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Monday 10 March 2014

Shiny pieces of eternity: Part II

The romance of jewelry is a well documented love affair. Do you remember watching a movie, in which the protagonist does not propose marriage to his beloved with a diamond? Jewelry, people say, helps us express those emotions, that we cannot express with words. How though, did this trend come to be? In our first part, we examined the evolution of jewelry from the ancient to the middle ages. This part will continue that trend and also answer the question, who invented the trend of proposing with a diamond ring?

In the medieval times:

The medieval times were among the darkest times in human history. Also known as the dark ages, they were a time of religious persecution and oppression. It was also at this time that the world got its first taste of quality jewelry. The Turks having conquered Constantinople, in 1453, had barred the land trading route between Europe and Asia. This fuelled the era of  European seafaring, in the hope of finding an alternate route to the Indies and Asia. It was around this time that Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the continent of America and with it, her vast untapped mineral reserves became available to the Europeans for the very first time.

From the ‘new’ world came vast quantities of gold, newer unexplored minerals and stones like jade and rubies. This led to a boom of sorts, where newer and more intricate jewelry started being fashioned for the wealthy, those of aristocratic leanings and for kings. The story of how Louis XIV had his royal jeweler fashion a new cut of diamond shaped like his amour’s lips is legendary. So was the Russian Royal family’s obsession with the famed Faberge egg.

But probably the most famous of all the royal associations is that of the British Royal family’s with the Kohinoor. Arguably the most famous gem in the world, the Kohinoor was acquired by Queen Victoria, after the Queen’s proclamation of 1858, that formalised British rule in India. The Kohinoor was part of the reparations the Indians were levied with for inciting and participating in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. A list of the owners (erstwhile) of the gem is a virtual who’s who of world history, from Nadir Shah, to Shahjehan and then the Queen of England.

In modern times:

Jewelry has evolved to being more of a style statement today. “Diamonds and rap have become almost synonymous. The bling tradition, where the more ice you have on your person means the higher your social standing is a direct correlation between hip-hop and diamonds,” says Lydia Dunham, a celebrity stylist, “Some of the biggest consumers of diamonds are the modern royalty, like movie stars and A-list celebrities.” Today, you aren’t in love until and unless you are displaying a one-of-a-kind diamond ring. This trend was popularised by the De Beers Diamond Company. Likening diamonds to eternal love was a marketing masterstroke. Infusing popular culture with diamonds saw the golden age (pun intended) of the trade come into being. The line, “Diamonds are forever”, changed the way we perceive diamonds.

Jewels in popular culture have been celebrated as the ultimate symbols of love. So much have they pervaded our lives that we’ve named movies, books and even children after them. The use of jewelry these days is, as a unique reflection of your personal. There may have been wars fought to secure jewels, but for one thing, they will always remain an intensely personal experience!

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