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Diamond's value in the nineteenth century


#1

Is this true?

I was recently reading a book, a mystery, and a character said that
it wasn’t until sometime in the nineteenth century that diamonds
overtook rubies and emeralds as the most fashionable gem. He
continued, saying that the reason was that indoor lighting had
improved to the point that sparkle became more important than color
to the fashion conscious rich.

I thought that sounded possible, but wondered if it was true?

Mark, in Wisconsin, where it was 60 degrees on Tuesday and it will
be -30 with the wind chill Thursday morning, a 90 degree temperature
change in about 48 hours. I know that’s true!


#2

I’m not a historian, however I do know that rose cut diamonds do
look better in candle light. The concept of a diamond engagement ring
is 20th century. Just exactly what year I have no idea.

By the way my wedding ring is a 2 ct cab cut Burmese ruby with
natural canary diamond accent diamonds.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#3

I have read that the ancient Romans placed NO value on diamond
because they could not work it. Salt OTOH was valuable and sometimes
it was used as “salary”. Can anyone confirm or invalidate diamond v
salt value in Rome?

Also does anyone know of other dramatic changes in stone value over
the longer term, historically? Am I correct that platinum initially
had little commercial value?


#4
I thought that sounded possible, but wondered if it was true? 

With a little help from DeBeers.

Elaine
CreativeTextureTools.com


#5

Hard to say what effect gas lighting may have had on the fashion for
diamonds, but what we can say is that improvements in cutting made
diamonds more and more attractive as time went on, especially with
the development of the modern brilliant at the beginning of the 20th
century. The invention of the diamond saw was a critical factor in
enabling scientific cutting.

The other signal factor was the establishment of De Beers
Consolidated Mines in 1888, after which the price of diamonds became
closely controlled. And with higher prices diamonds became more
attractive to the status conscious.

Another development that likely added to diamond’s luster was the
ability to incorporate platinum into jewelry. It’s unchanging
whiteness is the perfect backdrop for colorless stones. First
platinum was used as a fused overlay, as silver had been previously,
but with the availability of bottled oxygen in the late 1890s and the
invention of the oxy-acetylene torch in 1903, solid platinum jewelry
began to be made.

All these things would go into changing the destiny of those little
bits of crystalized carbon.


#6

Yes, it was artificial lighting that made them popular. Also, the
cutting and polishing of diamonds up until the end of the 19th
century was quite difficult, both technically and the lack of
knowledge of crystallography and optics. Pearls were probably the
3rd most expensive of the gems, they have never come close in price
since the 1920’s

Nick Royall


#7

Based on the writings of Cellini (mid 16th century), and al Tiafshe
(13th century) ruby, sapphire, emeralds and pearls were all more
valued than diamond in those eras. The 19th century does seem to be
when the combination of technology and marketing upped the perceived
value of diamonds.

Ron Charlotte
Gainesville, FL


#8

Peter,

You can google “value of salt vs diamonds in Roman Empire”. There
are several long articles about this. It mentions that laborers were
often paid in salt and that diamonds had little value to laborers. It
is interesting. These long articles are great for staying indoors on
a long, cold afternoon in Boston and other parts of the Northeast.

MA


#9
I have read that the ancient Romans placed NO value on diamond
because they could not work it. Salt OTOH was valuable and
sometimes it was used as "salary". Can anyone confirm or invalidate
diamond v salt value in Rome? 
Also does anyone know of other dramatic changes in stone value
over the longer term, historically? Am I correct that platinum
initially had little commercial value? 

I can’t help you with the diamonds (although 800 BC was the start of
diamond appreciation), but I can confirm that Roman soldiers were
paid with rock salt.

The soldier was able to trade the salt where ever he traveled. Salt
was valued by a lot of civilisations in the ancient world, allowing
the Romans to purchase from the people they conquered.

Platinum was originally valued by the Aztecs, the Spaniards didn’t
know what it was so it held no value for them.

I’ll leave you with a question :-

Diamonds are very hard. Yet prior to modern diamond cutting and
polishing machines, diamonds were cut and polished by hand. How was
this done, and what was used to cut and polish diamonds?

10 points to the first to give the correct answer :wink:

Regards Charles A.


#10

Don’t know about diamonds, but for centuries Carnelian was only
allowed to be worn by royalty in much of the area we now call the
middle east. Lapis Lazuli was considered a “royal” stone in many
ancient cultures of the same area, and down into Egypt. Today most
non-jewelry folks don’t even know what carnelian is…

Gold, on the other hand, has pretty much always been seen as
precious, because it did not change - tied into many religions
around the world, as that sense of changeless permanence was often
connected to the god or gods…

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
bethwicker.com


#11
By the way my wedding ring is a 2 ct cab cut Burmese ruby with
natural canary diamond accent diamonds. 

