Susan Farmer, luxury consultant to De Beers, talks about the power and symbolism of diamonds through the ages.
What does a diamond mean to you?
The ultimate symbol of romance and a piece of eternity.
Do diamonds only have value because of clever marketing?
Diamonds have been valued for their spiritual powers for millennia, and people have gone to extraordinary lengths to acquire them.
Napoleon went into battle with the Regent diamond in the hilt of his sword because he thought its indestructibility would transfer to him…
There are ancient illustrations of diamonds in the breastplates of Hebrew priests. And [there’s] a painting of Alexander the Great throwing pieces of meat into the Golconda gorges so the vultures would pick up the diamonds adhering to the fat and bring the stones up to him.
Why do we love diamonds?
The prospect of owning something older than the dinosaurs with beauty and mystical qualities. Man has always been attracted to the rare and beautiful, and a fine quality or intensely colored diamond is extremely rare.
What have diamonds represented in culture over different generations?
Power: Only royalty was allowed to wear diamonds for many centuries. The first commoner to wear them was Agnes Sorel, mistress of Charles VII of France.
Romance [as well] — the first betrothal ring recorded was given by Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
In the 21st century, women are happy to buy themselves diamonds as a symbol of their success and independence.
What are the most iconic diamonds?
Personally, I love the romance and histories of various old stones such as:
- The Koh-i-noor that Shah Jehan gave to Queen Mumtaz, for whom he built the ultimate tomb, the Taj Mahal.
- The Orloff, a Golconda diamond set into the scepter of Catherine the Great.
- The Eureka, the first diamond found in the Orange River, putting South Africa on the map. It is a beautiful soft orange-pink color.
What is the most intriguing fact you ever came across about diamonds?
I still think the basics are intriguing — the hardest substance known to man, forged miles within the earth over billions of years, and shot to the earth’s surface by volcanic activity.
How would you define the beauty of diamonds in one sentence?
Intense fire and light.
Inset images: Alamy Stock Photo; De Beers