Diamond became an official birthstone in 1912 when the American National Association of Jewelers designed what we call the modern birthstone list. This list dedicates different gemstones to the twelve months in the calendar year. Because the list abandoned some of the original mythology behind birthstones, such as the order in which they occur, and removed some gems, it was a controversial list indeed and was thought to be brought about by commercialism. Despite its rocky beginnings. today this list is widely accepted as the official birthstone list and thus diamond is the official birthstone of April.
Diamonds were first collected in the rivers of India. Though ancient cultures hadn’t yet discovered the prismatic scintillation and fire revealed by faceting diamonds, they revered the sparkling gemstones for their strength and metaphysical power.
The word diamond traces its roots back to the ancient Greek - Adamant or adamas – a term meaning unbreakable, invincible, or unconquerable. According to legend, Eros (aka Cupid) fashioned his love inducing arrow tips out of diamonds. And with a weapon made of adamant (diamond), Perseus finally brought down Medusa. Diamonds are a stone of duality - of love and war. And today, the April birthstone is still the benchmark for indestructibility.
The April gemstone figures prominently in Asian history, a precious asset moved across trade routes and looted through the various changings of the guard. “Up to the beginning of the eighteenth century, India was the only source of diamonds known,” writes Oliver C. Farrington in his 1903 book Gems and Gem Minerals.
In it, he tells of a famous diamond named Koh-I-Noor, a Farsi phrase meaning "mountain of light". First documented in 1304, but likely dating back several generations before, the diamond’s tale reads like an epic. The massive gem was passed between royals of the Mughal dynasty, and ultimately, as many hands as there were wars.
Koh-I-Noor was embedded in the gemstone laden throne of Shah Jahan (of Taj Mahal Fame) and later taken with the spoils of war in the 1739 Persian conquest of Delhi. It made its way through present day Afghanistan and Pakistan, and back to India during the Sikh rule - only to be sacked by the British during their colonial occupation. Worn by Queen Victoria and later the Queen Mother, the contentious gem is currently part of the British Crown Jewels. From the beautiful blue Hope Diamond to many other famous jewels, the diamond is a gemstone rich in thousands of years of legend, myth and stories.
The diamond birthstone and other calendar specific associations have evolved over time. “The custom seems to have sprung up in modern Europe some time during the fifteenth or sixteenth century,” writes Farrington. “Whether it originated in the twelve gems of Aaron’s breastplate, as many believe, or was introduced by astrologers from the Arabians, as others think, it is not yet known.”
Farrington points to an 1870 a poem published by Tiffany & Co as an early guide to the meaning of birthstones. In addition to showcasing the diamond birthstone, it standardizes the one-stone-one-month concept, and shares the attributes of each culminating in the above mentioned American National Association of Jewelers designation.
“….she who from april dates her years,
diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
for vain repentance flow, this stone:
emblem of innocence, is known.
- excerpt from a poem printed in an 1870 tiffany & co pamphlet -