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  DIAMOND FACTS

  • Diamonds are the densest form of Carbon-and the densest form of wealth.

  • Over 90% of all diamonds that enter America pass through the New York diamond district.

  • 580 Fifth Avenue, home of the New York Diamond Dealers Club, is the largest diamond building in the country.

  • It was a woman-a lifelong bachelorette, in fact-who came up with the famous words, "A Diamond is Forever" in 1948.

  • During the late forties, part of De Beers’ advertising campaign consisted of touring high schools to instill the allure of diamond engagement rings in young girls.

  • According to The Knot’s 2009 survey, the average price of an engagement ring is $5,847.

  • The first known diamond engagement ring is the one Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477.

  • America is the world’s biggest diamond consumer. In 2009, it bought about 35% of all gem-quality diamonds, over $13.7 billion.

  • A veteran investigator estimates that half of all stolen jewelry makes its way into the diamond and jewelry trade.

  • Diamond dealers use just one word, Mazal (Hebrew for luck), and a handshake to seal their deals.

  • Synthetic diamonds have the potential for use by the military in a number of capacities, including anthrax detectors, lasers, and, in the future, "smart bomb" technology.

  • Some diamonds change color, depending on the temperature of their environment.

  • High Pressure diamond research reveals the possibility of life on other planets.

  • The most popular diamond cut is the round brilliant, with 58 facets.

  • As late as the 1300s, alchemists thought that male and female diamonds bred and bore little diamond babies.

  • ‘Diamond’ comes from the Greek word adamas, which used to indicate, in broad terms, the hardest material in the world. Over time, adamas came to mean diamond itself.

  • People once believed that diamonds could heal madness, counteract poison, and keep demons at bay.

  • In the 16th century, rich British lovers used pointed diamond "scribbling rings" to write each other flirty notes on window panes. Suggestively, Sir Walter Raleigh the explorer wrote to Queen Elizabeth, "Fain would I rise, but that I fear to fall." Elizabeth’s response: "If thy heart fail thee, do not rise at all."

  • The check that De Beers wrote to buy out their competition in 1889 was the most valuable check ever written at the time: £5,338,650.

  • Today, De Beers mines about 40% of all rough diamonds worldwide.

  • The De Beers family, after whom the company is named, were farmers who never earned more than 6,000 guineas off the land that made others millions.

  • By the end of the modern De Beers sorting process, diamonds have been separated into about 12,000 categories.

  • The largest gem diamond ever mined is the Cullinan diamond. It weighed 3,106 carats before it was cut, about the weight of 108 U.S. quarters.

  • According to many, there is only one cleaver left in New York City.

  • Millions of dollars worth of gems and jewels are carried around Forty-seventh Street every day. Many of them are transported in chest packs, strapped to the bodies of dealers and brokers beneath jackets and other apparel.

  • The diamond trade is home to a lively cast of characters. There is "Elvis," a dealer who sings and dances for his customers, "Jimmy Buyout," who once purchased about $2,011,000 worth of diamonds from a dealer in approximately ten minutes without even opening the display case, and a brother duo of former diamond merchants turned diamond crime-solving investigators.

  • Many modern day diamond customs date back to the precautions Jews had to take during centuries of global persecution-like foregoing written contracts and keeping diamonds hidden. Today, a man’s promise remains preferable to his signature. Trust is still the most vital component of the trade.

  • Botswana produces more diamonds than any other country in the world.

  • In 2008, India cut and polished about 90% of all diamonds.

  • It takes 250 tons of mined earth to make a one-carat jewelry grade diamond.

  • The Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas State Park, is the only mine in the world open to the public. In May 2010, a fourteen-year-old boy came across a 2.7 carat diamond there. It was nestled within someone else’s footprint.

  • The diamonds we hold in our hands today are likely between one billion and three billion years old.

  • In a few decades, diamonds might be used in every computer.

 

DIAMONDS IN THE NEWS

  • In 2010 BP engineers used a diamond-wire saw in an effort to cut a leaking pipe in the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That effort was unsuccessful.

  • In 2009 LifeGem, a company that creates diamonds out of the cremated ash or hair of people, retailed about $5 million worth of human diamonds. For publicity, they’ve already turned a lock of Beethoven’s hair to diamond, and will soon be making a gem out of Michael Jackson’s.

  • In 2008 diamonds were used to create a patch that is capable of emitting chemotherapy drugs at a steady and manageable rate to a specific area, targeting remaining cancer cells at the site of a removed tumor without producing as many side effects as standard chemotherapy.

FAMOUS DIAMOND CURSES

  • The Koh-i-Noor – The Koh-i-Noor, meaning "Mountain of Light," is the most famous Indian diamond. It was said that whoever possessed it would rule the world, but the stone was also associated with a curse. "Only God or a woman can wear it with impunity,"* warned an old Hindu document, and, indeed, many of its male proprietors met gruesome fates. The first Persian Shah to own the stone was assassinated, and subsequent rulers who held it were deposed and blinded. The diamond returned to the Indian Empire until the Empire came under colonial subjugation by the British. Today, the 106-carat diamond resides in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels. It is only set in crowns worn by women.

  • The Hope Diamond – People say that the intensely blue Hope Diamond brings bad luck to its proprietors. A traveling salesman likely sold it to Louis XIV, who died of smallpox. It passed on to Louis XVI, who let Marie Antoinette sport it. Both were executed. A later owner drove off a cliff with his family in the car, and another—the Turkish Sultan—found himself on the wrong side of a revolution. The last family to possess the diamond before it came into the hands of the jeweler Harry Winston lost their children to a car crash and an overdose. Today, the diamond sits inside a rotating exhibition window in Washington, D.C.’s Museum of Natural History. **

*"The jewel in the crown: The curse of Koh-i-Noor," The Independent, December 29th, 2006.

**For further reading on the Hope Diamond, see The Book of Diamonds by Joan Y. Dickinson (Dover Publications, 2001).