Why Diamonds Have Not Always Been a Girl’s Best Friend

Why Diamonds Have Not Always Been a Girl’s Best Friend

Believe it or not, diamonds have not always been the standard for engagement rings. Diamonds first came into use in jewelry pieces in the 1300s when craftsmen learned how to cut diamonds to show off their brilliance. When diamonds are first mined, they appear rough and ugly. As a matter of fact, the majority of diamonds are nowhere near high enough in quality to be used in jewelry. Only 1/5 of all diamonds mined are of gem quality, even after polishing and cutting! It should be no surprise that people have been wearing jewelry since the beginning of time. For thousands of years, people have loved to adorn themselves in pretty gems and jewels. But if they were not using diamonds for jewelry back in the day, then what were they using?

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The Mediterranean and Persia (modern-day Iran), is where civilization was booming back in 3000 BC, and therefore where we find our earliest evidence of jewelry. Royal tombs were discovered in ancient Mesopotamia dating back to 3,000 BC which allowed us to uncover a wealth of information on what type of jewelry ancient man was wearing. The majority of civilians were a simple folk who mainly utilized stone amulets to ward off evil and illness. However, their royalty was found buried with almost every jewel imaginable, set in earrings, rings, and crowns. Although these civilizations did not have access to diamonds, they did utilize colored gems in their jewelry! Back then, colored gemstones were considered rare and hard to come by. Only the elite in ancient society were able to afford to wear gemstone jewelry.

Woman with beautiful jewelry

Similarly, the ancient Egyptians also favored colored gemstones in their jewelry. The tombs of Egyptian royalty showed us that they adored gemstones such as turquoise, carnelian, and amethyst. They liked to wear these gems in amulets, talismans, headpieces, and pins. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines were also all rich civilizations who made good use of gemstones in their jewelry. Although each civilization had its own specific styles, for example the Byzantines preferred to melt glass into different designs and patterns for their jewelry, the common factor between them all is that they used colored gemstones rather than diamonds.

Diamonds did not come into fashion within high society until King Louis XIV of France's reign between 1643-1715. King Louis XIV was a big fan of the diamond, so he imported many of the precious jewels from India. At the time, the majority of diamonds originated from India. Now-a-days, South Africa, Canada, Russia, and South America produce a large majority of the gem quality diamonds used throughout the world. Because of King Louis’s influence on the jewelry worn by members of high society, gemstones were not as popular after his reign. Throughout the majority of human history, colored gemstones were the prized possessions of king and queens. It could certainly be said that King Louis’s infatuation with diamonds is part of the reason why we have the large diamond industry that we see today. However, the advertising firm working for De Beers (the world's largest diamond mining company since 1888) in the middle of the 20th Century has been credited with reviving the American diamond market. They did this with the help of a young copywriter, Frances Gerety, who came up with the famous advertising slogan which is still used today...'A Diamond is forever'. 

A diamond is forever de beers

Image: De Beers' Instagram

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