Easter Sunday, 11 April 2004
I have been prejudiced against diamonds ever since childhood. I come from a large extended family with many great-aunts and -uncles who engendered countless cousins of varying degrees. In the 1940's to the mid-1950's, at family get-togethers in western Michigan on whichever relatives' farm was available, some pretty young woman would inevitably have a diamond engagement ring to flash while a proudly beaming fiancé looked on and my older female relatives ooohed and aaahed.
I knew even then that diamond rings were more about trophies ("a good catch") than about love. It was the diamond that put the real sparkle in the girl's eyes, not the guy. Of course, none of the young men could really afford such a gesture -- and marriage, it seemed to me, was far too high a price for the young women to pay just to get that ring.
I swore I'd never have one -- and I never have. I don't care how much a diamond costs, it still seems "common" to me. My mother and her mother had no engagement rings and only simple gold wedding bands, which seemed magical to me as a child because they seemed to hide a mystery that diamonds trumpeted (and spoiled) to anyone within earshot.
If/when I ever marry, a plain gold or filigree silver band will suffice, although I wouldn't say no to an emerald <smile>.
In creating these pages on gems and minerals, however, I couldn't very well leave out diamonds. So this page serves a two-fold purpose: (1) to provide readers with information on the science, history, and lore of diamonds; and (2) to see if I'll find a spark that makes diamonds come "alive" for me for the first time. I doubt that I'll ever want want to own one, but at least I'd like to have "friendlier" feelings towards these expressions of the Earth Mother's kingdom.
I'm speaking, of course, of actual diamonds. Metaphorical and mythic diamonds are already old friends. I once wrote a song for one of my lovers (Roger? David? -- it was such a long time ago <smile>) that began: "You call me Diamond / and I call you Jewel / Others look at us and call us fools...." One of my favorite fairy tales, George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind, is about a little boy, Diamond, named for Old Diamond, his father's cab-horse. We speak of someone with special, unripened gifts as "a diamond in the rough." The night skies are often described as spangled with diamonds. Waterfalls are a torrent of diamonds. The Beatles have "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Buddhism has the Diamond Sutra.
So, diamonds in metaphor and myth are already a rich resource for many of us. But let's see what else we can find. I hope you'll enjoy the journey, as I fully intend to do myself!
From Ball State University comes a page of lovely photos of diamonds by Chip Clark -- both faceted and raw, some famous, some not, some in jewelry, some not. Each photo is clickable and fully identified. The site opens with a brief summary:http://csd.unl.edu/surveyareas/diamond.aspDiamonds are made of carbon. In its other, common natural form, carbon is known as graphite -- one of the softest materials that exists in the Earth. But when carbon is under extreme pressure -- buried deep below more than 93 miles of rock -- and is exposed to temperatures exceeding 2,192 °F, it's transformed into diamond. Diamond is the hardest known substance, thanks to its exceptionally strong crystal structure. Diamond is also the best known conductor of heat -- better than any metal -- which makes it cool to the touch. It is colorless in its pure form, but tiny impurities in its atomic structure cause variations in color....What surprises me here are the depth -- 93 miles of rock -- and the high temperatures that create a diamond. A potential diamond in its original form is among the softest materials on earth -- from that it goes to the hardest on earth! I also didn't know that it conducts heat better than any metal. (FYI: for physicist Richard Zallen's sketch of its "exceptionally strong crystal structure," scroll further down my page.)
