Of all the gemstones in existence, the diamond is without question the most iconic, sought-after stone. For many love-smitten couples throughout history and in many cultures around the globe today, it’s striking, prismatic brilliance makes it the ultimate gift for a loved one. Formed from pure carbon, intense heat (about 2000 degrees Fahrenheit), and incredible pressure beneath the earth’s surface (approximately 725,000 pounds per square inch), diamonds represent the unbreakable bond of true love, most of which were formed nearly 100 million years ago. Additionally, diamonds are often recognized as symbols of courage, strength, bravery, purity, and innocence. They are also entirely unique. That is to say, no two diamonds can ever be the same and each stone carries its own complex characteristics.
If you were lucky enough to be born in April, then the diamond is also your birthstone. But why was the diamond chosen as April’s precious gem? And what is the significance of the diamond to the month of April? Although there are many myths and stories theorizing the origin of birthstones, today they are popularly linked to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, as well as the twelve signs of the zodiac.
The month of April has two zodiac signs: Aries and Taurus. For those needing a little refresher on their astrology, Aries (March 21 – April 19) are seen as natural born leaders, exuding confidence, taking charge of situations, and thriving in fast-paced environments. They are generally strong and courageous individuals. A Taurus (April 20 – May 20) on the other hand, is typically more patient, stable, and lives atop a strong foundation of moral conviction. They are committed, reliable and because of this, are sometimes stubborn.
At some point in history, as with the other gemstones of the calendar and their respective zodiac signs, the diamond was assigned to Aries and Taurus, quite possibly due to the stone’s natural qualities such as its incredible strength. The word “diamond” actually comes from the Greek word “adamas,” which translates to “unconquerable.”
The first known instance of a diamond used in a wedding ring was the engagement of Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. At this time, it was still commonly believed that precious gems had magical powers, and these precious stones were incredibly rare and hard to come by, accessible only to the elite. In addition to making the wearer stronger, braver, courageous, etc., many also believed that diamonds helped protect wearers from sickness or disease, so it was common to even take diamonds to bed or place them under a pillow. No doubt the archduke believed he was supernaturally injecting a stronger sense of love, purity, and fidelity into his marriage with the diamond. What he didn’t realize however, was the trend he would establish within the institution of marriage itself for centuries to come.
Today, especially among western cultures, it is very common for couples to choose diamond rings together as a set: an engagement ring along with the wedding band. It is also increasingly popular to commemorate other occasions besides a wedding or April birth with a diamond. This is seen especially in Claddagh pendants and rings, which were first produced in the fishing village of Galway in the 17th century (although the Claddagh is itself a relative of the fede ring, meaning “hands joined in faith,” popular from the time of the ancient Romans up into the Middle Ages). Claddagh rings, which are themselves a traditional symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship, are embedded with diamonds and often given by mothers to daughters as a coming-of-age gift, and are also given as friendship rings.
Although the lush, green hillsides of Ireland are well-known for their rich deposits of minerals and gems by geologists from around the world, diamonds have yet to be discovered there. This may have more to do with the genuine rarity of discovering diamond deposits rather than the actual existence of one on the island. Nevertheless, the Irish have incorporated the stone into many of their iconic jewelry designs.
We can only speculate how exactly the diamond became associated with Aries and Taurus. Perhaps it was just the perfect coincidence, or perhaps it was decided that the diamond should be specifically assigned to Aries and Taurus for specific reasons. Flavius Josephus, writing in the first century A.D., realized a connection between the twelve stones of The Breastplate of Aaron described in Exodus 28:15-21. Later, St. Jerome in the fifth century A.D. suggested a connection between the stones of Aaron’s breastplate to months of the year. For centuries thereafter, people began to wear a different stone associated with a different zodiac sign each month, not only as a good luck charm, but also in the hope of absorbing some of that gem’s magical energies.
The earliest known discovery of diamonds took place in India in the 4th century BC, and were originally valued for their strength and ability for cutting, refracting light, and engraving metal. As some of these stones made their way along trade routes westward, they eventually became adornments used in talismans and jewelry as a way to keep evil spirits at bay.
Beginning in the 19th century, diamond mining started taking place on a massive scale. Today, diamonds are more readily available (and relatively more affordable) than they ever have been, but in spite of this, people remain just as fascinated by them as they were thousands of years ago. Their crystal-clear, unique beauty stands as a testament not just to the strength of the gems themselves, but also of the unbreakable bonds of love they represent and will likely continue to do so for many centuries to come.
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