Diamonds are forever, they’re a girl’s best friend and they’re the birthstone for April, what can’t they do? Herkimer diamonds and “original” diamonds are stunningly similar in their appearance, even if they are quite different in a scientific sense. In the times before we knew all about quartz varieties and crystal structures, herkimer diamonds and diamonds were seen as sister stones. They now share the role of April birthstone and herkimer stones are by far the more accessible gem.
The Meaning and History of Herkimer Diamonds
Diamonds were first discovered around 6,000 years ago in India. They were found in soil deposits along some rivers and were quickly noticed and appreciated for their shine and quality. The stones became known for their use in religious shrines and objects, with the gems said to bring with them a touch of the divinity they represented. It was along the old Silk Road that diamonds first left India, heading both East and West towards Europe and China. Unsurprisingly customers all the way down the Silk Road were very impressed by the quality of the stone and demand for diamonds shot up. They were also at times said to ward off evil spirits and help in healing.
The first diamond ring to be given as a sign of love was in 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Duchess Mary of Burgundy. This marriage between two massively powerful nobles (which ended up causing a whole war) set a trend among the rich and powerful of Europe where a diamond ring was a symbol for marriage and betrothal at the very highest level. It was not actually up until the early 1700s that the first source of diamonds outside of India was found. Some small deposits in Brazil were found fairly deep into the Amazon rainforest, but the rough terrain and small deposits meant that India was still the world’s diamond favourite.
That was until 1867, when a 15-year old boy named Erasmus Jacobs found a 21ct diamond on the Orange River, just outside Hopetown, South Africa. The stone was sent to the Civil Commissioner, Lorenzo Boyes, for examination and he said quite simply “I believe it to be a diamond.” This led to a rush of miners and prospectors to the area, who had set up Kimberly Mine by 1871. The massive new supply of diamonds from South Africa made them more accessible to “regular” people and allowed other gems to gain popularity as prized stones. This was when other stones like rubies and emeralds became equally popular for use in wedding rings.
Herkimer diamonds were discovered at a similar time, but on a different continent. They take their name from Herkimer County in New York State, USA. Miners were digging into the dolomite limestone rocks of the area and found a stone which looked to them suspiciously like diamond.
Where does Herkimer diamond come from?
The name Herkimer diamond is in fact a region-specific term, as only stones mined in Herkimer County can be called Herkimer diamonds. There are of course similar stones mined elsewhere, but they are usually either referred to as “place-name” diamonds or by the much less catchy “double-point quartz crystals”. They are found under the large dolomite limestone reserves which sit across much of the Mohawk River Valley, which is named after the Mohawk tribe of Native Americans.
Herkimer Diamond - April Birthstone
The Properties of Herkimer Diamond
As a variety of quartz, herkimer diamond is similar in build to its sister gems of amethyst, citrine and others. They sit at a comfortable 7 on the Mohs scale, with that number dropping slightly with any impurities in the gem. Their exquisite clearness is actually a by-product of how slowly they were formed. This slow process allowed the quartz crystals to take their time forming and avoid almost all impurities, keeping them clear/
Herkimer Diamond - the April Birthstone
Diamonds began their association with April as the traditional gemstone for the star sign Aries. Over time they became the stone association with the month as a whole. Herkimer diamonds picked up this association from the very start and they are now both accepted as stones for April.
Mystical Properties of Herkimer Diamond
Diamonds have been said to have all kinds of powers over the centuries. They were said to ward off evil when worn, they were said to help with healing wounds and they were said to cure illness when ingested. After the tradition of wedding rings was born, they also held notions of true love and loyalty. This meaning has also been passed on to other gems which are often used in wedding rings.
Interesting facts about Herkimer Diamond
1. 92% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in Surat, Gujarat, India
2. Space diamonds have been found on some meteorite
3. Diamond comes from the Greek “ἀδάμας” (adámas) or unbreakable
4. The diamonds which are in the British Crown Jewels were once one massive gem
5. The artwork Aurora Butterfly of Peace is made of 240 individual diamonds
Caring for your Herkimer Diamond jewellery
Much like the other quartz varieties, herkimer diamond is a tough gem. It isn’t likely to get scratched by other gems, but it can scratch softer stones if they are stored together. Heat and exposure to sunlight won’t discolour the gem, they’re clear to start off with, but over long periods it will damage the gem internally. This also goes for strong chemicals which will really do some damage to herkimer diamonds if they come into contact.
Raw Herkimer Diamond Crystals