Origin & History of Diamonds

A diamond gets its name from the ancient Greek word Adamas, which means “unbreakable” – diamonds are the hardest naturally forming material on Earth and can only be scratched by other diamonds. It is also the most beautiful and valuable of all precious stones.


A crystallised form of the element carbon, a diamond’s formation requires very specific conditions – it forms deep in the Earth under extreme heat and pressure.  It’s ejected violently upward until it arrives at or near the earth’s surface.  It is forced from its hiding place by volcanic eruptions or by man.  It is then cleaved and cut and polished until it’s natural beauty shines through.


Most natural diamonds have ages between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years.  Many were formed at depths of 150 to 230 kilometres in the Earth’s mantle, although few have come from as deep as 800 kilometres.


Diamonds can be produced by man these days, in a high pressure, the high-temperature method which simulates the conditions in the Earth’s mantle.  These are often called diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia and silicon carbide.



Fourth Century BC – India was apparently the first trading in diamonds, gathering these precious stones from rivers and streams and trading them locally and eventually to Western Europe.


Fabled_diamond_mines indian-diamonds


1400’s – Diamonds became a fashionable accessory to Europe’s elite.


1700’s – India’s diamond supplies declined and Brazil emerged as an important source.  Beginning in the pans of gold miners as they sifted through local rivers, it grew to become the most dominant diamond exporter for 150 years.


1800’s – Explorers unearthed the first great South African deposits as diamond demand broadened, evolved and expanded.


1866 – The modern diamond market really begins on the African continent with the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley, South Africa.  Entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes established De Beers Consolidated Mined Limited 22 years later, in 1888.


By 1900 – De Beers controlled an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s production of rough diamonds. Annual production of rough diamonds was well under a million carats.




1920 – Annual production of diamonds was around three million carats.


1990 – Annual production of diamonds surpassed 100 million carats.


2000 – New mines develop and grow outside South Africa.  Russia, Botswana, Australia and Northern Canada brought exciting new sources and encouraged the dramatic growth of cutting centres.