A Short History of the Diamond Gemstones


Ancient civilizations thought diamonds were magical--they were originally mined in India and are mentioned in Buddhist texts dating from 3000 BC as having the power to keep evil spirits away from travellers. In the early Middle Ages, diamonds were given to the sick for healing--if the ailing person made the sign of the cross while holding the stone, they would be healed. Some physicians recommended swallowing a diamond as a cure for some illnesses. 


The first known diamonds in western jewellery was in Hungary in 1047, when they adorned the crown of Queen Anastasia. Throughout the late Middle Ages, monarchs and noblemen added diamonds to their jewel collections; as they were considered rare and valuable they were an early status symbol.


Diamonds remained in their rough state until 1407, when the first stonecutter tried his luck cutting rough facets into a stone. By 1477, diamond cutting and polishing had advanced to where Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy, the first known diamond engagement ring. The Burgundian court was the most fashionable in Europe, and Mary's ring set a trend for engagement jewellery that continues on today. 


Buying Diamonds


You've heard of the four C's in buying diamonds. Here’s a short primer on Colour, Cut, Clarity, and Carat.


Carat is the weight of the cut stone. This is the primary factor for many couples looking at engagement rings; the other C's follow the carat weight. 


Colour is the whiteness of the stone. Colour grading starts with D--colourless--and goes to Z--a yellow or brownish stone. Most diamonds in the retail market are in the "near colourless" G-J range; D-F grade stones are rare and expensive. 


Cut is where the magic happens. An expert diamond cutter knows how to cut a nearly-colourless stone so that it sparkles with the blue-white light that is so prized in diamonds. Vintage and antique stones are cut in Old Mine, European, or Rose Cut round styles; modern stones are oval, pear-shaped, marquis, triangular, and emerald cut, along with the traditional round brilliant cut. 


Clarity refers to the flaws in a cut diamond. An IF stone is flawless and very rare. VVS1 means the stone has very very slight inclusions that are only visible under a 20X microscope. VS1 and VS2 stones have inclusions that are visible under a 10X microscope but are "eye clean"--you can't see the flaws with the naked eye. 


The important takeaway here is that the overall quality of a diamond is more important than the carat size--a well-cut smaller stone will sparkle brilliantly more than a poor quality larger stone. 


The Fifth C


Caring for your diamonds is the fifth C. A diamond is the hardest mineral on the Mohs hardness scale, and it is durable, but not indestructible. They can chip, and fall out of a loose setting. Oily residue builds up on diamonds and dulls their sparkle; clean yours with warm water and a soft toothbrush, or give them a quick dip in a commercial cleaner. Take your diamond jewellery to your jeweller once a year for professional cleaning, and to check that the claws in the settings are strong and secure. 


Diamond Engagement Ring Trends


Although engagement rings these days reflect the personal taste of the bridal couple, diamond rings are still the choice for most brides. The cut of the stone and embellishments let you show some individuality whilst sticking with the traditional diamond. 


pear, or teardrop shape centre stone is popular for modern brides; the unusual shape gives you lots of choices for a unique setting. Oval diamonds are also making a comeback, possibly because of the huge oval diamond that Justin Bieber gave Hailey Baldwin.


Three stone, or trilogy rings, have become more popular since Prince Harry gave one to Meghan Markle--a contemporary twist on these rings is a pair of fancy cut stones on either side of the larger centre stone.


Halo rings--a centre stone surrounded by tiny diamonds--remain the choice of many brides who choose either a traditional or a fancy cut for the main diamond. 


Pearls In History and Its Trend Designs


Pearls are the world's first known gemstone, first collected by hunter-gatherers along the seashore in China or the Persian Gulf. As early as 2300 BC Chinese royalty adorned themselves with pearls, and there is a fragment of pearl jewellery on a Persian sarcophagus in the Louvre that dates from around 400 BC.


Julius Caesar proclaimed that only the ruling class in Rome could wear pearls. Monarchs and nobles around the world have been wearing pearls for millennia, and they continue to this day. The pearl-laden Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara was a favourite of Princess Diana, and the Queen sometimes lends it to Kate for state occasions. 


Choosing Pearls


While diamonds are dazzling, pearls are polished. For years, diamonds (except for the ones in your engagement ring) were only worn in the evening. Pearls, on the other hand, are always appropriate--you can wear them to the market and out in the evening--and frequently a young girl's first "good" jewellery. 


What Gives Pearls Their Mystique?