From the University of Nebraska comes a great technical page full of photos illustrating uncut as well as various diamond-cuts -- e.g., teardrop, oval, round, marquise, heart. Here is how it opens:Although diamond is probably the most popular and discussed gemstone, it has probably been in use for a shorter time than any of the other gems that are commonly used in modern times. The reason for this is because lapidaries [in the West] did not learn to fashion diamond until about the 15th Century when it was discovered that one diamond would abrade another....Here is the passage that I found most fascinating because I never dreamed that diamonds might contain "tiny samples of the earth's mantle":...Damonds are useful for several geological purposes. Petrologists have thought that the tiny inclusions in diamonds that are commonly called "carbon spots" (but rarely are) and include such minerals as pyrope garnet, olivene, and pyrrhotite are tiny samples of the earth's mantle, that zone that is about 30 miles beneath the earth's crust. Thus, inclusions in diamonds may provide some examples of the mantles makeup. Some geologists have suggested that the distribution of diamonds between continents shows examples of spreading ocean basins and provides strong evidence for plate tectonics....
From Rafal Swiecki, a geological engineer, comes a collection of excellent pages (some in French as well as English) on diamonds. "PROPERTIES" is a cluster of seven linked pages, touching on some historical aspects but mostly looking at diamonds in terms of chemistry, sizes, types, shapes, color, structure, and other technical properties. The text is illustrated with drawings, but no photos. Here is how it opens:http://www.kanada.net/alluvial/diamondGeology1.htmlTHE diamond, although not the most valuable of precious stones, yet unquestionably exceeds all others in interest, importance and general noteworthiness. In hardness, in the perfection of its clearness and transparency, in its unique constants of optical refraction and dispersion, and finally in the marvelous perfection of its luster, the diamond surpasses all other minerals. For these reasons, and despite the fact that it is not of very great rarity even in faultless specimens of fair size, nine-tenths of the yearly trade in precious stones being concerned with diamonds alone, it is very greatly valued as a gem....I only scanned these pages since, without photos, I got lost in all the technical data. I was intrigued to learn, however, that "no other gem consists of a single element." I hadn't known that. Since humans are carbon-based lifeforms, this opens up some interesting metaphors.
...Diamond is distinguished from all other precious stones no less by its chemical composition than by its unique physical characters, for no other gem consists of a single element. It is pure crystallized carbon...
This is Rafal Swiecki's "GEOLOGY & MINING," another cluster of linked pages, 12 this time, including pages focused on diamonds from India, Brazil, Borneo, and South Africa. I found the information and history on where diamonds are found quite intriguing. Here are some excerpts from the first page (I will leave it to you to explore the other eleven):http://www.kanada.net/alluvial/diamond.htmlDiamond has been found in all five continents, but not to the same extent in each. It has been longest known in Asia, where the famous old Indian deposits have probably been known and worked from the earliest times; now, however, they are almost completely exhausted. In close geographical connection with these are the deposits in Borneo, but the supply from this island, in comparison with the rich treasure of India, has always been limited....The most striking passage is this one, which took me completely by surprise. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," indeed!
...In America the famous Brazilian diamond-fields were discovered at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and have compensated for the exhaustion of the Indian mines....Well authenticated, but of little commercial importance, is the occurrence of diamond in the United States of North America; a small number of stones having been found in the eastern States of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, and in the western States of California and Oregon....
The continent of Africa is, at the present time, by far the most important source of diamonds, which have been collected here since the late sixties in ever increasing numbers, far surpassing the yield from any other region.......Finally we must record the interesting fact that diamond is not only a constituent of the earth's crust, but also of extra-terrestrial bodies, the presence of small stones having been reported to be found in several meteorites.
Crystalline Structure of a Diamond
Professor Richard Zallen
Virginia Tech Department of Physics
Again from Swiecki comes a 2-page linked cluster on "DIAMOND-CUTTING," which is also quite interesting although I just skimmed over the more technical aspects. Here are two excerpts:http://www.kanada.net/alluvial/diamonds_1.html...[T]he cutting of the diamond...on account of the perfect cleavage and enormous hardness of the stone, requires special methods, which must be separately considered....
...It has been stated by Tavernier that the custom of cleaving diamonds has been practiced in India since very early times; in Europe, however, the art was acquired much more recently, and is said to have originated with the English chemist and physicist Wollaston (1766-1828), of whom it is related that by cleaving away the faulty exterior portions of a large diamond he was enabled to dispose of the stone at a considerable profit....
