Early Years of the Diamond Trade

Origin of the word diamond was derived from the Greek word adamao (meaning “I subdue” or “I tame”), which led to the words adamas and adamant (meaning extremely hard). The old French word diamant and the English words dyamaund and adamaund likely came from the Greek word adimantum or its variation adamant. The present-day spelling came in the mid16th century.

For centuries it was believed that if a stone could not resist damage with the strike of a hammer or hatchet it was considered to be non-diamond. Even up to the early South African digs in the late 19th century this practice took place. Some clever merchants made the miners believe this and collected the abandoned authentic diamond pieces.

Large diamonds were worn as badges of rank in early political hierarchies. The main role of the diamond in social history was as a concentrated form of wealth, easy to carry and conceal, and very negotiable.

It is thought that the first diamonds were found in India by gold miners before 800 BC. Gold and diamonds often occur together in alluvial deposits. Brazilian diamonds were first discovered at the beginning of the 18th century. Once again it was gold miners who found the diamond crystals, close to Tejuco in Minas Gerais. Brazilians also discovered diamond crystals in Bahia in 1844; these deposits were depleted in about 20 years. The first South African diamond was not officially discovered until 1867. After much speculation, it was authenticated in England and named the Eureka. After changing ownership many times, the final buyer was the De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1966, which then presented the Eureka to the people of South Africa. There have been reports of unsubstantiated finds before the Eureka.