Renowned jewellery historian and published author, Jack Ogden FGA, traces the history of Indian diamonds and questions the sustained marketing hype around the famous Golconda mines.
Today India is the largest centre for diamond cutting, handling some 90 percent of the world’s diamonds. But most who cut, sell or buy these diamonds, in the cutting centre of Surat or at the vast diamond exchange in Mumbai, are probably unaware that in the past the country was also the world’s major source of diamonds.
Exceptions are the dealers in larger stones, ones they hope a laboratory report might link to the famous Golconda mines in India, a link that allows a price premium.This article will look at India’s remarkable diamond history and ponder whether associating a diamond on the market with ‘Golconda’ is really just marketing hype.
Diamonds from India
Before the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the 1720s, most came from India, a few from Borneo. The ring in figure 1 was made two thousand years before the Brazilian discoveries by a Greek goldsmith who had travelled as far as what is now Aï Khanoum in the extreme north of Afghanistan, a city founded in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests. A pink sapphire, almost certainly from Sri Lanka, is flanked by two small diamond crystals. Found in 1999, it is the earliest surviving diamond ring from an archaeological excavation.
This early jewellery use of diamonds had been preceded by diamond chips used to drill and engrave other gemstones. The hardness that made them so useful here also led to their use as gems. Rough diamond crystals are hardly pretty, but they were a perfect symbol for strength.
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