Victoria Transvaal Diamond (67.89 carats)
Photo by Chip Clark of the Smithsonian
Ball State University (see above)
Finally, from Swiecki comes "LARGE AND FAMOUS," a cluster of two linked pages on well known diamonds (he discusses the above Victoria Transvaal Diamond, among many others, and includes lovely blue-tinted sketches on p.2). These two paragraphs caught my eye because they help to explain the lore of romance and mystery associated for so long with this gem:http://brysonburke.com/culture.html...There are a comparatively small number of diamonds in existence which, either on account of their size, beauty, or historic and ancient associations, possess a special interest. While the origin and early history of many stones in existence at the present day is a complete blank, there are others, of which reliable accounts and drawings are given in ancient writings, whose present whereabouts is entirely unknown; the latter may have been destroyed or lost, or, on the other hand, they may lie hidden in the treasure-houses of some Oriental princes, whose predecessors possessed a taste for the collection of gems.
All the older famous diamonds of large size and enormous value, which are known by special names, come from India; only in comparatively recent times, namely, about the middle of the eighteenth century, have stones of remarkable size been found in Brazil, while the discovery of the South African diamonds was still later. The South African deposits have already yielded more large stones than are comprised in the aggregate yield of India and Brazil during hundreds of years; these stones are usually, however, of a yellowish tinge, and are, in consequence, less highly valued than are the blue-white diamonds of India and Brazil. Only a few of the many large stones, which have been found in South Africa, have, in consequence, received distinctive names. The value of these rare stones is naturally enormous, and they usually find a place amongst the crown jewels of different countries, rarely entering the possession of private individuals except in the case of wealthy collectors, especially in eastern countries....
This is a great, sprawling, "busy," untidy site (at least as it displays on my browser) but it's also chock full of links to everything known about diamonds -- the range is huge -- from pure science to New Age to diamonds belonging to royalty and celebrities. It comes from the Bryson Burke Diamond Corporation in Canada, which feels a mission to teach as well as to mine. Here's part of the menu for the scientific section:http://www.brysonburke.com/book_index.html...Geology Reports, Site Geologic History, Magnetic Maps Index, Heavy Minerals Index, Grenville Province Index, Indicator Minerals, Kimberlites, Decay of Kimberlites, Kimberlites & Magnetics, Placer Deposits, Magnetic Reversal, Crustal Thickness, How Diamonds are Made, Glaciation Issues, Mineral Transport Index, Doing the Map Work, Gathering Samples, World Mining Index, Excavation and Recovery, Mining Corporations, Mining News Magazines, Environmental Issues, Diamonds in Space, World's Only MineCam, Live Volcano Geo-Cams, Site Exploration History, Topography Map Index, Location Map, Claim Maps Index, Diamonds and Graphite, Diamond Formation, Grading Diamonds, Price of Diamonds, Industrial Diamonds, Drilling Equipment, Medical Use of Diamonds....As you can see, the range is huge. Several links in the Culture & Lore section will be annotated further down on my page.
This is Bryson Burke's interesting collection of books on the history of diamonds.http://wwww.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/s/776FDA6655F6A491C1256900004B62CA
Finally, I cannot leave this section on "Science & History" without considering what have come to be called "blood diamonds." From Relief Web comes a very clear-sighted, sobering, well balanced report from June 2000. The page is entitled "Greed For Diamonds and Other 'Lootable' Commodities Fuels Civil Wars." Here is how it opens:WASHINGTON, June 15, 2000 - New World Bank research suggests that civil wars are more often fuelled by rebel groups competing with national governments for control of diamonds, coffee, and other valuable primary commodities, rather than by political, ethnic, or religious differences.The report offers hope and common sense. Whether these will make a difference remains to be seen.
