A BRIEF HISTORY OF DIAMONDS
The world’s love of diamonds had its start in India where historians found recorded text on diamonds originating from India, dating back to 4th century BC. For more than 20 centuries, India remained the only significant source for diamonds (apart from minor quantities found in Borneo), until diamond discoveries in the gravels of the Amazon River (Brazil) began to emerge.
In the Arthashastra of Kautiliya, the diamond is mentioned for the first time in a Sanskrit treatise written after 321 BC. The author takes records of diamonds – alluding to the fact that the diamonds were already an important part of King Chandragupta Maurya’s (320-298 BC) reign in his book of ‘The Lesson of Profit (Science of Material Gain)’. Diamonds were subject to taxes and custom duties, and the mines that produced them were of paramount importance in generating wealth. The author further mentions that the highest quality diamonds were big with regular shapes and were brilliant in refracting light.
Initially, India’s diamond resources yielded limited quantities for an equally limited market: India’s very wealthy classes. However, gradually Indian diamonds found their way, along with other exotic merchandise, to Western Europe and other parts of the world. By the end of the 14th century AD, India had opened up trading with most of Europe and became firmly positioned as the famed diamond capital.
Perhaps the most famous of all Indian diamonds would be the Golconda diamonds, which rose to fame during the height of the Mughal Empire. The empire acquired the state in 1687, and soon the region became synonymous to great prosperity and wealth. It was said that all diamonds greater than two carats were to be owned by the royalty, who quickly amassed magnificent collections of these renowned gems. Emperor Shah Jahan (1628 – 1658) was one of the most famous gem connoisseurs of the empire, commissioning the legendary Peacock Throne on the first day of his reign. Referred to as ‘the richest of thrones’ by the French merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, the crowning jewel of the throne that was adorned with hundreds of emeralds, rubies and pearls was a spectacular diamond, often rumoured to be the Koh-i-Noor.
In the 17th century, Tavernier travelled to Asia six times, covering half the distance from the Earth to the Moon over the course of his lifetime in search of fantastic rarities. Louis XIV, the Sun King, would purchase over a thousand diamonds from Tavernier, out of his passionate love for the gem and to solidify the opulence of his court.
In the early 18th century, the Indian mines produced less and less diamonds and were close to depletion. Fortunately, this was when Brazilian diamonds were discovered and upon reaching its full potential, quickly rose to importance, lasting more than 150 years. As the Age of Enlightenment began, diamonds were treasured as symbols of luxury and status rather than as mythical stones.
Today, diamonds are found around the globe, though gem-quality diamonds are perennially rare. The story of Africa’s diamonds began in 1866 with the discovery of a 21.25carat rough, found at a farm near Kimberly. Named the “Eureka diamond, it was the first Africa diamond to be authenticated. Another significant discovery was the Star of South Africa in 1869, an impressive 83.50carat rough diamond, which renewed diamond fever throughout the region, transforming central and southern Africa into the most significant diamond producers in the late 1800s, and still remains today amongst the world’s major sources.
Throughout history, the discovery of a large sized diamond has never failed to elicit a sense of excitement and admiration from many. To truly appreciate a diamond’s beauty and origin, one must understand the process of its turbulent passage from its formation. As the only gem that is made of a single element, its chemical purity requires an equally unique environment to form.
Graphite is a mineral that shares its pure mineral composition with diamonds. However, it is the formation of crystal structures that differentiates between the hardness of diamonds to the soft nature of graphite. Individually, heat and pressure are strong enough to alter the phases of matter between solid, liquid and gas. Combined, the forces can alter elements at the atomic level. For diamonds, it is when carbon atoms bond equally in all directions forming strong bonds within a rigid three-dimensional pattern which give its extraordinary hardness. This is only possible under extreme pressure combined with high heat, within a specific depth range in the upper mantle, each factor concurrently limiting how large a diamond forms. Approximately below 100 miles from the earth’s crust is the critical zone where diamonds could potentially form, below ancient continental masses.
