, cutters are often tempted to sacrifice brilliance for a larger stone. That is why it is possible to buy a "flat" stone for less than a smaller stone with the ideal cut. That is also why the unknowing buyer thinks she is getting a bargain when she finds a larger stone selling for the same price as a smaller stone.
The last "C" in judging stones is the weight, the carats, so named from the seeds of the carob tree, which were used to balance the scales in ancient Oriental bazaars. About 142 carats weigh an ounce; stones of less than a carat are called "pointers" (100 points equal one carat).
Buyers must never forget that all four "C's" are taken into account in the price. A one-carat flawless diamond will fetch much more than an off color, flawed or poorly cut stone of much greater weight. Flaws can be studied under the diamond scope, which can magnify up to forty-five times, to determine if a slight recutting of the stone will eliminate the defect.
Estimates are that 85% of the diamonds sold in the country as "flawless" are not. In Europe, the term is not used at all. A stone of good color, though flawed, is more beautiful than a flawless stone of poor color - and is easier to resell.
Hoarding has always been a favorite form of hedge against disaster in unstable countries. Diamonds are not only the most portable form of wealth but have a stable universal market, as opposed to the currency of any one country. The price of diamonds fluctuates less than that of anything else precious, such as gold, in the free market, for the simple reason that there is no free market in diamonds.
From 1960 through 1969, wholesale prices of diamonds over a carat rose almost twice as much as the Dow-Jones industrial average. There is small chance prices will go down, not only because of the cartel, but because the supply of diamonds has not increased at a time when the custom of giving an engagement ring, once chiefly popular only in the Western world, has spread around the globe. Also, the market in the United States has gradually changed; the once popular one quarter carat diamond ring is too small; most young people now want a half carat or larger.
As it has for eighty years, DeBeers keeps the supply remarkably in line with demand. Fearing the news that large river deposits had been found in Russia, the diamond minded were worried about the thought of competition. The sad fact is that even Russia markets most of her diamonds through DeBeers. It is more profitable that way. In all, 85 percent of the world's diamonds are parceled out at the ten sights (sales) a year in London, where DeBeers sells its wares. Each producer is guaranteed a fixed percentage of total output. That is DeBeers commits to buy that amount and market it through the Central Selling Organization (CSO). Producers in turn are charged a handling and marketing fee, ranging between 10 - 20%, depending on the amount purchased and the general demand situation. Over 80% of the world's diamonds were traded through the CSO in its early days. Recent developments have caused a downward trend in this percentage; present estimates range between 65 - 75 percent.
One of DeBeers' main roles is to maintain the notion that diamonds are a scarce commodity. They do this by means of advertising and by purchasing excess supplies to avoid price decreases. As a matter of principal, prices are never lowered by DeBeers. This tightly knit organization has proven beneficial for most in different ways: For producers, often state run diamond mines in developing countries relying heavily on diamonds, are provided with a stable inflow of foreign currency. For dealers, they enjoy stable price increases, which can easily be passed on to consumers. DeBeers, however, seems to be benefiting the most from the agreement, asking for what producers often perceive as inappropriately large fees and in turn charging prices to merchants at their own discretion. The temptation for both producers and dealers to bypass the CSO is therefore quite significant.
Choose from the famous diamonds below to learn more:
They were sold separately; three of them were bought by Tiffany & Co. The names of the other buyers have not been disclosed but it is known that DeBeers displayed one of the marquise shaped fragments at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
The Great Mogul
The world's third largest gem quality diamond was named after Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. It was found in India in the mid 17th century and its whereabouts are not known. It may no longer exist as a single large stone. It has been confused with several other famous diamonds, most importantly the Orloff, which has also been described as a faintly blue rose cut stone. It is reported that the stone was so badly cut that the lapidary instead of being paid by the Shah, was forced to pay a heavy fine. It was described as looking like an egg and weighing 280 carats.
This stone is a flawless, transparent pink stone, estimated at 175-195 carats. It is the largest and most remarkable gem in the Crown Jewels of Iran. It is now set in a gold frame with other diamonds, topped by a crown bearing lions with ruby eyes. It was last worn by the last Shah for his coronation in 1967.
Today, the Darya-i-Nur holds a prominent place among the Iranian Crown Jewels. The Iranian Crown Jewels were studied and authenticated in 1966 by Dr. V.B. Meen of the Royal Ontario Museum. It is now believed that the Darya-i-Nur is the major portion of Tavernier's Great Table.