The new report...looked at 47 civil wars from 1960-1999 and shows that countries which earn around a quarter of their yearly GDP from the export of unprocessed commodities, face a far higher likelihood of civil war than countries with more diversified economies. Without exports of primary commodities such as gemstones or coffee, "ordinary countries are pretty safe from internal conflict, while when such exports are substantial, the society is highly dangerous," the report argues. "Primary commodities are thus a major part of the conflict story."
Since conflict prevention has so far paid little attention to these causes of conflict, there is considerable scope for both domestic and international policy to prevent civil conflict more effectively.
The report says rebel groups in vulnerable countries "loot" primary commodities to stay financially viable. This allows them to pay their large numbers of young, poorly-educated soldiers and to keep their rebellion alive domestically as well as internationally.
"Rebel groups need to meet a payroll without producing anything, so they prey on an economic activity that won't collapse under the weight of their predatory activities," says Paul Collier, the author of the new study and director of research for the World Bank's Development Economics Department. "Primary commodities are the most 'lootable' of national assets because they're tied to a single spot like a diamond mine or a coffee plantation....(Note: there is also a second report, a transcript of a press briefing from June 2000 -- it's much longer than the first, rambles, and really lacks the impressive clarity of the opening report. I skipped it.)
"Waterfall Woman" surrounded by diamond-like drops of water
By Viktoria Sinelnikova
Courtesy of Tradestone International
From the University of Texas comes an illustrated page on the lore and myth of various gems. Here are the relevant passages on diamonds:http://brysonburke.com/diamond_lore.html...Diamonds were mined from alluvial sands in India and traded to the Romans, who also valued precious opals above all other gemstones. Diamonds are still mined for use in jewelry, and for a variety of industrial uses. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given by the Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Louis IX of France (1214-1270) had previously issued an edict limiting the wearing of diamonds to kings, and forbidding all women (including queens and princesses) to wear them!....
...Although diamond was probably known in India from 800 B.C., only the most wealthy Romans could afford the few poor quality brownish diamonds exported from India starting around 100 B.C.. These diamonds were valued for their extreme hardness, and were not cut or faceted. The Roman philosopher Theophrastus believed that dark colored diamonds were male and light colored diamonds were female. Indeed most mineral were believed to have gender at one time....
This is a page on the lore of eight famous diamonds from the website of Canada's Bryson Burke Diamond Corporation: Koh-i-Noor, Hope, Regent, Orloff, Eureka, Sancy, Briolette, and Dresden.http://www.earthsky.org/teachers/articles/articles.php?id=4&p=4
This is an interesting and well-written teachers' resource page on the diamond from the radio program, "Earth & Sky." Excerpts:April's birthstone is the diamond. Diamonds are a wonder of nature. Their cold sparkling fire has held us spell-bound for centuries, inspiring rich passionate myths of romance, intrigue, power, greed, and magic. Ancient Hindus, finding diamonds washed out of the ground after thunderstorms, believed they were created by bolts of lightning. In our place and time, the diamond is a symbol of enduring love, and often grace engagement rings....The page concludes with the famous Koh-i-noor diamond -- excerpts:
...Diamond crystals...are a tight-fisted network of carbon atoms securely held in four directions, making it the hardest naturally-occuring substance in the world....
...Diamonds can be found in some samples of kimberlite -- a type of volcanic rock first identified in Kimberly, South Africa. Diamonds found in kimberlite are thought to be very old, perhaps as much as three billion years old. Tiny flecks of diamond have even been found inside meteorites -- bits of rocky space debris that land on Earth.......Some diamonds seem to have lived lives of their own. One legendary stone of the diamond hall of fame is the Koh-i-noor diamond. The Koh-i-noor's early history is shrouded in time. It is believed to be 5,000 years old, and was featured in the great Sanskrit epic "The Mahabharata". Originally owned by the Rajah of Malwa in India, the Koh-i-noor has since been a player in victories and defeats spanning India, Persia and Afghanistan....Today, the Koh-i-noor diamond is worn as a brooch by the Queen Mother on ceremonial occasions.
