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    History of the World – How Old Is Your Diamond?

    Once upon a time, 15 Billion Years Ago, give or take a millennium, there was a Big Bang, followed by the creation of the universe as we know it.

    Now you can keep insisting that all of “this” was created by “God” or “G-D” if you prefer. However, I have it on good authority that the whole thing was created by a collective group of white mice. Allegedly, they were practicing ‘Deep Thought’ in an attempt to manifest an answer to The Ultimate Question.

    Rumor has it that the Earth took ten billion years to design. As a matter of fact, the  first phase of construction was completed somewhere around 4.5 Billion years BCE.

    Don’t take my word for it, while all of the dates and historical data for this article are provided by reputable sources such as the book Diamonds: The Quest From Solid Rock to the Magic of Diamonds <==== Big Scary Amazon affiliate link ====> and Wikipedia. As a matter of fact, some of the hyperbole wrapped around each “fact” is no less truthful. That’s because I’m channeling the creative spirits of the members of Monty Python and Douglas Adams as I write this. Clearly, they have a good grasp upon The History of the World, Part I and II, and the Universe as a whole.

    The Age of Shiny Pebbles and Bam-Bam:

    It seems that the Canadians were in a rush to jump into the diamond market. That’s because Canadian Diamonds formed in the earth’s mantle, somewhere around 3.5 Billion years BCE. Then it took another half a billion years for the mouse droppings implanted in the earth’s mantle in South Africa to begin to take root. And it was another billion years before the first Kimberlite Pipes to form. That’s when diamonds began to push up towards the surface of the earth. By the way, that time period became known as the Great 100 Million Years of Kimberlite Eruptions!

    Interestingly enough, despite all the advance notice, the Canadians didn’t begin mining operations to harvest the diamonds, which were “planted” by the mice, until the late 1990s. According to the mice, the Canadians were distracted by something called Hockey & Beer. The latter of which is an invention that the mice helped the Egyptians develop somewhere around the 5th millennium BCE.

    While the Canadians were busy spilling their Labatt Blue and yelling at their television sets, diamonds were discovered in India, somewhere around 800 BCE. However India did not attempt to distribute the diamonds, they stockpiled them in an effort to control the developing diamond market, and drive up prices by limiting supply and demand. You might not be aware of this, because there was a total media blackout. However, it is painstakingly clear because nobody in India whispered a word about diamonds until the Sanskrit manuscript the Arthasastra, or the Lesson of the Prophet, was published somewhere between 320 and 296 BCE.

    The First Exports of Shiny Rocks:

    Alexander the Great, did his part to expand the international diamond market, by “exporting” the first diamond out of India, somewhere around 327 BCE, without proof of providence, certificates of origin, or any other official documents required by the Kimberley Diamond Act of 2003. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how he got away with this… it flies in the face of logic, I can’t send a diamond overseas without filling out stacks and stacks of paperwork, but Alexander the Great just marches out of India carrying truckloads of them. Go figure.

    Not that all those diamonds really did him any good, because as far as I can tell, the diamond market wasn’t doing all that great between 327 BCE and 100 AD, because I can’t find any blog posts, reference articles, or online inventory lists of diamonds, anywhere on Google, or any of the other popular search engines (?) prior to that point in history. There is some mention of diamonds made in The Treatise of Natural History, which was written by some guy named Pliny the Elder, back in 100 AD, it is rumored to be the founding document which the DeBeers Diamond Trading Company was built upon.

    Seriously, I know that the “public declaration” of DeBeers being founded as a company by Cecil Rhodes, is recorded as happening in 1888, but who’s to say that Pliny the Elder, is not, well, an Elder of Cecil Rhodes? And I feel that this is a reasonable argument because it was only two centuries after “Pliny the Elder” drafted his Treatise of Natural History, that diamonds were first imported into China. Based upon these “facts” we know that the road to global domination of the world diamond market, began way back in the day, somewhere around 100 – 300 AD.

    The Diamond Sutra:

    Now, this is where things get really interesting, so you know all about the Kama Sutra, right? It’s that ancient piece of Sanskrit literature, filled with a bunch of prose written by Vātsyāyana, which fills women’s heads with all sorts of ideas about how they’re supposed to be able to derive all sorts of sexual pleasure by allowing us to bend them up like a pretzel and tie them into knots.

