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Diamonds Through the Ages

800 BCE - Diamonds first discovered in India around this time. India would remain the only source of diamonds for many years to come.

320-296 BCE - Earliest known reference to diamond is in the Sanskrit manuscript the 'Arthasastra', or 'the Lesson of Profit'. At this time, rough diamonds were kept as talismans, often carried and not worn. Natural octahedral, or eight-sided, diamonds were sometimes set in rings.

327 BCE - Alexander the Great brings the first diamonds to Europe from India.

1074 - One of the first examples of diamond jewelry, a Hungarian queen's crown, is created.

1456 - Lodewyk van Berken, a diamond cutter in Antwerp, invents a diamond polishing wheel called a scaif. This enables cutters to create facets on cut diamonds for the first time.

1477 - The Archduke Maximilian of Austria gives a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy, starting the tradition of diamond engagement rings

1726 - Diamonds are discovered in Brazil, which becomes the world's main producer.

  This model shows how each carbon atom (ball) is connected to 4 other carbon atoms by strong chemical bonds (rods), creating diamond's rigid crystal structure.
Graphic: G.E. Harlow, American Museum of Natural History with Atoms© software
1797 - The English chemist Smithson Tennant discovers that diamonds are made of carbon by burning a diamond in an atmosphere of oxygen and finding it produced only carbon dioxide.

1867 - Diamonds discovered at Kimberly, South Africa.

1888 - In March 1888, South Africa's Kimberley Central Mining Company and the De Beers Mining Company merge to form De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited.

1905 - The world's largest gem quality diamond, the Cullinan is found in South Africa on January 26, 1905. Uncut, it weighed 3,025 carats. It was cut into nine major stones including the 530.20 carat "Star of Africa". This stone is mounted into the British Royal Scepter displayed at the Tower of London.

The Hope Diamond has been described as "un beau violet" (a beautiful violet). Photo: ©1993 Smithsonian Institution
1911 - American heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean purchases the Hope Diamond. Arguably the world's most famous diamond, it is also believed by some to carry bad luck. Today it is worth $250,000,000. It was donated to the Smithsonian Museum in 1985.

1914 - The 'Big Hole' at Kimberley, South Africa ceases production after having produced 14,504,566 carats of diamonds.

1948 - A copywriter at the N.W. Ayer Advertising Agency creates a new slogan for De Beers, "A Diamond is Forever." De Beers adopts this slogan as its official logo within a year.

1958 - Diamonds discovered by the Soviets in Siberia.

1967 - The Darya-i-Nur diamond, a flawless pink gem of 175-195 carats is worn by the last Shah of Iran for his coronation.

1990's - Several diamond deposits found in Canada's Northwest Territories.

   The Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia. Photo: The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia Inc
1996 - The Argyle diamond mine in Australia, the world's largest producer of diamonds by volume, becomes the first major producer to terminate its contract with De Beers.

2000 - The Kimberley Process, a series of intergovernmental meetings is created by the South African government in May to deal with the issue of conflict diamonds.

2000 - The United Nations Security Council votes to impose a ban on imports of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone on July 5, in an effort to reduce the use of diamonds to support wars in the area.

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