Diamond jewellery. Where it all began….


ring with emerald and diamond by Antwerp jeweller Joke Quick

It is true that only the East, India in particular was already known in Ancient times as a never ending source of precious matters. The first diamonds came mostly from India, in the Golconde region. The West learnt about diamonds through Marco Polo’s writings in the Middle Ages. The exceptional qualities of this precious stone have always made it a unique symbol; its name comes from the word “adamus” which means invincible. The stone is indeed indestructible due to its hardness. It has infinite powers. The diamond has always given whoever wears it an image of pride, divinity, audacity and power. At the time, only a few kings could set eyes on them for the gems were rare in Europe. Hence, to safeguard the exclusivity of this precious stone, many laws were lain down to limit the number of wearers. The rise of Christianity in Europe in the Middle-Ages accentuated these restrictions. In the 13th Century, the King of France, St Louis, forbade nobles and women to wear diamonds, under the pretext that only the Virgin Mary and the most powerful kings were allowed the privilege of wearing them.

As from the end of the 14th Century, the increase in commercial relations between Europe and the East considerably stimulated the supply and demand of precious matters in Europe. Venice and Bruges, the Venice of the north, were the most important centres for the trade of precious matters. Venice was one of the first centres for diamond cutting. The precious stones were then exported from Bruges to the rest of Europe. In 1465 a cutting centre was definitively set up in Bruges.

The Orientals were the first to work on precious stones in a rudimentary fashion. They eliminated the impurities in a diamond by polishing part of its surface. At the end of the 14th Century, the facets of the diamond began to be polished and they naturally took the form of an octahedron. This, the point cut, enabled the elimination of the mat effect of the stone and gave maximum brilliance. This cut remained in fashion for a long time for two reasons. Firstly, its price, for it was cheaper than other cuts. Secondly, its efficiency, for it could be used to cut other precious stones and glass. The table cut appeared in the 15th Century. According to legend it was the Bruges-born Louis de Berquem who invented diamond cutting. However, the only remaining proof of this is the writings of his descendant who says: “a certain author says that in India they cut it with emery powder, as if the powder of that stone which is softer than a diamond, could have any effect on it. In 1476, Louis de Berquem, one of my forebearers, was the first to work on cutting diamonds with diamond powder.

After the reign of St Louis in the 13th Century, the wearing of precious stones increased in parallel to the development of commercial relations with India. It was from this time that jewels were considered as a sign of social distinction, but also as a sign of power. In different countries, whether it be in France, in England or in Spain, monarchs made decrees to limit the wearing of certain precious matters to certain classes only. The diamond alone remained the gem of monarchs. For many years, sovereigns the world over followed this example.

@Diamond Divas ISBN 978908586437

Text ©World Luxury Jewellers

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