After formation, the mineral is projected through the earth’s crust via volcanic conduits and pipes, eventually depositing the diamond rough near earth’s surface. Most diamond roughs are unable to endure the tremendous stress and harsh conditions, many fracturing and crumbling into smaller fragments along its journey.
Most diamonds originate from two rare types of volcanic rocks, which are lamprolite and kimberlite. Kimberlite is named after Kimberley in South Africa; the centre of the diamond market in the country. Resulting from volcanic eruptions, magma expels the mantle rocks that contain the diamond rough to earth’s surface. These volcanic ‘pipes’ and conduits are where most of the diamonds are found and mined. Interestingly, these eruptions are a very rare occurrence that has not been observed in recent times. It is believed that these deep-rooted eruptions took place when the earth was much hotter, a more conducive environment for diamond formation. The speed of projection was also incredibly rapid, as should the momentum be any slower, the diamonds would have formed graphite instead.
Although diamonds themselves are not easy to date as to how old they truly are, other minerals found within these crystals typically suggest that they are at least hundreds of millions of years old, if not a few billion years old.
The sheer circumstance of the 88.22 carat Oval Brilliant diamond withstanding such unforgiving conditions is a testament to its rarity.
Diamonds in Botswana are located in the semi-arid region of the country. It is known that approximately 40% of the world’s diamond rough supply is sorted and valued in Botswana. Two of the largest kimberlite pipes are found here: Jwaneng and Orapa. These pipes were a relatively modern discovery, due to Botswana’s desert landscape. Central Botswana is largely shared with the Kalahari Desert, and the major kimberlite pipes were also covered by thick sand and dunes. The pipes for Orapa and Letlakane mines were first discovered, which was followed by the Jwaneng pipes in southern Botswana, buried under 20 – 60m of desert sand.
Jwaneng means “a place of small stones”, although the term, fortuitously, does not apply to the huge 242.24 carat rough that was unearthed to transform into the Spectacular 88.22carat Oval Brilliant diamond. The Jwaneng pipe was discovered in the Naledi River Valley (Valley of the Stars) in 1972 and became fully operational in 1982. Also referred to as the “Prince of Mines”, it is located about 120km (75 miles) west of Gaborone, and owned by Debswana, a partnership between De Beers and the government of Botswana. The mine was officially opened by the then President of Botswana, His Excellency Sir Ketumile Masire.
An open-mine pit that is located on three separate kimberlite pipes that converge near the surface as its main source of production, having erupted about 245 million years ago. An ecologically responsible mine, Jwaneng is the first mine in Botswana to achieve an ISO 14001 certification for environmental compliance. Included in Jwaneng’s mining lease is the Jwana Game Park property, home to several conservation efforts and endangered animal species.
Now the Jwaneng mine boasts its legacy as the richest diamond mine in the world by value, and the mine itself is so massive that it can be seen from outer space. Originally projected to be near depletion in 2017-18, a new expansion project called Cut-8 aimed at extending into the kimberlite pipes laterally. This would potentially extend the life of Jwaneng mine to 2028 and beyond, generating more than 1,000 jobs during the operational phase. The Jwaneng mine already owns and operates a hospital as well as an airport, and is well-known globally for its excellent safety record.
THE 4CS OF DIAMONDS
Discovered as a 242 carat rough, it is a size that was almost three times larger than its polished form. A rough of such a size undergoes a painstaking process of planning before it can be cut or polished, to achieve the best cut, clarity, colour and carat weight – also known as the 4Cs of diamond grading.
The exterior of a rough diamond contains several clues about the gem within. Every crystal is different, as each is a result of a distinctive growth history. The unique formations of diamond crystals during the geological processes attest to the power of the natural world. Once nature has run its course and a diamond has emerged onto earth’s surface, it becomes man’s responsibility to reveal its striking inherent qualities. When placed into the hands of a skilled cutter, the intrinsic beauty of a diamond has the potential to be realized.