Jo, I love that color combination. It’s my favorite I think. Mark


#12
Pearls were probably the 3rd most expensive of the gems, they have
never come close in price since the 1920's 

In 1917 Cartier bought a Mansion at 651 Fifth Avenue in NYC for $100
and a double strand of pearls that was then valued at $1,000,000.
Once the Japanese commercialized the process of culturing pearls
based on the research done by William Saville-Kent in the late 1800’s
the price of pearls dropped rapidly to the point that the necklace
that was used to purchase the Cartier mansion sold in 1957 for
$151,000.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13

Thanks for the Ron. The consensus of this discussion
also seems to be that artificial lighting was a major event if not
the major event in upping the value of diamond. What is the marketing
principle here? JUST ADD LIGHT and a low valued stone is turned into
higher valued stone. Can we use that lesson today?

Probably not many Orchidians here are light experts but a
jewelry-lighting alliance might be historically timely again. Buy a
$1 laser pointer from the dollar store you have to be careful how you
use it because it is so powerful that it could damage eyesight. Pay a
few dollars more and you have a pocket-sized flashlight that is truly
amazing. I counted powerful but 9 tiny light bulbs inside a 3/4 inch
wide glass cover. Look at what is coming out in Christmas tree
lighting. Google on laser engraving machines. Desk top units are
becoming more powerful and less expensive.

“Creativity” is a key word. What I see expressed every day on Orchid
is artistic creativity at work. For starters then, apply that
creative imagination to an integrated unit. Now that RFID chips are
the size of a grain of rice, why not a stone which is set in a
housing with lighting and still small enough to be used in a ring or
a necklace?


#14

Diamond Polishing!

First of all the Diamond Boart was placed into a Dob, with the
corner or point exposed. They were held into place with lead that
held the Diamond crystal in place. It was then inverted and allowed
to sit on a large rotating wheel/disk. On this rotating wheel was
olive oil, this kept the minute particles of diamond dust again on
this disk. Only diamonds can polish a diamond. Each time the facet
had to be shaped, out came the Boart and gingerly it was placed into
a newer position for shaping.

Many times this Boart was held into place by two steel fingers on a
long wooden pole. These then were resting on the rotating wheel and
every time a stone had to change a position, the polisher had to
examine each cut-facet with a loupe and shape each facet on this
rotating wheel. This was a very labourious and skilled challenge.

To cleave or split a large diamond, it was also held into place on a
Dob and with a very sharp blade at its ‘grain’. A very definite hard
hammer hit and the stone would be split in half. Now we have two
halves of a stone.

Both of the two halves we then the ‘table facets’.

This method of hand-polishing was done way back in the 1930’s. I
know this first hand, as my Father was a Diamond Polisher in Antwerp
and also in London, England, 1940’s. How many points do I win
here?..:>)

Gerry!
https://ganoksin.com/blog/gerrylewy


#15

I think improved cutting was an even larger factor. If you look at
portraits from the 15th-18th century, you’ll see a lot of black
stones. Most of those are actually diamonds, but the cuts of the
time showed very little brillance, especially other that head on.


#16
Once the Japanese commercialized the process of culturing pearls
based on the research done by William Saville-Kent in the late
1800's the price of pearls dropped rapidly to the point that the
necklace that was used to purchase the Cartier mansion sold in 1957
for $151,000. 

I can see this happening with diamonds too. CIA


#17

history has it that the Spaniards when they came to Panama would
collect the platinum and throw it into the ocean as they thought it
was gold that had not aged enough and were hoping that with time it
would wash back up as gold. my how times have changed…

Vernon Wilson


#18
Platinum was originally valued by the Aztecs, the Spaniards didn't
know what it was so it held no value for them. 

Gold has few compounds. The 6 (or 7) PGE metals have scores. Are
these PGE compounds (not alloys) used in jewelry?

I'll leave you with a question re how you would cut and polish
diamonds by hand. 

I would use the principle that with enough time stones with the same
H can grind each other. I recently saw a First Nation nephrite
cutting blade in a local museum and wondered the same. They might
have used jade to grind jade or quartz to grind jade.


#19

Silver not gold. The name platinum comes from, platina the
diminutive of plata or silver. So little silver.


#20

why not a stone which is set in a housing with lighting and still
small enough to be used in a ring or a necklace?

Brilliant! (pun intended)

cfmdesigns.net