National Geographic : 1950 Dec
The National Geographic Magazine the Rio de Velhas, and other famous stones.* The most significant discovery of a diamond occurred in 1866 when a Boer farm lad picked up a curiously glittering pebble on the veld near Kimberley. From that find sprang a South African industry that has produced more than a billion dollars' worth of diamonds.t When Nature scattered diamonds over the earth, she did not overlook the United States. Near Murfreesboro, Arkansas, they have been recovered from rock similar to kimberlite, the mother rock of diamonds in South Africa (page 804). More than 200 diamonds have been recovered from gold-mine sluice boxes in California. Other States yielding a few are Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Idaho, and Oregon. Curious finds of diamonds are those in the glacial drift of the Great Lakes region, par ticularly in Wisconsin. This leaves little doubt that diamonds were brought south by the glaciers. By following the known glacier paths, the region between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay is indicated as a potentially rich diamond field. The most unusual occurrence of diamonds is from a celestial source; small diamonds are sometimes found in meteorites, particularly in the iron from Meteor Crater in Arizona. During 1949 the world produced two-and three-quarter tons of diamonds. Not all were fine gems. Those not suitable for cutting serve in drilling and abrasive tools, wire-drawing dies, and in many other industrial uses where extreme hardness is desirable. Of the diamonds produced in the Belgian Congo, the world's largest source, only about two percent are suitable for gems. The yield of Tanganyika's mines is 80 percent gem quality stones. Fine, flawless diamonds con stitute a small proportion of the gem stones recovered.± Colorless Diamonds Most Desirable Colorless diamonds, sometimes called "blue white," are generally considered most desir able, but colored diamonds, usually pale yel low or smoky brown, are far more common. Generally, color detracts from a diamond's beauty and lowers its value. But some dia monds are so beautifully colored that they command high prices. These are called "fancy stones." Fine golden yellow, orange, rose and lavender pink, aquamarine to pale sapphire blue, green of various tints, and other desir able shades are included. Most famous colored stone is the deep-blue 44/-carat Hope Diamond. Finer, and more valuable, is the rich green Dresden Diamond. The Tiffany Diamond (page 791) is a rich orange yellow. Recently Princess Elizabeth was presented with a deep-pink stone of 54 carats, which was cut into an exquisite bril liant of 23.6 carats. Before the discovery of America and the exploration of Africa, the principal source of precious stones was the Orient. Many traders, lured by the possibility of rich traffic in these objects, hazarded the dangers of the journey east to obtain them; some have left behind accounts of their adventures. Best known is Marco Polo, who left Venice about 1271 and made his way to the court of Kublai Khan.§ Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French geog rapher who went to India in 1638 to traffic in precious stones, brought back a huge blue diamond, which he sold, together with 24 others, to Louis XIV, le Grand Monarque, in 1668. The Tavernier Blue was recut and made part of the French crown jewels. They were stolen in 1792, but the Tavernier was not among the few gems subsequently restored. Later it reappeared, much reduced in size, as the Hope Diamond. Many of the ancient Indian diamonds, such as the Koh-i-noor, have had strange histories. According to legend, the Koh-i-noor was dis covered some 5,000 years ago in the Godavari River, but the first authentic record is in the memoirs of Sultan Baber, who wrote in 1526: "Bikermajit, a Hindu, who was Raja of Gwalior, had governed that country for up ward of a hundred years. "In the battle in which Ibrahim was de feated, Bikermajit was sent to hell. When Humaium arrived, Bikermajit's people at tempted to escape, but were taken by the parties which Humaium had placed upon the watch and put into custody. "Of their own free will they presented to Humaium a tribute consisting of a quantity of jewels and precious stones. Among these was one famous diamond, which had been acquired by Sultan Ala-ed-din. It is so valu able that a judge of diamonds valued it at half the daily expenses of the whole world." * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Brazil's Land of Minerals," October, 1948; and "Bra zil's Potent Weapons," January, 1944, both by W. Robert Moore. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Cities That Gold and Diamonds Built," by W. Rob ert Moore, December, 1942; "Under the South African Union," by Melville Chater, April, 1931; and "Dia mond Mines of South Africa," by Gardiner F. Wil liams, June, 1906. $ See "Britain Tackles the East African Bush," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1950. § See "World's Greatest Overland Explorer," by J. R. Hildebrand, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, November, 1928.