• Franciscan friars started making a mild white cheese in Monterey, California, in the 1800s. The cheese was marketed by David Jacks and became known as “Jack’s cheese” before morphing into Monterey Jack.
The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamas” meaning “indestructible” or “untamed.”
Diamonds are the hardest natural substance on Earth. After diamonds, rubies and sapphires (made of corundum) are the next hardest natural substance on the planet.
The diamond is the only gem composed of a single element. Diamonds are simply crystallized carbon (which coal, graphite, and soot are made of) and will burn at a temperature of 1292° F.
In their pure state, diamonds are colorless. However, diamonds can also be many different colors due to mineral impurities. The Hope diamond’s deep blue color comes from contamination with boron.
The largest rough diamond in the world was discovered in South Africa in 1905, weighing in at 3,106 carats. Several polished diamonds were carved from it, the largest of which is called “Cullinan I” or “The Great Star of Africa,” weighing 530 carats. Today it is set in the British Royal Scepter on permanent display in the Tower of London. By comparison, the typical engagement ring is generally one or two carats.
IT’S A FACT
Lana Turner wore diamond-studded jeans.
DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT FACTS
87% of engagement rings contain a diamond. The national average cost of a typical engagement ring in 2019 was $5,900.
When Richard Burton bought Elizabeth Taylor a 69.40 carat diamond for $1 million, thousands waited in a line that stretched for blocks to see it in the window at Cartier’s.
HOW TO MAKE A DIAMOND
There are several ways diamonds are formed, and none of them involve coal, just carbon. Diamonds are formed deep within the molten mantle of Earth and ejected through a rare volcanic extrusion called a kimberlite pipe named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa where one of the world’s most prolific diamond mines is located. Diamonds are also formed in subduction zones along continental plates that are being forced downward. Diamonds are created in space and delivered to Earth via meteorites, and diamonds are also created when meteorites hit Earth.
The largest known diamond deposit is at Popigai Crater in Russia. There, the 4th largest known meteorite impact on the planet provided enough heat and energy to convert carbon surface materials into diamond. They are of industrial quality and it’s difficult to mine them due to the remote location.
DIAMOND HISTORY BITS
Cecil Rhodes was a sickly English boy, so his parents sent him to the healthier climate of South Africa where his brother had a farm. Discouraged by poor crops, the brothers turned to diamond mining instead. It took years, but Cecil finally succeeded. He formed the De Beers Mining Company, which still controls much of the diamond market today. In 1891, Rhodes controlled 90% of the market. Rhodesia was named for him (now called Zimbabwe). Fabulously wealthy when he died, he left his fortune in trust to be used for scholarships — Rhodes scholars.
The Kohinoor diamond is one of the world’s largest and oldest, traced back to the 1300s. The name means “mountain of light.”
In 1739 it was owned by Mohammed Shah of India. Nadir Shah, leader of the Persians, invaded India and seized the national gems, but the Kohinoor was nowhere to be found.
For months he ransacked Dehli, killing thousands in his effort to find it. Then he got crafty and questioned members of Mohammed’s harem. One of them revealed that Mohammed kept the diamond in his turban. Rather than simply kill him and seize the Kohinoor, the Nadir declared peace and threw a party with Mohammed as guest of honor. As a binding gesture, he insisted on exchanging turbans to seal the friendship.
Mohammed Shah gave up his turban without batting an eye. Nadir Shah got his in the end, though. A few years later, he was assassinated. Centuries later, the Kohinoor fell into British hands when Punjab was annexed to the British Empire. It was presented to Queen Victoria and is now displayed with the royal Crown Jewels.
In 1701, a slave found a huge diamond while working in a mine in India. Risking his life to smuggle it out, he slashed his leg and hid it in the wound. He fled to the coast and made a deal with a ship captain for safe passage in exchange for half of what the diamond would bring. Once at sea, the slave “fell” overboard, but not before the stone was removed from his pocket. The captain sold it for $5000 to an Indian merchant who offered it to Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras, for half a million dollars. Pitt, guessing it was stolen, drove a hard bargain and got it for only $100,000. After being cut and polished, Pitt sold it to the Regent of France for over $600,000. His fortune was made—a fortune that was passed on to his heirs, including William Pitt, after whom Pittsburgh, PA was named.
In South Africa, a mine superintendent was preparing to close the mine for the day when he saw a glint. It turned out to be the largest diamond ever found. Before faceting, it was the size of a man’s fist and weighed over a pound. It was cleaved into 9 separate gems.
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili Muslims, turned 75 years old in 1946. To celebrate his birthday in Bombay, wealthy supporters volunteered to contribute to his favorite charities an amount of money equal to his weight in diamonds. He sat on a giant balance scale while case after case of diamonds were loaded on the other side. The diamonds were of industrial quality to lower their value, but still it took over half a million carats at a value of a million and a half dollars to counterbalance his hefty 243 lbs.
DEFEAT BY DIAMOND
In 1981 Francois Mitterand was elected president of France. His win might be attributed due to actions of his opponent, incumbent President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Giscard had accepted gifts of diamonds from the self-appointed Emperor of the Central African Empire, worth about $1 million today. When a newspaper reporter found out, Giscard claimed the diamonds had all been donated to museums. The newspaper checked but could find no such museums.
Giscard then went on TV and said the diamonds had been sold and the money given to the African Red Cross. The paper checked but found no gifts to the Red Cross. Giscard then said they had been sent to the Emperor’s successor in Africa. The paper found that Giscard had actually sent the equivalent of one small diamond to Africa. After his defeat in 1981, a crowd surrounded him shouting “Give back the diamonds!” Giscard never held office again.