art by Rachel Anderson

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The Diamond

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. The Diamond is harder than any other substance on earth.

Diamonds have been revered throughout history. Used to embellish such items as crowns, swords and emblems as well as jewelry, they've even been part of national holidays. Queen Victoria declared the celebration of her 50th year of reign a "Diamond Jubilee." Diamonds have also been credited for having certain medicinal properties. During the middle ages, these gemstones were thought to heal illness, but only if the ailing person took the Diamond into bed to warm it up first!

No more notable it its uncut state than a plain pebble upon the beach, the true beauty of the Diamond was not revealed until the 16th century, when gemstone cutting and polishing techniques were perfected. Prior to this time, it was considered taboo to modify the original state of a Diamond. Today, the value and appeal of this stone depends largely upon how skillfully it is cut and faceted.

Amongst the many precious crystallised stones diamonds stand pre-eminent for their beauty, brilliancy and strength. Diamonds are the hardest stone known, hence the name of Adamas, meaning "the Indomitable," which was given to them by their ancient discoverers. Diamonds can cut every known substance although a diamond itself cannot be cut, nor be scratched, by other stones. Neither acids nor solvents any effect upon them. When found, the diamond is covered with a thick crust, so hard that there is no substance known that will remove it but that of itself, and it is only by grinding and polishing with diamond dust and minute diamonds that it is shaped and its wonderful brilliancy developed.

The Romans regarded diamonds with much reverence, fastening it upon the left arm so that the gem should touch the flesh, believing it powerful in making its wearer brave and daring, giving him the victory over his enemies; and when set in fine steel, was considered a charm against insanity.

In the Middle Ages the diamond was thought to protect its wearer from the plague, and for this reason Queen Elizabeth I of England was given a diamond to guard her against infection, which she is said to have worn in her breast.

The Briolette of India, a legendary diamond weighing 90.38 carats, was believed to have been brought to England by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

Napoleon Bonaparte also attached great value to the qualities of diamonds and wore the famous Regent diamond in the hilt of his sword. The history of Regent diamond is very curious. In its natural state it weighed 410 carats, but after its cutting, which took two years to complete, it was reduced to 137 carats and was the size of a large plum. The diamond was perfectly white and flawless. The 'Regent' diamond was found at the Parteal mine in India, by a slave who hid it by making a gash in the calf of his leg and then hiding the stone in the bandage until he could escape to Madras. The slave was helped by a sailor but when a purchaser was found for the diamond the slave was thrown overboard by the sailor. The seaman then sold the diamond to a dealer named Jamchund for 1000, which he quickly spent, afterwards legend has it that he hung himself. The diamond was next purchased by Thomas Pitt, grandfather to the Earl of Chatham, who purchased it after much bargaining for 20,400. But the diamond brought him no happiness. He was so frightened of losing it that it is said that he never slept twice at the same house whilst the diamond was in his possession. About the year 1717, having offered the gem to several sovereigns, the Regent of France was persuaded that his country should possess the most beautiful and perfect diamond known so the diamond was bought for 135,000 and from that time known as the Regent diamond. The diamond was stolen from the public treasury during the turbulent times of the French Revolution. Twelve years later it was recovered and hen set in the Imperial diadem of France.

Great importance was attached by the Hindus of India to the original shape of a diamond. They believed that a triangular stone being thought to cause quarrels, a square diamond terrors but a six-cornered stone was thought to bring the best of good fortune and to renew the strength in old age.

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