This means "Mountain of Light" and its history is the longest of all the famous diamonds. It was captured by Sultan Babur and remained in the possession of later mogul emperors. It may have been set in the famous Peacock Throne made for Shah Jehan. After the breakup of the Persian Empire, the diamond found its way to India. It may have traveled to Afghanistan when the Shah was murdered to be later offered up in exchange for military help. The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity and then presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850. When the stone came from India, it weighed 186 carats; it was later re-cut to 105.60 carats. It was first worn by the Queen in a brooch. It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary and in 1937 was worn by Queen Elizabeth for her coronation. It is kept in the Tower of London.
The Hope Diamond
It was discovered centuries ago in Southern India, where it was believed to have a great mystical power surrounding its unusual size and unique color - deep indigo blue. It was in the hands of Kings, sultans, English royalty, jewelers and thieves for many years. Some say those who owned the blue stone had some kind of bad luck associated with them wherever they went.
In 1911, the diamond was purchased by a young American Ned McLean who gave it to his socialite heiress wife, Evalyn Walsh McLean. He purchased it from Cartier for $185,000. Evalyn wore the diamond everywhere. For instance, wearing it to the swimming pool, allowing her great Dane to wear it around the house to protect, loaned it to brides for their special day and allowing her grand daughter, Mamie, to play with it in her sand box and teething on it. She was ultimately convinced that the true power of the diamond came from the joy and awe which filled the faces of those who gazed upon it. Mrs. McLean was the longest private owner and she owned the diamond for 36 years until her death in 1947.
Harry Winston Jewelers of New York bought the Hope in 1949 from the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean and many clients refused to touch the stone. In 1958, the Hope was given a permanent home at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Today it can be enjoyed by millions of people and it has become the most sought after exhibit in the world and the most valuable stone in the world. It is worth approximately a quarter of a billion dollars.
The Millennium Star
This stone is so flawless and so great in size that the world's diamond experts cannot put a price on it. It was discovered in the Republic of the Congo. DeBeers mined the Star in the early nineties. It took over three years for their diamond cutters to shape the stone with lasers. What emerged was the world's only internally and externally flawless, 203 carat, pear shaped diamond.
This diamond was found at South Africa's Premier Mine on July 17, 1986 using an electronic x-ray recovery system. In its rough form, the stone resembled an irregular matchbox, with angular planes, a prominent, elongated protrusion at one corner and a deep concave on the largest flat surface.
It took a master cutter three years to transform the stone into the largest modern-cut flawless diamond. The Centenary has 75 facets on top, 89 on the bottom and 83 on the girdle for a total of 247. The amazing result was achieved using a combination of some of the oldest cutting methods and the most sophisticated technology. Today this stone is part of the British Crown Jewels. It was presented at the Tower of London in 1991 where it is on permanent display.
This pear-shaped stone with a confused heritage disappeared during the French Revolution in 1782. It was originally owned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who lost the diamond in battle in 1477. It was named after a later owner, Seigneur de Sancy, a French Ambassador to Switzerland during the late 16th century. There have been many questions regarding how Mr. Sancy obtained his diamond, but most likely, he acquired it on his travels in the Far East. Nicholas de Sancy loaned the diamond to the French king, Henry III who placed it on his cap to conceal his baldness. By 1596, Sancy himself was in need of money and eventually sold the large diamond to King James I of England. In 1625, Charles I disposed of other diamonds but retained the Sancy, which was taken by Queen Henrietta Maria along with other jewels in the Royal Treasury.
It later came into the possession of Cardinal Jules Mazirin, acting First Minister of the Crown, who bequeathed the Sancy and another stone to the French Crown. Following the French Revolution, a stone believed to be the Sancy found its way to a Spanish nobleman, and eventually in 1828 to Prince Nicholas Demidoff, whose family owned industries and silver mines in Russia. The Sancy passed to his son, who gave it to his Finnish bride. The Sancy was purchased by William Waldorf Astor in the 1890's for his wife, Lady Astor. She was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, and wore the Sancy set in a tiara at numerous state occasions.
In 1978, the four Viscount Astor sold the Sancy reputedly for $1,000,000. It is now on view at the Louvre in Paris.
This great stone, originally a diamond rough of 410 carats, was said to be discovered in 1701 by an Indian slave near Golconda. Golconda was a mountain fortress and a center for trading in India that included a diamond storehouse. Known at the time as the Pitt, the diamond was sold to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France. It was then renamed "The Regent". Later it was set in the coronation crown of King Louis XV and later in a headband worn by his Queen. Sadly in 1792, the Regent and other great diamonds in the Crown Jewel collection were stolen, some disappearing forever.
