Mark & Rhonda Zemil, Gemologists, GIA, Master Jewelers, Help Us Discover The Story of Diamonds
A diamond (from the Ancient Greek: ἀδάμας adámas, meaning "unbreakable," "proper," or "unalterable") is one of the best-known and most sought-after gemstones. Diamonds have been used as decorative items since ancient times; some of the earliest references can be traced to 25,000-30,000 B.C.
The hardness of diamond and its high dispersion of light — giving the diamond its characteristic "fire" — make it useful for industrial applications and desirable as jewelry. Diamonds are such a highly-traded commodity that multiple organizations have been created for grading and certifying them based on the "four Cs," which are color, cut, clarity, and carat. Other characteristics, such as the presence or lack of fluorescence, also affect the desirability and thus the value of a diamond used for jewelry.
Diamonds are used in engagement rings. The practice is documented among European aristocracy as early as the 15th century, though ruby and sapphire were more desirable gemstones. The modern popularity of diamonds was largely created by De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., which established the first large-scale diamond mines in South Africa. Through an advertising campaign beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the mid-20th century, De Beers made diamonds into a key part of the betrothal process and a coveted symbol of status.
The diamond's high value has been the driving force behind dictators and revolutionary entities, especially in Africa, using slave and child labor to mine blood diamonds to fund conflicts. Though popularly believed to derive its value from its rarity, gem-quality diamonds are quite common compared to rare gemstones such as alexandrite, and annual global rough diamond production is estimated to be about 130 million carats (26 tonnes; 29 short tons).
The diamond is the birthstone for people born in the month of April, and is also used as the symbol of a sixty-year anniversary, such as a Diamond Jubilee. In a system of heraldry by gemstone occasionally used in the past for the arms of nobles, diamond was used to represent the color sable, or black.
The origin of the custom to use diamonds in rings, and more recently, in engagement rings, can be traced back to the Middle Ages and even the Romans. The Romans valued the diamond entirely on account of the supernatural powers they ascribed to it. Pliny wrote that a diamond baffles poison, keeps off insanity, and dispels vain fears. The medieval Italians copied these beliefs and added some to it: they called it the "Pietra della Reconciliatione" (stone of reconciliation) because it maintained concord between husband and wife. On this account, it was recommended as the stone to be set in wedding (or espousal) rings — not on account of its beauty, therefore, which was described by Isidore of Seville as a small stone devoid of beauty.
In more recent times a Parisian Oracle of mystic subjects, the Baron d'Orchamps, announced the diamond, if worn on the left (hand), warded off evil influences and attracted good fortune and since he had fashionable clients the word spread and the wearing of the diamond on the left hand became in itself a fashion.
One of the first occurrences of the diamond engagement (or wedding) ring can be traced back to the marriage of Maximilian I (then Archduke of Austria) to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Other early examples of betrothal jewels incorporating diamonds include the Bridal Crown of Blanche (c.1370–1380) and the Heftlein brooch of Vienna (c.1430–1440), a pictorial piece depicting a wedding couple.
The popularity of the diamond ring as an engagement ring for a much wider audience can be traced directly to the marketing campaigns of De Beers, starting in 1938. Such a campaign had become necessary to sell the large quantity of diamonds suddenly available because of the large diamond finds particularly in South Africa. In the early 20th century, a chairman of De Beers optimistically predicted that the diamond trade would prosper "so long as men are foolish and women are vain."
Today, the brilliant is still the most popular diamond shape for an engagement ring. About 70 percent of the sold diamonds are round, brilliant cuts.
The increase in online sales is disrupting the market for diamonds by bringing greater transparency to an industry that has traditionally relied on opacity. Online diamond retailers and e-commerce platforms include Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, and Costco.
The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous jewels in the world, with ownership records dating back almost four centuries. Its much-admired rare blue color is due to trace amounts of boron atoms. Weighing 45.52 carats, its exceptional size has revealed new findings about the formation of gemstones.
Since 1958, it has been on display in the Smithsonian Institution, our National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, DC.
Local jeweler, Mark Zemil, recollects that viewing this diamond early in his career helped to influence his interest in the jewelry business. He started a family tradition of bringing his children to see this mysterious and fabled gem.
To provide a modern update on trends in the diamond business, Mark and Rhonda have graciously shared some of the beautiful pieces available at Zemil Jewelers on Main Street. Whether you wear a diamond as a symbol of marriage or look for a wider selection of diamond jewelry, we suggest a visit to Zemil Jewelers for current trends and a dazzling array of jewelry in a wide price range.