Gifts Under the Jeweller’s Loupe: Diamonds, Womens Jewellery and the History of Giving

Gifts Under the Jeweller’s Loupe: Diamonds, Womens Jewellery and the History of Giving

It is an interesting fact that there are more diamonds out there than the manufacturers of diamond jewellery, or the manipulators of the commodities markets, would have you believe. The myth that diamonds are exceedingly rare is just that – a myth – and yet it has been so well created, and so well guarded, that it persists even to this day. The value of a pure diamond is still extraordinarily high, and it carries with it an emotional resonance that has at least as much to do with its cultural past as it does with its actual rarity.

Diamonds have been revered by human societies for thousands of years. There is evidence that ancient Indian cultures revered them as godly stones, and used them in religious artefacts: they have also been prized since ancient times for their ability to cut through other forms of stone. With a mineral hardness almostunequalled, the diamond is a routine component in jewel cutting tools and may also be used to cut a number of metals and glasses.

Part of the romance of the diamond comes from the manner in which it is formed. To make a true diamond, you need massive pressure with low temperature, applied to material in which carbon exists. These conditions are only answered in two types of place on the Earth – the first being a pocket near to a stable continental plate; and the second being the site of a striking meteor. Since both conditions are comparatively rare, the idea that diamonds themselves are rare begins: though as noted, there is a disparity between the perceived rarity of diamonds and their actual rarity.


Diamonds have been used in womens jewellery for centuries, and are traditionally thought to signify undying love. This significance comes from the historical root of the word “diamond” itself – the name is derived from a Greek word meaning, among other things “unbreakable”; “untamed”; and “impossible to alter”. The original word “adamas” also gives the root to the word “adamant” – which again means impossible to break, or swerve from a path. The implication, of course, being that the path itself is a true one.

The art of jewellery making itself spans a huge portion of known human history. The oldest current examples of jewellery, or at least the oldest artefacts though to have formed part of a jewellery item, are 100,000 years old, shells that seem to have been incorporated into a decorative item of clothing.

Jewellery is unlike any other form of human creation. It is made solely for the purpose of looking good, and has no protective value whatsoever – with the exception of a very minor (though obviously important) subclass, which includes items like epilepsy aware bracelets and haemophiliac tags. In the main, all jewellery is only used as adornment. This cannot be said of any other article of clothing – though a person might make a convincing case that lingerie was in fact jewellery made from textiles.

As gifts, jewellery traditionally symbolises a specific aspect of a relationship between a person and another person. Many precious stones (including diamond, as noted) are given specificcharacteristics, and to give a person jewellery in which these stones are present is to make a wordless promise to display those characteristics in the relationship. It is, therefore, wise to understand the significance or particular stones before giving.

Smith is a jewellery designer. Visit this page to find out more.

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