The very mention of diamond evokes fantasies of fabulous riches and dreams of love and power. Up to the Middle Ages they were so rare and expensive that only royalty could afford diamonds. But in modern times even ordinary people are able to possess a few, thanks to the discovery of numerous diamond deposits elsewhere on the planet plus high, albeit controlled, production.
Diamonds were discovered in India by the 4th century BCE. In addition to the diamond legends, India yielded many legendary diamonds, including the Koh-i-Noor, the Orlov, the Hope, and the Sancy. Today the Majhgawan pipe, a primary source near Panna, is the India’s only producing diamond source.
At one time, India appears to have been the only source of this valuable gem until about the early eighteenth century when diamonds were discovered in Borneo and later elsewhere, such as in South Africa and Russia. Although ancient Sanskrit texts mention several areas where diamonds were found, verifiable historical records are available for only a few deposits. Mining activities in southern India – which in its time was the leading producer of this gem and had yielded some of the most famous stones in history – gradually declined and had become defunct by the time diamonds were discovered elsewhere in the world.
The 1867 discovery of diamonds in the Cape Colony, now a province in South Africa, changed forever the supply and marketing of diamonds. As annual world diamond production increased exponentially, a once extremely rare material became more accessible to Western society with its growing wealth, science learned that diamonds came from volcanoes, and everyone learned of Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato, Kimberley, and De Beers. Today South Africa maintains its position as a major diamond producer. If not for the controlled production and distribution of the South African diamond mines, diamonds could have been easily devalued and lost much the mystique they hold for us today.