This brief page also looks at birthstones and the lore surrounding them. Here is an excerpt from April's diamond:http://www.about-birthstones.com/aprilbirthstone.htmlDiamonds are a wonder of nature. Their cold sparkling fire has held us spell-bound for centuries, inspiring rich passionate myths of romance, intrigue, power, greed, and magic. Ancient Hindus, finding diamonds washed out of the ground after thunderstorms, believed they were created by bolts of lightning....
This is another April birthstone site. Excerpts:http://www.novareinna.com/constellation/ariesluck.html...The ancient Hindus called the Diamond "Vajra," meaning lightening, both because of the sparks of light thrown off by this gem as well as its invincible strength....Volcanic activity of centuries ago brought these gemstones to the earth's surface, where they are found either within volcanic rock formations or washed out into rivers. India is thought to be the first river-bed source of Diamond mining....
...No more notable it its uncut state than a plain pebble upon the beach, the true beauty of the Diamond was not revealed [in the West] until the 16th century, when gemstone cutting and polishing techniques were perfected....
This is an elegant, handsome site, "Aries, the Ram: March 21-April 20." In its section on gems associated with Aries, this intriguing lore on the diamond is offered:http://www.cedarseed.com/air/gemstones.html#diamond...The Hebrews believed that the diamond lost its sparkle if touched or worn by a traitor and in ancient times, it was thought to drive away the Devil. The Hindus once believed that a flawed diamond (or one containing spots or specks) was so unlucky that it could deprive the God Inda of his highest heaven....
...Ancient writings tell of a diamond which hung about the neck of Abraham which could cure the illness of any man who gazed upon it. It is said that when Abraham died, the Lord sealed the gem within the Sun....
,,,A diamond purchased out of greed, or one that is stolen or won from another, will not bring good luck to the wearer. A diamond given as a gift or which is representative as a token of trust and affection between sweethearts can never bring ill-luck. According to legend, the diamond came into existence when the God of Mines called together all his noblemen and instructed them to bring him one of every variety and color of gemstone in existence. Once he had received the collection, he crushed them, forming one magnificent jewel of rare beauty, purity and indestructibility...the diamond....
This is a page on "Gemstones in Folklore" -- the above link goes to the section on diamonds but there are many more gems on the page. Here is data on the etymology of "diamond":http://www.mythfolklore.net/3043mythfolklore/weeks/week13/From the Greek word adamastos: "unrelenting, unconquerable", which originally meant a state of being to which every man should aspire. By extension, adamas was the name of the strongest metal with which the weapons of the gods are forged, and adamas came to also apply to diamond. From there come the western derivations (diamante, diamant, diamond) and the Russian and Arabic almaz....
This is an educational site for a course on Native American Tales. A diamond plays a role in Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney:http://www.blackdrago.com/famous_french.htm...The final cycle of stories is about the Uktena, a mysterious snake monster whose body contains a magical diamond, the coveted Ulûñsû'tï, which can be used like a crystal ball in order to see into the future....
...Now, the Ulûñsû'tî is like a blazing star set in the forehead of the great Uktena serpent, and the medicine-man who could possess it might do marvelous things, but everyone knew this could not be, because it was certain death to meet the Uktena. [...]
This is a neat site on "Famous Dragons of France" -- one rare dragoness, the Vouivra, shimmers like diamonds:http://www.lightmind.com/dreamnet/forum/showmsg.mv?message=226...Derived from the Latin word "vipera", Vouivra means viper. She was quite beautiful, and was described to have scales that looked like diamonds....I love dragons -- and love this image of diamond-scales <smile>.
This forum-page only has a brief passage on diamonds from Polish lore, but it's worth including here:...In a popular polish story, the Sun travels (in the sky) in a chariot of diamonds, pulled by twelve horses with gold manes. In another legend, the Sun lives in Orient, in a palace of gold. He goes around in a carriage pulled by three Horses : Horse of Silver, Horse of Gold and Horse of Diamond....
