For centuries diamonds have fascinated and enthralled civilisations throughout the world, inspiring myths and legends. These precious stones have long been associated with virtues such as power, wealth, strength and love.
References to diamonds in Sanskrit texts date back to 4BC in India. The Hindus believed that diamonds were formed by bolts of lightning striking rocks. They used diamonds in their statues and also thought that the precious stones attracted lightning from the skies.
Krishna, an Indian god, gave a diamond to his love Radhato to reflect her beauty as it shone in the moonlight. The diamond is thought by some to have been the Koh-I-Noor, which now forms part of the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
Thanks to their brilliance, purity and refractive qualities, diamonds were perceived as a symbol of both clarity and invincibility. “He who wears a diamond will see danger turn away” was a saying used in ancient India.
The ancient Romans and Greeks had many strong beliefs about diamonds, which included ideas that diamonds were the tears of the gods or even splinters that had broken off falling stars.
The first mention of diamonds in Roman literature was made in 1AD, where it was written that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds.
The philosopher Plato went even further to write about diamonds as living beings that embodied celestial spirits.
In 8BC, the diamond became synonymous with the term αδάμας (adámas) – the Greek term meaning unconquerable and invincible.
Legend has it that Chronos had changed a young man called Adamas into a precious stone. He possessed unbelievable strength and good fortune; was seen as an antidote for poisons; and reinforced the love between married couples.
Diamonds were believed to have magical qualities and superpowers and hence kings, in ancient times, wore heavy leather breastplates studded with diamonds when going into battle.
In the Middle Ages it was believed that diamonds had healing abilities and that they were a ‘miracle stone’. It was thought that these precious stones had the capacity to cure stomach ache, memory loss, depression, fatigue, infections, mental illnesses, nightmares, skin diseases and other head and heart ailments. It was believed that a diamond could cure simply by being placed on a part of the body.
During the Renaissance Pope Clement VII swallowed a medicine based on powdered diamond and died. It was understood that eating powered diamond killed more people than it cured.
Jewish high priests used diamonds to determine the innocence or guilt of someone accused of a crime. A diamond was placed in front of the person and the more truthful they were, the more the stone sparkled. If a person was guilty, the diamond would dull and darken.