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A Brief History on Coloured Diamonds – Ruth Tomlinson

A Brief History on Coloured Diamonds

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Coloured diamonds have been used in jewellery and adornment for many centuries, though they tended to be reserved for royalty and the very wealthy, being so much rarer than white diamonds. It’s believed that they were first discovered in India where their colour-grading system in particular dates back to the 6th century and was based on the country’s ancient class structure. Diamonds served as a badge of rank and members of the different castes were only allowed to own and wear specific colours.

White diamonds were reserved for the priests and ruling class, the Brahmins. Brown diamonds (more recently referred to as champagne or cognac due to the influential marketing campaigns of particular diamond mines who specialise in mining this colour) were assigned to the landowners and warriors, while yellow diamonds were for the merchant class. Grey diamonds were assigned to the lower classes, and black diamonds were thought to be cursed and so not generally worn.

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In the 16th century we see evidence of coloured diamonds being found outside of India, in Africa and South America. Local merchants sold them on to French, English, Dutch and Portuguese traders travelling to the colonies, who in turn brought the stones back to Europe to have them cut into the fashions of the time and used in jewels to adorn those who could afford them.

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