Fortunately, the Regent reappeared in a Paris attic a year later. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the diamond set in his sword hilt, which he carried at his coronation two years later. Today it is at the Louvre in Paris.
The Shah Jahan
This table cut or flat diamond is one of several that have been credited as a match for the Great Table Diamond viewed by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier at Golconda in 1642. This cut strongly resembles the diamond of octagonal outline in a turban ornament in a portrait of Shah Jahan and it correlates reasonably well with a description by Tavernier of a table cut weighing about 54 carats in 1665. The Shah Jahan was offered at auction by Christies in Geneva in 1985 but was not sold. The diamond exhibits a feature common in gems shaped for Mogul use, a pair of drilled holes by which a stone could be sewn to a turban or garment to impart both pomp and courtly fashion.
The shape of this stone has been likened to half of a pigeon's egg. It has roughly 180 facets and is mounted in the Imperial Scepter, fashioned during the reign of Catherine the Great. The history is characterized by legend, fact, speculation and theory. But it is considered one of the most important items in the Treasures of the Russian Diamond Fund, one of the world's greatest collections of gems and jewelry.
The Orlov has been confused with the Great Mogul, a fascinating Indian gem that apparently disappeared without a trace. The stone takes its name from Count Grigori Grigorievich Orlov, a Russian nobleman and army officer who caught the fancy of the Grand Duchess, destined to become Catherine the Great.
Echoing the legend of the Orlov, this flattened, pear shaped stone the size of a bantam's eggs was once set in the eye of an idol before it was stolen. Legend also holds that it was given as a ransom for Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey, who had abducted her. Despite abundant unproven accounts of its early origins, the first authenticated facts of this diamond's history were associated with its appearance at a Christie's sale in London in 1865. At the sale, it was sold to a mysterious buyer later identified as the 34th Ottomon Sultan, Abd al-Hamid II.
It reemerged at the end of World War II, when it was acquired by a Dutch dealer and subsequently by Harry Winston in 1946. Winston sold it to Mrs. May Bonfils Stanton, the daughter of the publisher and co-founder of the Denver Post. It was reported that Mrs. Stanton lived in isolation in a palatial mansion and wore the Idol's Eye to her solitary breakfast every morning. After her death, the diamond went through a succession of owners, until it was sold with two other important stones to a private buyer.
This stone came from a rough piece of 240-80 carats that was purchased by Harry Winston. Once it was cut, the larger piece yielding the pear-shaped stone was sold to Mrs. Harriet Annenberg Ames, whose brother; Walter Annenberg was the American ambassador in London during Richard Nixon's presidency. She felt uncomfortable wearing such a large diamond and sent it to auction in New York in October 1969. The diamond was purchased at auction for a then record $1,050,000, with the understanding that it could be named by the buyer.
Cartier of New York proved the successful bidder and immediately christened it "Cartier". However, the next day, Richard Burton bought the stone for Elizabeth Taylor for an undisclosed sum. In 1978, following her divorce from Mr. Burton, Miss Taylor announced that she was putting the diamond up for sale, with the proceeds dedicated to building a hospital in Botswana. The gem was purchased by Robert Mouawad, a diamond dealer in Saudi Arabia for a reported $5 million in 1979.
This stone is a magnificent, colorless cushion-cut diamond that at one time ranked the sixth largest diamond in the world. Many gemologists consider the Jubilee the most perfectly cut of all large diamonds because its facets are so exact that the gem can be balanced on the culet point, which measures less than 2 millimeters across. The original rough stone weighed 650.80 carats and was an irregular octahedron in shape. It was found in 1895 at the Jagersfontein Mine in South Africa and acquired by a syndicate of London diamond merchants who sent it to Amsterdam for polishing.
The first cleaving of the rough stone yielded a fine pear shaped diamond in excess of 13 carats that was presented by the king of Portugal to his wife. The remaining large piece was polished into the stone known as the Jubilee. During the cutting period, when the stone's exceptional size and purity became evident, there were initial plans to present the diamond to Queen Victoria upon completion, but this did not occur. The following year, 1897, marked the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Therefore, the gem was renamed the Jubilee to commemorate the occasion.
In 1900 the syndicate displayed the Jubilee at the Paris Exhibition. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata, whose Indian family was instrumental in modern economic development. Tata's heirs sent the Jubilee to Cartier for sale. Cartier exhibited it prior to selling it to a Paris arts patron, M. Paul-Louis Weiller who then sold it to Robert Mouawad from Saudi Arabia.
*Information obtained for this article came from the following sources:
1. Purtell, Joseph. 1971, The Tiffany Touch. New York:Random House.
2. Website: www.diamondcutters.com