The History of Diamonds In Traditional Indian Jewelry
Many are unaware of India's vast history with diamonds. The history of diamonds in Indian culture is one of great importance, respect, and innovation. The country of India has the largest diamond polishing industry in the world — it provides 11 out of every 12 processed diamonds for jewelry found on earth. Even the most popular diamond in the world, the massive 105.6 carat Kohinoor diamond, was found in India and is still the most expensive diamond known to date. India has long been a chief purveyor of the diamond industry that has helped shape the culture of luxury jewelry into what we know today. In fact, Indian diamond jewelry is as old as Indian civilization itself.
Before diamonds were discovered in Brazil in the early eighteenth century, India was the world’s only source of diamonds. When diamonds were first discovered in India, they were “alluvial,” which means the diamonds were extracted as natural crystals rather than mined. These early diamonds were notoriously found in the soft sands and gravels of riverbeds in what are present day cities of Penner, Krishna, and Godavari in Southern India. Indian diamonds were famously traded in the Middle East, Europe, and to other parts of the world.
The importance of diamonds in ancient Indian society was highly sophisticated. To be a “Mandalin,” or diamond expert, was considered a prestigious and esteemed profession. In those ancient times, Indian diamonds served a variety of purposes. They were used as a talisman to ward off evil, to provide protection in battle, and of course, worn as gorgeous embellishments in 22k gold Indian jewelry. Greek visitors to ancient India marvelled at the elaborate Indian jewelry of the time. A Portuguese chronicler, Paes, wrote of the ancient Vijayanagar empire where he was dazzled by the jewelry worn.
Diamonds are incorporated into many traditional Indian jewelry worn for cultural and religious ceremonies, such as Mangalsutras, Jhumkas, Laxmis, and more. A Hindu religious scripture called the Garuda Purana is considered to be the first reference for ancient Indian gemology. In the scripture, it states the owner of a flawless diamond will be blessed with wealth, livestock, good harvests, a wife, and children, and that the diamond will protect the owner from both fear and sorcery.
Many ancient styles for crafting and arranging Indian diamond jewelry are still extremely popular today. For example, the art of Kundan jewelry is nearly 2,500 years old and is said to have originated in the royal courts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The word “Kundan” itself means highly refined gold. With this style of Indian jewelry, delicate pieces of 22K Indian gold are used in bangles, necklaces, earrings, and other types of jewelry to position the diamonds or other stones. This prestigious art of real Kundan jewelry making is exclusive to India and still worn by women to enhance their cultural attire for festive and ceremonial events. Uncut diamond jewelry is also extremely popular within Indian culture. The use of uncut diamonds as adornments was said to have been popularised in north India by Moghul emperors who most admired diamonds in their pristine and purest form.
The rise of Bollywood movies has assisted the legacy of Indian jewelry and has allowed the history India has with diamonds to remain at the forefront of luxury jewelry. The genre has become extremely notable in recent years, with many films winning academy awards, receiving Oscar nominations, and impressing their viewers with extravagant displays of Indian gold jewelry encrusted with magnificent diamonds and other precious stones. Renowned Bollywood movies such as Padmaavat, Devdas, Jodha Akbar, Lagaan, and other films highlight the use of traditional Indian jewelry and the important role it plays within Indian culture.
At Virani Jewelers, we’re proud to carry on the tradition by offering a selection of Indian diamond jewelry, as well as pieces that feature beautiful uncut diamonds. Explore our collection online or visit us on Oak Tree Road in Iselin to see these beautiful pieces for yourself!
Written by Taylor C. Heron.