Prior to the cutting, diamond cutting experts as well as planners meticulously examine the rough to orientate the diamond’s crystal structure. It is crucial to understand the directions of its form as it dictates the options of potential cutting angles. Experts will balance out many factors before settling on a final decision, such as weight retention, colour quality, optimal shape, and others. As diamonds grow under tremendous heat and pressure deep within the earth, it is very common for it to form with a variety of internal inclusions and trace elements.
During the planning stage, all of its internal characteristics will be taken into consideration; it is extremely challenging to produce top quality colorless diamond that is devoid of inclusions and blemishes, much less to an impressive size of 88 carats. The clarity scale begins with those rare diamonds in which no internal or surface-reaching features can be observed at the standard magnification: Flawless or Internally Flawless (FL/IF). Upon close examination, this diamond has been afforded the highest and most desirable rank of Flawless on the GIA Clarity.
The GIA colour scale begins with D, which represents the most colourless of diamonds. The scale then continues with E, through to the alphabet Z, which denotes slightly tinted diamonds. This diamond was graded D colour, placing it at the top of the colourless range. Very few gems possess the magnificent colourlessness as witness within such a large gemstone.
Type IIa diamonds are rare, as they contain no IR-detectable nitrogen or boron impurities in their chemical structure, and represent less than 2% of all diamonds mined. Considered the most chemically pure diamonds, these diamonds also tend to display exceptional transparency. The spectacular 88.22 carat Oval Brilliant underwent infrared spectroscopic analysis testing at the GIA, which concluded that it was a type IIa diamond, which is considered a very pure diamond with no detectable nitrogen impurity.
The spectacular 88.22 carat Oval Brilliant diamond possesses D colour, Flawless clarity, Type IIa, as well as being graded with excellent polish and symmetry by the GIA. This shape and cutting style combines an elliptical girdle outline with triangular-shaped facets. The 242 carat rough originally was an elongated piece, which likely led to the choice of the oval shape to preserve the greatest amount of weight. The end product is reflective of the painstaking process that took more than 7 months, to design, polish and finish, a precise combination of experience, skill and tremendous amount of patience – a masterpiece of human ingenuity as it is of nature.
SIGNIFICANCE OF 88.22 - CULTURAL CONTEXT
The number eight in Chinese, and also in other Asian cultures has been a symbol of luck for many generations. In Chinese, the number eight is ba (八), which has a spoken similarity to the word fa (發). The meaning of fa is ‘to generate wealth’, which associates the number eight with prosperity. The cultural significance of eight can be observed in many instances, such as the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics held in Beijing, 2008. The ceremony was timed carefully to begin at 8:08 PM, with an additional eight seconds past so that there would be a multitude of eights; wishing for auspiciousness in the upcoming events. Beyond society, even among individuals there is a strong admiration towards the number eight in the Chinese culture, and people seek out owning this number in many different ways. This includes phone numbers, apartment floors, and even vehicle license plates.
Number two also has a special place among Chinese culture, as there is a saying that good things should come in pairs. The Chinese word for joy, xi (喜) can be doubled up which form a new word shuang xi (囍) – literally meaning ‘double joy’. In Chinese marriages, shuang xi is often the choice of decoration to wish the newlyweds all the happiness and prosperity in pairs. In Cantonese, two is pronounced yih (二) or leuhng (兩), which sounds similar to the words for yih (易) and leuhng (亮), each meaning easy and bright. When 2 and 8 are paired together, they symbolize ‘easily prosperous’ as it sounds similar to yih faat (易發). In 2016, a bidder paid $2.3 million USD for an auspicious Hong Kong license plate that bears both the numbers 2 and 8.
The spectacular 88.22 carat Oval Brilliant diamond bears strong cultural significance as it embodies a pair of eights and twos – an extremely rare and fortunate case. For a diamond to reach a size of 88 carats is extraordinary, but the accuracy that comes from the skilled craftsmanship in the faceting process of the rough stone is what gifts its two decimal points a pair of twos; a true marvel of nature honed to perfection by man.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale