When did diamonds first become recognized as precious stones and used for jewelry? The earliest reference to them has been found in a Sanskrit document dated around 300 BCE. They were associated with the gods and were used to decorate religious icons and statues. In India, only kings, the highest caste, were allowed to own them.
Although diamonds were traded east and west of India, they were still prized in their natural crystal state, or polished to increase the shine and luster of them. The first guild of diamond cutters was established in 1375, and it was then that the practice of cutting the stones and faceting them was developed.
From the earliest times, diamonds were the province of kings and queens. In fact, in the 13th century, Louis IX of France decreed that only royalty could own diamonds, a dictate which faded away about 100 years later. By the late 15th century, they were used as wedding rings.
The largest diamond ever found was a 3106-carat diamond discovered in 1905 in a mine owned by Thomas Cullinan, for whom the stone was made. It was cut into smaller stones, the largest being made into the 530-carat Great Star of Africa diamond, cut by the Asscher Brothers, a famous diamond firm to this day. It’s also called the Cullinan I diamond, and is set in the Scepter of the Cross of the United Kingdom. A smaller stone cut from the Cullinan diamond is called the Lesser Star of Africa. It weighs 317 carats and is part of the Imperial State Crown. Both gems can be seen as part of the British Crown Jewels which are displayed in the Tower of London. The rest of the Cullinan diamond was cut into 11 smaller-weight stones and a number of fragments.
While the Cullinan diamond is the largest diamond ever found, there is a rumor that the man who discovered the diamond actually broke off part of the diamond before presenting it to the mine’s owner. This diamond, if the rumor is true, would have been 5,000 carats!