If you’ve ever felt mesmerized by the dazzling rainbow of colors reflected in a skillfully cut diamond, then you’ve experienced the mystique of April’s birthstone. Once an adornment possessed only by kings, this beautiful gem is surrounded by romance, mystery, and passion.
Many stories surround the gift of a diamond as a token of affection. The ancient Greeks believed that the fire of a diamond reflected the flame of everlasting love. Archduke Maximilian of Austria apparently agreed — in 1477, he gave a diamond ring to his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy.
And so began the tradition of presenting the diamond as a promise of marriage.
The origin of wearing the engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand is rooted in the Egyptian belief that the “vena amoris,” or vein of love, runs from the heart to the top of this finger.
The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamastos,” which means “invincible.” And in terms of durability, the diamond is indeed so. Being the hardest substance known to man, it holds a supreme place among gems. In sixteenth century England, uncut diamond crystals were set into “scribbling rings,” and the exposed points were used by lovers to etch romantic vows into window-panes. Diamonds have been used as cutting and engraving tools since early times, for carving cameos from stone, cutting jade, and drilling pearls.
Diamonds were believed by the ancient Greeks to hold magical powers. In fact, it was thought that they may be splinters of stars fallen to earth, tears of the gods, or perhaps crystallized lightening. Diamonds were worn into battle by kings, as a symbol of strength and courage, and kept as talismans against poisoning, devils, and phantoms. A diamond is said to bring its owner wealth and happiness as well as protection.
At first diamonds were possessed only by the elite. In fact, in the 13th century, Louis IX of France established a law reserving them only for kings. But as more sophisticated methods of diamond mining and exporting evolved, diamonds became more plentiful and accessible to others. Nevertheless, this gem has always been the object of greed and desire, and history is rife with stories of diamond theft. The legend of diamond powder being an effective poisoning agent is said to have originated to discourage diamond smugglers from swallowing the gems.
From the stunning display of stones flashed by movie stars at awards ceremonies, to the modest engagement ring of a young bride, the diamond continues to enjoy great popularity among those of all status. Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor summed up this universal love of diamonds when she remarked, “I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.”
Where to buy diamond birthstone jewelry (rings, pendants, bracelets, and earrings):
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