    Obviously it’s a great book, I have a copy signed by the Pliny the Elder if you’re interested. Well according to Wikipedia, “the term “Kāma” which is one of the four goals of Hindu life, means sensual or sexual pleasure, and “sūtra” literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual.

    Contrary to popular perception, especially in the western world, Kama sutra is not just an exclusive sex manual. It presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure-oriented faculties of human life.”

    Whatever [as my daughter would say while making a “W” sign with her hands] because in 868 AD, the earliest known printed book, the “Vajra Cutter Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra” which loosely translates to the Diamond Sutra [I just purchased that domain so don’t bother trying to rip off the concept] was published by the Buddhists… it’s also commonly referred to as “The Perfection of Wisdom” because even back in 868 AD. It was widely recognized that buying diamonds was an act of wisdom.

    By the way, this was probably the first attempt by the DeBeers Diamond Trading Company to insert the concept of diamonds as symbols of love into mainstream media… I tried to verify this fact with the Diamond Promotion Service, but they hung up on me, I’ll take that as confirmation of the facts, and just print “No comment”.

    Apparently the advertising campaign worked because in 1074 AD, diamonds were used in the creation of a Hungarian Queen’s royal crown. This was followed by the invention of Diamond Polishing in Venice around 1330 AD. The venture was later moved to Bruges and Paris.

    Ancestors of Brian Gavin and Paul Slegers began cutting diamonds in Antwerp in 1447 AD. As a matter of fact, one of them invented the diamond polishing wheel in 1475 AD. That enabled diamond cutters to create facets on the surface of a diamond for the very first time. Prior to that, the mice said that they were merely rubbing the diamonds on their teeth to polish them. Apparently, this served the dual purpose of making diamonds sparkle while sharpening their itty bitty teeth.

    The First Diamond Engagement Ring:

    Finally, back in 1477, The Archduke Maximilian of Austria, presented a diamond engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy. Of course, this was because he had been reading the Sutra Box Set that Pliny the Elder had sent him as an inauguration gift.

    This historical moment kicked the global diamond market into full gear. As a matter of fact, Indian diamond production and export reached pinnacle heights during the 16th – 17th centuries. And you thought that I was kidding about the whole stockpiling thing that I mentioned earlier. Jeez. It’s all well documented in the literary works of Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who made three voyages to India in the mid-17th century!

    Despite India’s attempts to retain control of the world diamond industry, diamonds were discovered in Brazil in 1725. At that time, Brazil quickly became the world’s main producer of diamonds.. Well, at least for a while.

    The Late-Great Diamond Jubilee:

    So you know how old people are always telling us that history repeats itself? Well, get this… Back in 1739, the Shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, invaded India, and absconded with all of the best diamonds and precious gems from Delhi. Then he took all those diamonds back to Persia with him. With this in mind, nobody should really be all that surprised when the Shah of Iran does anything “off the books” because it’s a family tradition.

    Shortly afterward, the English chemist, Smithson Tennant, discovered that diamonds are made of carbon. With that in mind, he decided to light a few of them on fire to see what might happen. Of course, he did this while they were contained in an atmosphere of oxygen, and that produced carbon dioxide. Whoops!

    Now kids, if you decide to try to replicate this experiment for Science Fair, be sure to tell your mom that it’s no big deal. After all, you can order a new one from Brian Gavin Diamonds or High Performance Diamonds. As a matter of fact, they’ll even help you with the insurance claim…” By the way, that’s a shameless plug for a couple of my affiliates, but you have to admit that it was creative!

    Moving forward. Shortly after that little fiasco, a British mineralogist named John Mawe, visited the Tijuca diamond mines in Brazil. He wrote a detailed description of their mining methods circa 1810. Shortly thereafter in 1867, the Eureka Diamond was discovered in South Africa. This led to the Diamond Rush of 1871 in Kimberley Africa, and represents the birth of the modern diamond industry as we know it. We’ll discuss all of that and more in History of the World, Part II.

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