The Hope Diamond
Bryson Burke Diamond Corporation of Canada
From Suite 101 University comes "Sparkling Tales, Deadly Gems (Part I: Diamond)" by Anita Stratos. It looks at the notorious Hope Diamond. After considering its long history, it suggests convincingly that the infamous "curse" connected with it was an early 20th century marketing ploy:http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/education/ed_hope_lesson.html...American jeweler Simon Frankel was the buyer of the Hope Diamond in 1901 who brought the stone to America, after which it was sold several times until it became the property of Pierre Cartier. Cartier knew that the wealthy and eccentric Evalyn Walsh McLean felt that bad luck objects became good luck in her possession, so he emphasized the Hope Diamond’s negative history. Many people believe that Cartier invented the story of the curse since research shows that the idea of a curse upon the diamond didn’t even appear until the 20th century.
Once Cartier reset the diamond, McLean bought it and wore it constantly. One story tells that Mrs. McLean’s doctor had to plead with her to remove the necklace before goiter surgery.
But tragedy soon struck the McLean family. Mrs. McLean’s nine year old son, Vinson, died in a car accident; her daughter committed suicide at age 25; her husband was committed to a mental hospital until his death in 1941. The Hope Diamond was sold along with McLean’s other jewelry in 1949 to settle estate debts, and its buyer was New York jeweler Harry Winston....
This is a fabulous page from PBS' "Education Resources" that uses the Hope Diamond (see directly above) as a springboard to consider how legends arise. The twists and turns in the material are wonderful. Here is the opening:http://www.brysonburke.com/rel_diamond_sutra_history.html
Lesson Plan for The Notorious Hope Diamond:
What Makes An American Legend?
Evalyn Walsh McLean loved to tell the stories about the Hope Diamond. The diamond's fame heightened the glamour of Evalyn's life, and Evalyn's flamboyance gave the diamond further notoriety. No records of the legend of the Hope Diamond have been found prior to Pierre Cartier's sales pitch to Evalyn. Yet since then, the diamond's history has become legendary.
How and why are legends created? Is the story of the Hope Diamond an American legend? Are their specific characteristics that American legends have in common? Using skills in creative writing, research and critical thinking, students will create their own American legends. This lesson will lead students to explore the following Life-long Learning Question: How do legends embody cultural ideals?....
From the Bryson Burke Diamond Corporation in Canada comes a page on the Diamond Sutra of Buddhism. Note: "diamond" here is a spiritual metaphor -- actual diamonds are not involved. Here are two excerpts about the manuscript:...At the time of the Hsi-hsia invasion [1127 AD], some person or persons unknown chose one of the caves as a hiding-place for thousands of Buddhist sutras and other manuscripts. In the centuries that followed, all memory of this vast storehouse seems to have been lost, but the precious artifacts survived in safety until the 20th century, when they were rediscovered by an appreciating world. Among the manuscripts was perhaps the oldest printed book - actually a scroll - in existence, the Diamond Sutra, dated 868....This is one of several pages but navigation is poor -- new links appear on some pages but not on others, so just keep clicking.
...According to National Library of Peking in 1961, the Diamond Sutra is described as: "The Diamond Sutra, printed in the year 868....is the world's earliest printed book, made of seven strips of paper joined together with an illustration on the first sheet which is cut with great skill." The writer adds: "This famous scroll was stolen over fifty years ago by the Englishman Ssu-t'an-yin [Stein] which causes people to gnash their teeth in bitter hatred." It is currently on display in the British Museum. The scroll, some sixteen feet long, 17 an half feet long and 10 and half inches wide, bears the following inscription: " reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his parents on the fifteenth of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xian Long (May 11, 868)"....
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Copyright © 2004 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
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Page designed & begun 4 April 2004, 11:30pm
Opening essay written Easter Sunday, 11 April 2004, and more art and links added.
Page published 12:53 am on 14 April 2004.
Credits: The Four Elements bar comes from Torrey Philemon.