When Were Diamonds First Discovered?

Diamonds were first discovered in India more than 2000 years ago. For centuries the country remained the only significant source of diamonds.

Some of the most famous diamonds in the world came from these early Indian mines including the Koh-i-Noor which is part of the Crown Jewels and is on display in the Tower of London. It also includes the Hope, a diamond surrounded by superstition which now resides in the Smithsonian Museum.

When Were Diamonds First Discovered?

The Different Diamond Mines and Localities

By the mid 18th Century the supply of diamonds from early Indian mines was virtually exhausted but now the appetite for these gems was primarily being fuelled by diamonds from Brazil where they had been discovered in about 1725 by miners panning for gold.

And so it remained until sometime in late 1866 or early 1867 when 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs found an attractive looking stone on the ground at the De Kalk farm in South Africa and unwittingly changed the story of diamonds forever.

Once that stone was identified as a diamond (subsequently named the Eureka), news of his discovery spread and mining in the area soon began in earnest. By 1872, the annual output of diamonds from South Africa was approximately triple that of the Brazilian mines peak production.

This huge increase in supply meant that for the first time diamonds were available to those other than Royalty and the very wealthy and the fashion for diamond set jewellery became widespread.

New South African deposits were found continuously throughout the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th Century, the most famous of which is probably the Kimberly mine, also known as the Big Hole which is rather fitting for a pit so huge it can be seen from space.

The early years of the 19th Century saw diamonds found in other African countries primarily Zaire (now Congo), Namibia, Angola and Botswana all of which quickly became significant diamond producers and remain so to this day.

In more recent times, the major new locations diamonds have been found are Russia, Australia and Canada which between them have contributed hundreds of millions of carats to the diamond trade over the last 50 years.

The Different Diamond Mines and Localities