The meaning of diamond, April’s birthstone, is very special. The ancient Romans called diamonds “the tears of the gods”, believing them to be of divine origin. Discover fascinating diamond birthstone history, myths and meaning in this article.
Quick diamond history
Diamonds were formed more than 3 billion years ago underneath the Earth’s crust. Through intense volcanic pressure and heat, carbon was transformed into sparkling, clear crystals.
Held inside clusters of rock, these crystals were then pushed upwards by volcanic pressure. They travelled through what geologists call “kimberlite pipes” until they were close to the Earth’s surface.
It is mostly at the sites of these kimberlite pipes where diamonds are mined today.
Tears of the gods or fallen stars?
The Ancient Romans and Greeks shared powerful beliefs about diamonds. They believed that diamonds were either the tears of the Gods or pieces broken off of stars.
This led the Romans and Greeks to wear diamonds as amulets and charms to protect them from harm.
Note that these diamonds worn in history were not the cut diamonds we know today. Instead, they were the rough, unpolished forms of the stone.
In fact, these ancient cultures believed that it was sacrilege to cut a diamond, as this would cause injury to the gods and result in the stone losing its protective powers.
The Greek philosopher, Plato, believed that diamonds were living beings that embodied celestial spirits.
Meaning of the word “diamond”
The English word “diamond” originates from the Greek word adámas, which means “unbreakable”.
Why are diamonds so hard?
Diamonds have a unique molecular structure which makes them incredibly hard.
The reason behind this is the carbon atom. The outer shell of each carbon atom has four electrons. In diamonds, each of these electrons is shared with other carbon atoms. This forms an incredibly strong tetrahedral crystal.
This is what makes diamond one of the hardest substances on Earth. Scientists give diamonds the highest rating, 10 out of 10, on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness. In fact, they are so hard that they can only be shaped by other diamonds.
A humble beginning
Despite their status today, diamonds had a modest start. They were first discovered by people around 300 BC, in the South Asian region that is now called India.
But instead of being regarded as valuable jewels, archaeological evidence suggests that this early civilization used them to sharpen and polish tools.
Indian diamond beliefs
The doctors in ancient India believed diamonds had the power to cure many illnesses.
For example, they believed that if you held a diamond in your right hand, it would maintain good mental health and cure insanity.
Indians also believed that diamonds could cure fever, fatigue and skin diseases, and prevent nightmares.
How diamonds evolved
By the era of the Roman Empire, diamonds had become very popular among European nobility. Imported from India, they were seen as rare and valuable objects that only the rich could afford.
However, unlike other gemstones that were carved into attractive faceted shapes, the diamond’s hardness continued to defeat all human attempts to cut or break them.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when Venetian jewellers discovered how to shape diamonds by using other diamonds to break them and grind them down. The first diamond shape was the “point cut” with eight identical sides, as seen below.
Why a symbol of love?
The toughness and beauty of diamonds makes then an perfect representation of everlasting love. But the idea of wearing diamonds as a symbol of commitment wasn’t born until 1476.
It was the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, proposing to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring. The royal couple, unknowingly, set a trend that still lasts today.
Diamond April birthstone meaning
Diamonds are the traditional birthstone for April and also for the star sign of Aries.
According to astrologists, wearing diamonds could have a positive effect on your life and health. What’s more, these effects are thought to multiply when the diamond aligns with your zodiac sign.
Based on Greek and Roman legend, wearing a diamond could also give you strength of character, balance and clarity of mind, and even benefit your marriage, making it last longer.
On the other hand, another belief that stems from the Middle Ages when many people believed in the healing power of gems, is that the diamond can benefit the pituitary gland and the brain.
They also believed that wearing diamonds together with amethysts could boost your energy.
The world’s biggest diamond
The biggest diamond that has ever been found is the Cullinan, weighing a staggering 3106.75 carats. It was cut into several magnificent gems, the two most famous being Cullinan I and Cullinan II.
Cullinan I is the so-called Star of Africa, which belongs to the British crown jewels.
Sir William Crookes, the expert who evaluated the stone shortly after it was found by a miner, Frederick Wells, said it had broken clean off from a much larger diamond.
According to him, the other half “still awaits discovery by some fortunate miner”.
The sparkle of diamonds
When it comes to diamonds, people are most drawn to their sparkle.
Today, although diamonds come in many shapes, stones with a “round brilliant cut” are by far the most popular in jewellery. So much so, that of all the diamonds sold, more than three quarters are round.
Why? Because a round diamond has the most facets (sides that reflect light) and therefore they give off more sparkle than any other diamond shape.
Take a look at this necklace made of round cut diamonds, to see how much it sparkles when it catches the light:
The timelessness of diamonds
When you slip on a beautiful diamond ring, it’s hard to imagine the time, expense and sheer work that has gone into producing it.
Diamonds formed 3 million years ago. Now, tons of earth and rock must be shifted before miners find just one diamond.
Often a diamond will have spent several years travelling between continents – being sorted, cut, polished, graded and set into jewellery – before you get to wear it.
There are many reasons why we covet diamonds – their parkle, their beauty and their rarity.
But perhaps more than anything, it is the idea of owning and wearing a piece of history that will last many billions of years more after we pass, that bewitches us the most.
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