Unlike mined gemstones, pearls are grown inside a living organism--a mollusc, usually an oyster. A tiny irritant gets inside the oyster shell, and the oyster produces nacre, a crystalline substance that builds up in layers around the bit of shell or whatever irritant, until the pearl is formed. 


According to Chinese legend, pearls proclaim the wearer's purity--which is why they are so popular for girls. Persian lore says that pearls are formed where the rainbow met the earth after a storm. The Japanese believed that pearls were created from the tears of mermaids and nymphs, and in Tahitian myth, the fertility god Ora descended to earth on a rainbow to bring a magical oyster with a black pearl within, that he gave to the princess Bora Bora as a symbol of his love. And Cleopatra famously (among other famous deeds) ground up a pearl and put it on Marc Antony's wine goblet, to prove she could give the most expensive dinner party ever. 


The ancient myths about pearls speak to their importance in history. Crusaders wore pearls on the battlefield to ward off the enemy's evil spirits and danger. 


Mikimoto Cultured Pearls


The world's natural oyster population can only produce so many pearls, and by the late 1800s harvesting pearls was limited to deep diving off the coast of Japan. Enter Kochiki Mikimoto, the son of a Japanese noodle maker, who implanted a tiny irritant into an oyster, creating the first cultured pearl.


Japan in the early 20th century was the centre of cultured pearl production, and the price of natural pearls plummeted as the cultured gems flooded the market. Mikimoto was under constant pressure to defend his pearls as genuine; purists maintained that a farmed pearl was not real. Scientific research proved the contrary was true; that a cultured, or farmed, pearl has the same characteristics and properties as a natural pearl. 


Today, natural pearls are extremely rare--global sea conditions have made it difficult for oysters to produce pearls. 


Mikimoto today is the source for the world's finest pearls, ranging in colour from white to cream, to silvery pink.


Kinds Of Pearls


Akoya pearls are produced from the Japanese Akoya oyster. They are prized for their brilliant lustre and rich colour, and are the world standard for cultured pearls. Sizes range from 3-10 mm, and some oysters produces pearls in shades of light green, blue, and silver. These are saltwater pearls. 


Baroque pearls are oddly shaped, usually freshwater pearls. Some Akoya oysters will produce an asymmetrical baroque pearl, but they are typically from a different species of freshwater mollusc. Baroque pearls are not nacreous, but rather a calcite composite. 


Tahitian pearls are known as Black Pearls, although they come in a rainbow of darker hues. The black-lipped oyster, native to the South Pacific, is responsible for growing these large (between 8 and 14 mm) gems. Iridescent colour saturates these pearls, in shades of peacock, blue, black, and silver. 


Caring For Pearls


Pearls need special care. Unlike your other jewellery, your pearls should not get wet, nor should you clean them with any solution. Wipe them with a soft cloth every now and again, and wear them. Pearls take on an extra lustre when they are worn next to the skin, and the patina that develops when pearls are worn frequently is simply beautiful, like the gems are lit from within. You should have your necklaces and bracelets restrung every five years as the knotted threads weaken over time. 


When you are getting dressed, put on your pearls the very last, so you don't accidentally hit them with perfume, hair spray, or makeup. Store your pearls in soft bags or jewellery cases, away from diamonds and other stones that can scratch them. 


Trends In Pearl Jewellery


Pearls never go out of style, but recently this classic has become cool again. Trendsetters are piling on the pearl necklaces, mixing real and fake with great style. Pile on the pearl bracelets, or wrap a long necklace around your wrist for a fabulous cuff. Wear a pearl brooch on a jumper or jacket lapel. Pearl chokers can be worn all day, every day, and into the evening. New trends are pearl hoop earrings or baroque rings and brooches, combined with semiprecious stones. If you're giving pearls as a gift, simple studs earrings are always in fashion. 


Put On Your Pearls, Girls - And Your Diamonds


Diamonds and pearls certainly can be worn together. A pearl stud with a diamond drop is a classic combo of the two. You can also wear pearl and diamond bracelets together, as well as a diamond pendant thrown in with a pearl necklace of the same length. A pearl drop lavaliere surrounded by diamonds is a classic Edwardian look that is just as fresh today as it was a hundred years ago.


Jacobs the Jewellers is your source for fine diamonds and pearls in the Reading area. We have been here for over 70 years and have seen trends come and go, but these two gemstones are timeless, elegant classics. We invite you to come into our showroom and browse, or contact us if you're looking for a specific piece. Whether you are just starting your jewellery collection, or adding to an already comprehensive one, you can never go wrong with diamonds and pearls.