The History of Birthstones: Diamond

Most people around the world are aware of the popularity of diamonds,but how much does one even know about diamonds themselves? There is a long and extensive history of diamonds that has been going since before humans walked the earth. There is evidence that diamonds were being collected and traded in India as early as the fourth century BC. ” During the Middle Ages diamonds were thought to have healing properties able to cure ailments ranging from fatigue to mental illness. Diamonds have been around for billions of years and in some cases,some are 3 billion years old!

It is reconized as a traditional birthstone for April as well as the traditional gemstone to use in wedding rings. The ancient Romans believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds (perhaps the earliest association between diamonds and romantic love).This is also why it is called the "love" stone. Diamond is also know for its durability as it is a 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. The hardness of diamonds create a unique ability to be cut and polished with a utmost luster and brilliance.

It is believed by some that diamonds enhance the longevity and honesty of relationships. Since they are the strongest of the precious gems, they are also thought to increase the wearer’s strength. Many ancient cultures believed that diamonds gave the wearer strength and courage during battle, and some kings wore diamonds on their armor as they rode into battle.

The countries that are the main sources of diamonds have changed over time. India was the world’s original source of diamonds, beginning in the 1400s when Indian diamonds began to be sold in Venice and other European trade centers. Then in the 1700s India’s diamond supplies declined and Brazil became the world’s major source of diamonds, until the late 1800s when a huge diamond reserve was discovered in South Africa. Today, diamonds are mined in many parts of the world. Brilliant Earth diamonds originate from mines in Canada, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Russia.

Over many,may years diamonds have also been at the forefront of the controversial trade of the gemstones themselves. Not all gemstones in the world are ethically sourced,and diamonds have been at the top of the list as some of the most unethical and dangerous gemstones to mine. Mining diamonds is very dangerous and its not uncommon for those apart of the underworld of diamonds to be seriously injured or even die while bringing these unique stones to the surface. Ethically speaking, a diamond's origins can be your most important consideration. Perhaps the biggest controversy facing the diamond trade today is conflict diamonds. These stones are also known as blood diamonds because of the blood shed to obtain them.

A conflict diamond has been stolen or illegally mined and then sold to raise money for rebel militia or terrorist groups. These groups earn money for weapons by forcing men, women and children to dig for diamonds. Anyone who protests is killed or threatened by having a limb cut off. Most conflict diamonds come from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. If you don't shop carefully, you could be buying one of these stones. Conflict diamonds are smuggled into the diamond trade along with legitimate diamonds.

The Conflict Free Diamond Council and other groups are working toward better regulation so that conflict diamonds don't make it to the market. These groups have instituted the Kimberley Process, which monitors and certifies a diamond at every point of its production process. Because of the Kimberley Process, the UN estimates that 99.8 percent of diamonds on the market now are conflict-free [source: National Geographic]. Before you purchase a diamond, you can request to see its conflict-free certificate -- in the future, the UN will also require diamonds to have laser engraving and optical signatures, and to be entirely produced within a single country.

Conflict diamonds are not the only controversy darkening the diamond trade: human- and animal-rights issues run rampant in India as well as certain countries in Africa. In some African countries, miners use children to dig in tight, underground spaces where men and woman can't fit, even though child labor is illegal. The mining towns in these African countries also have steadily increasing murder and HIV infection rates as a result of trespassing and sex trade. In India, where 92 percent of the world's smaller diamonds are cut, children are given the smallest stones to work with because their eyes and fingers are better suited for seeing and shaping tiny facets [source: MSN]. This can lead to health issues,from eyestrain,carpel tunnel,bad lungs from inhaling diamond dust and bad backs.

Animal-rights activists have just as much at stake in diamond industry regulation as human-rights organizations. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, African primate populations are dwindling -- in 15 to 20 years, apes will become extinct. The chimpanzee population has declined to only 150,000, and with 600 gorillas being poached yearly, they're facing extinction as well. The dwindling primate population may be partly attributed to poaching, but not all poaching is for s­port. Some hungry diamond miners with no other food source depend on these animals for survival. Hungry miners aren't the only ones poaching. In non-African countries, bushmeat is considered a delicacy and is a profitable product. Bushmeat includes bonobo apes, chimpanzees, duikers, elephants, giant pangolins and gorillas. Up to 10 tons of this exotic meat is smuggled through London's Heathrow Airport daily [source: Animal Welfare Institute].

The world's most famous diamonds are its largest diamonds. At staggering weights up to thousands of carats, these diamonds have been cut, re-shaped and sold many times, contributing to their rich, interesting histories. Despite diamond's natural, clear brilliance, some of these stones have a dark side.

Some of the most famous diamonds are in the royal jewels,read below to learn more!

  • The Cullinan - This 3,106-carat diamond is the largest diamond ever found. It was discovered in 1905 in Transvaal, South Africa. In 1907, the diamond was presented to King Edward VII of England. Later, it was cut into nine major stones, including the 530.20-carat Star of Africa diamond that is set in the Royal Scepter displayed in the Tower of London.

  • The Hope Diamond - Possibly the most famous diamond in America, this 45.52-carat diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Its history dates back to the 1600s, when it was originally a 112.1875-carat diamond. In 1668, it was purchased by King Louis XIV, of France. It is believed to have been originally found in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. The diamond was recut in 1673, creating a smaller 67.125-carat stone. You can learn more about the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian.

  • The Excelsior - Perhaps the second-largest diamond ever found, the Excelsior was found in 1893 in South Africa. The original stone weighed about 995 carats. In 1904, I.J. Asscher and Company of Amsterdam cut the Excelsior into 21 polished stones weighing between 1 and 70 carat­s.

  • The Great Mogul - Believed to be the third-largest uncut diamond ever found, it was discovered around 1650. Its original size is said to have been 787.50 carats, but it was cut to just 280 carats. The diamond is named for Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal. After the diamond was cut, he fired the cutter for doing such a poor job. Mysteriously, the whereabouts of the Great Mogul diamond are unknown today.

For people who can't afford real diamonds or want a 100-percent guarantee that their diamond is conflict-free, synthetic diamonds are a good substitute. For many years, the only synthetic option available was cubic zirconia, but now consumers can also choose from Moissanite and man-made diamonds.

Cubic zirconia, commonly called CZ, is a laboratory gem that has been on the market since 1976. It's a hard gem (8.5 on the Mohs Scale), but it's not as hard as diamond. On the one hand, CZ is compositionally superior to diamond. CZ has greater brilliance and sparkle, it's entirely colorless and it has no inclusions.

However, most consumers agree that CZ is simply too perfect -- it looks artificial even to the naked eye. Because of this, some CZ manufacturers have started producing the gem with colored tints and inclusions so that it more closely resembles diamond.

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