He who carries a diamond on the left side shall be hardy and manly; it will guard him from accidents to the limbs; but nevertheless a good diamond will lose its power and virtue if worn by one who is incontinent or drunken.
~S. M. Tagore
India was the world’s primary source of diamonds from antiquity until the 18th century. The country produced many of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Darya-e Noor, Noor-ol-Ain, Koh-i-Noor, Hope, Regent, Wittelsbach-Graff, Orloff, and Dresden Green diamonds. It also produced a body of knowledge we may collectively call Golkonda diamond lore.
India’s diamonds came from scattered alluvial deposits in the central part of the country. These deposits were collectively called the Golkonda mines, after a large city and trade center located nearby.
The first mention of diamonds in India can be found in the Arthasastra, a Sanskrit text from the 4th century BC. After that time many texts contain references to diamonds giving us insight on how they were to be worn and purified for use in medicines.
According to ancient texts, diamonds could be grouped onto four classes called varnas. Each caste was assigned a particular diamond hue and received benefits if a stone of the appropriate color was worn (Tagore 1879):
“The fruit which is reaped through the celebration of various sacrifices, munificence, and the austerest devotion, is also gained by wearing superior Brahman diamonds [which were ‘white like the conch, waterlily or crystal’]. The better sort of the Kshatriya class [‘red or pink like the eyes of the hare’] bring about uniform success, accession of power, and destruction of foes. First-rate diamonds belonging to the Vaishya caste [‘verdant like the cool plantain leaf’] are productive to their wearers of wisdom, cure, fame and skill in the elegant arts. The higher order of the Sudra class [the grey ‘color of the cleaned sword’] induce benevolence in their master, and make him hale and wealthy.”
~S. M. Tagore
In antiquity, great care was taken to select only gemstones of the best quality for use. Diamonds with poor clarity characteristics could be harmful to the wearer. According to Tagore (1879):
“Authorities in matters of precious stones mention five bad qualities of diamonds; namely, mala [impurity], vindu [spot], rekhá [stripe], trása [tear] and kákapada [crowfoot]. The first defect causes impurity, the second brings down destruction on the wearer, the third renders him apprehensive of snake-bite, the next infuses constant fear into the mind, and the last leads to ruin.
“Diamond spots are divided (according to the respective character of each) into four classes, namely; vindu (or the spot proper), ávarta, parivarta, and jabákriti. A blood-red, circular spot is a vindu, a circular spot situated in the middle is called an ávarta, a simple red speck is entitled a parivarta, while a jabákriti is a blood-red mark shaped like a barley corn. A vindu-marked diamond is inimical to life and property; an ávarta-spotted one gives rise to various fears; a parivarta-specked and a jabákriti-spotted one are fraught with disease.”
According to the Puranas (AD 400–1000) the composition of diamonds influenced the virtues they bestowed on the wearer (Tagore 1879):
“Diamonds vary in the preponderance of one of other of the five primal elements—earth, water, the sky, energy and the air. The diamonds in which earthly matter forms the base are thick while those in which water preponderates are dense, smooth, cool and transparent. Diamonds mainly composed of the sky, are exceedingly flawless, clean and sharp-ridged; those having for their base, energy, are almost always blood red; and those preponderated by the air are exceedingly light, sharp-pointed and rough.”
“The wearing of earthy diamonds leads to universal dominion; and the watery kind brings contentment, riches, fame and renown. The airy sort give heart and gracefulness; and the skyey diamonds bring about the possession of all kinds of wealth. The use of energy-preponderated diamonds adds to puissance, heroism and hope.”
Finally, ancient texts also provided information on the means by which diamonds could be treated or purified for use in medicine. Diamonds were thought to have considerable health benefits. According to Tagore (1879): “Those medicines into the composition of which the diamond dust enters, are like ambrosia; and the imbibition of these imparts adamantine strength to the limbs.”
It was considered dangerous to use impure or unrefined diamonds in medicine. According to Tagore (1879): “Impure diamonds when used in medicine lead to leprosy, pleurisy, jaundice and lameness. It is therefore highly advisable to refine a diamond before using it medicinally.”
The Puranas indicate that stones were purified with heat or fire. Tagore (1879) describes one recipe: “Put the diamond in the juice of kantakári [solanum jaquiri plant], place it in an earthen-pot, and placing another over it, smear the two with hard clay and cow-dung, then burn the whole; this should be repeated seven times. Then steep the diamond in frog’s urine held in a pot composed of zinc and copper, and heat it over and over in fire. The diamond will then have been entirely burnt, and can be reduced to powder.”
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