Diamonds and Pearls Are a Natural Pairing
April’s birthstone, diamonds are “a girl’s best friend” and so much more. At Add-A-Pearl, we’re obviously partial to pearls, but we love and appreciate diamonds as well. Stunning to behold and a perennial classic, diamonds have captivated hearts and inspired awe since the 4th century BC. In this blog post, we share the history and lore of diamonds as well as why they make such a great pairing for pearls. Continue reading for the full story.
How Were Diamonds Formed?
Can you believe that most diamonds were likely formed under conditions of intense heat and pressure during the first couple billion years of the Earth’s history? According to geology.com, “Geologists believe that the diamonds in all of Earth’s commercial diamond deposits were formed in the mantle and delivered to the surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions.” When you wear a natural diamond, you’re wearing something that existed before the beginning of humankind and originated from 90 miles below the earth’s surface.
Early Diamond Days
The first diamonds were found in India in the 4th century BC, but their origins started much earlier than that. When they were first discovered by humans, they were likely traded along the “Silk Road”, a network of trade routes that connected India and China. Diamonds weren’t used in jewelry until 1074 AD, and the first example was the crown of a Hungarian queen. The first known documentation of diamond cutting dates back to 1407 in Paris, and diamond faceting and polishing started in the mid-1400s.
Until the 18th century, diamond traders believed that India was the only source of diamonds, and those mines were depleted quickly. In a quest to find alternative diamond mines, prospectors discovered a deposit in Brazil in 1725. But it wasn’t until 1866 that the first large-scale diamond mining operation – later known as the Kimberley Mine – began in South Africa. Suddenly, the diamond supply was plentiful, but that meant the wealthy elite no longer considered diamonds valuable.
In an effort to control the diamond supply, Englishman Cecil John Rhodes formed De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd in 1888, creating a monopoly on diamonds coming out of South Africa. According to an article from Business Insider, “Diamond claim holders and distributors joined up with De Beers because their interests were the same: create a scarcity of diamonds and high prices will follow…By the time Rhodes died in 1902, De Beers controlled 90% of the world’s rough-diamond production and distribution.” DeBeers doesn’t have the same hold on the market today, but they still do control approximately 29.5% of the world’s rough diamond production.
As we mentioned earlier, diamonds are the April birthstone, but some cultures throughout the world believe that diamonds symbolize powerful concepts and emotions. Some people believe that diamonds represent strength, love, and health, and they’re often worn by leaders and other powerful people to amplify status and vigor.
Others believe that diamonds “are a girl’s best friend”, thanks to a jazz song introduced by Carol Channing in the original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes from 1949. Actress and singer Marilyn Monroe performed the song in the 1953 film version of the production. The song has remained so iconic that people of all ages still reference the line today.
Diamonds, Pearls, and Brides
Both diamonds and pearls play a major role in the tradition of wedding jewelry. Many brides opt to wear pearls that will complement the white color of their wedding dresses, while they typically have diamonds in their engagement rings and wedding bands. Sometimes, pearl details and embellishments are even found on the wedding dress itself.
What’s the history behind diamonds and pearls being incorporated into wedding traditions? When it comes to diamonds, the first known diamond engagement ring was gifted to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Austria. But for a very long period of time, very few people proposed marriage with a diamond engagement ring.
In the late 1940s, a copywriter for De Beers created the tagline that the company has been using ever since: “A Diamond Is Forever.” According to an article from The Atlantic, “From 1939 to 1979, De Beers’s wholesale diamond sales in the United States increased from $23 million to $2.1 billion. Over those four decades, the company’s ad budget soared from $200,000 to $10 million a year.” During that period of time, diamond engagement rings weren’t the only jewelry category to grow in popularity. Wearing diamonds in wedding bands and anniversary rings also became more commonplace. Today, approximately 75% of American brides wear a diamond engagement ring with an average cost of $4,000.
When it comes to pearls, they’ve also been a mainstay in bridal and wedding traditions. In an ancient Hindu book called the Rigveda, Krishna harvested pearls from the depths of the sea to give to his daughter on her wedding day. Pearls also symbolize concepts like love and purity, making them perfect for the start of a lifetime of marital bliss. According to this article, “Some believe a pearl is a representation of a tear and by wearing pearls, you ensure a lifetime of joy with your future spouse. This superstition is practiced by many brides who hope not to shed any tears in matrimony.”
Diamond and Pearl Jewelry
Diamonds and pearls are often paired together in jewelry designs because they balance each other so well. While pearls can come across as classic and soft, diamonds can appear modern and edgy, especially in contrast with pearls. Some of the most famous and memorable jewelry treasures throughout time have featured both diamonds and pearls. In another blog post, we even wrote about Prince’s song “Diamonds and Pearls”, which was a top 10 hit and rose to #1 on the R&B chart. If the pairing can be the subject of a hit song, they can certainly work as a style!
Marie Antoinette’s pearl and diamond pendant, for example, exceeded Sotheby’s auction records by selling for $36 million. The auction house dubbed the collection as “one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to come to auction”. Another one of Marie Antoinette’s pieces was also owned by socialite Barbara Hutton, who received the necklace as a wedding gift from her father in 1933. The striking and memorable necklace features 44 pearls with a diamond and turquoise clasp, and it sold at a Christie’s auction in 1999 for $1.6 million.
Originally owned by Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson, the Cowdray Pearls has 38 gray pearls and a rectangular diamond clasp. The amazing pearls have slight color variations – from brown to gray with purple and green overtones – that give it dimension. When it was put up for auction at Christie’s in London, it sold for more than $3.35 million.
Sold at Christie’s in New York for $7.1 million, the Baroda pearl and diamond necklace commemorated a wedding between Maharani Sita Devi Sahib of Baroda and Maharaja Pratapsingh Gaekwar, who at the time was the second richest Indian prince and the 8th richest man in the world. The seven-strand pearl necklace was later refashioned into a two-strand necklace using only the largest and most perfect pearls from the original version. The Cartier clasp features a cushion-cut diamond.
And who can ignore the La Peregrina pearl with its 500-year-long history? The pearl was found in the Gulf of Panama in the mid-16th century and gifted from Phillip II of Spain to Mary I of England before their marriage. When the queen passed away in 1558, the pearl was returned to the Crown of Spain where it remained for the next 250 years and was worn by multiple Spanish royals. In 1808, Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain and took La Peregrina as well as some other crown jewels. It was then left to Napoleon III, sold to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn and then sold again at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 1969. Actor Richard Burton won the auction and purchased the pearl for $37,000, gifting it to his wife Elizabeth Taylor as a Valentine’s Day present. Later, Taylor commissioned Cartier to reset the pearl in an over-the-top necklace with rubies, diamonds, and more pearls. Taylor’s necklace was auctioned by Christie’s for more than $11 million.
Diamond and Pearl Appreciation
For many reasons, a person who appreciates pearls can easily also appreciate diamonds and vice versa. The two materials may possess different properties and appearances, but they’re both impressive when it comes to their origins and histories. Are you a diamond person who would like to explore the world of pearls? Our pearl education blog posts are a great place to begin your journey. If you’d like to try pearl jewelry for yourself or for a loved one, you can shop our personalized pearl necklaces here.