FolkloreGem Lore

Folklore of Diamonds

Diamonds: Toys of the rich and oddly attractive for curses (see: Hope Diamond, among others). Because we really like shiny things and because it has a few unique properties that set it apart from other gems, the folklore of diamonds is somewhat distinct.

Table of Contents

Origin Story

I’ve seen a few reported but none that I’ve been able to trace very far back.

One is that “the diamond was first formed by Jupiter, who turned into stone a man known as Diamond of Crete, for refusing to forget him after he had ordered all men to do so.” (Farrington, 71)

Another story, also associating the diamond with lightning, is that it “was sometimes believed to owe its origin to the thunderbolt”(Kunz, 70) though this could be a reference to Zeus. 

Attributes

Many. Mostly to do with its hardness, which was legendary even in Ancient Rome. Pliny included an extensive section on it in his Naturalia, including that the only way to break it involved the warm blood of a goat and that it was capable of interfering with magnets. Both of these persisted for centuries. Beyond that, we also find the belief that it repelled/detected poison and made one courageous when worn on the left arm. In the 1500s, Leonardus writes in Speculum Lapidum about several of these attributes:

Adamas preciosissimus lapis, colorem ferrugineu tersum habens, ac quasi Cristalli, cuius quantitas nunquam maior quantitate auellane reperta est, cum nulli materiase caedat, nec igni, nec ferro, omnias contemnat, ex graeca interpretatione nome sumpsit, quod est indomita virtus.

Ponut aliquita tum mollescere a tepido hyrci sanguine, quod fabulosum esse existimo, cum plures ictu mallei frangi viderim. Nec aliquid tam durum reperitur, quin ab Adamante patiatur, mirum est, ut fertur, et magneti contrariatur, ipsam ligando ne ferrum atrahat, cuius sex species a doctoribus magis notae dictae a locis in quibus inueniunt ponuntur, Nam Indicus, Arabicus, Syrtheus, Macedonicus, Aethyopicus, Ac Cyprcus […]

Omnium specierum virtus est venena repllere. Tamen ipse potatus, mortale venenum existit. Venefecis artibus resistit, vanos metus expellir, iurgia ac rixas vincere facit. Lunaticis ac repletis daemone prodest. Ligaitus sinistro lacerto, hostes vincere facit. Indomitas bestias humiliat, incursionibus fantasmatum ac incuborum subuenit. In agendas rebus gestatem, audacem virtuosumos efficit.

Diamond, most precious stone, having the color of clear iron and as if of crystal, of which quantity nothing greater than a hazelnut has been found, which is cut with no material, neither fire nor iron, it despises all. The name is given from the Greek interpretation, which is the indomitable virtue.

Some hold that it can be softened with the warm blood of a goat, which I hold to be a fable because I have seen many shatter being hit by a mallet. Nothing is found to be so hard, which from the Diamond is endured. It is a wonder, if supported, that it is contrary to magnets, such that being bound it will not attract iron. There are 6 species noted by great doctors and are called in the place in which they are found: India, Arabia, Syria, Macedon, Ethiopia, and Cyprus […]

All species have the virtue of repelling poison.(Tamen ipse potatus, mortale venenum existit….I don’t know) It resists the skill of the poisoner, expels vain fear, makes to conquer quarrels and disputes. It is useful to lunatics and those filled with demons. It conquers enemies when bound on the left arm. It humbles indomitable beasts, assists with phantom incursions and nightmares. Carrying it while doing things, it gives courage and future.

Bibliography

Farrington, Oliver Cummins (1903). Gems and Gem Minerals. Mumford.

Kunz, George F. (1913). The curious lore of precious stones. Lippincott.

Leonardo, Camilo (1533) Speculum Lapidum, (Latin)

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