Of all the precious gems the world has seen, few are as coveted as the diamond. Widely accepted as the go-to bridal gem for engagement and wedding rings, diamonds have a long history that goes back as far as the fourth century BC.
How Diamonds Are Formed
Diamonds, known as the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth, were first found in India between 400 BC and 301 BC. Their makeup consists of pure carbon that has been subjected to extreme pressure and molten temperatures in the upper mantel for extended periods of time.
Diamonds have been found by gold hunters in various rivers and streams as well as deep in the earth’s surface through mining. When left alone, a diamond will eventually find its way to the surface if it’s not mined by man.
The History of Diamonds
While historians believe the first noted collection of diamonds began thousands of years ago, it wasn’t until the 15th century that they began to be worn as embellishments. Up to this point, the rough gems were sold through traveling markets and viewed as interesting and exotic objects, but not necessarily an overly valuable one. During the 1400s, the Renaissance era was just around the corner and diamonds were soon discovered to be a status symbol for Europe’s elite.
In the 1400s, Europe’s wealthiest citizens and royalty began showcasing the earliest of the polished versions of diamonds in jewelry. The cuts were highly rudimentary as well as the polishing methods, but the shine of diamonds soon caught on and gave way to a boom in diamonds as precious gems.
The Cutting Boom
As time went on, gem cutters began emerging with various techniques to optimize the shine and radiance of diamonds. Since there were so few who could achieve this, the finished pieces were highly valuable and remained in the possession of the world’s most elite for centuries.
By the 16th century, the first cutting tools were refined that allowed cutters to use more precision when cutting facets onto rough gems. These facets gave way to some of the earliest known diamond cuts, known as the rose cut.
With only 24 facets, the rose cut was initially coveted by royals and high society alike for its significant brilliance in comparison to uncut versions. Once the faceted technique was discovered, however, it was only a matter of time before it was perfected into the truly radiant pieces we see today.
By the 1800s, diamond cutting had seen its share of changes. Some of the most notable cuts included the vintage English round cut, the cushion cut, and the marquise cut. At the turn of the century, diamond cutting took a major step forward and entered what we know of as the modern era of diamond cutting.
The first patented diamond cut was created in 1902 by the Royal Asscher Diamond Company. It gave way to its namesake, the Asscher cut diamond, which is similar to the square emerald cut.
It was in 1919, however, that diamond cutting as we know it today was born. Mathematician Marcel Tolkowsky came from a family of jewelers and gem cutters and used this background to make a ground-breaking discovery: the brilliant round.
By using precise equations and tools, Tolkowsky was able to determine the most pristine diamond cut the world has ever seen. Using 58 perfectly proportioned facets, the diamonds created using Tolkowsky’s thesis work have become some of the highest graded and most valuable diamonds in the world.