Of course, the answer to the last question is that diamonds are used to cut and polish other diamonds!
But before getting there, let’s consider the deliciousness of secret and arcane knowledge, and why we are magnetically drawn to what we aren’t supposed to know, like secret handshakes, passwords and whispered gossip of all sorts.
In the heady post war years, diamond dealing had an old world flavor, and its attendant prestige made diamond lore endlessly fascinating. Who could be immune to legends of famous diamond jewelry given to famouus royalty, and clebrities by ardent suitors, or to tales of daring thefts from faraway museums of one-of-a-kind diamond coronets, or the pricelessness of the crown jewels of whatever realm?
Along with epic films in Technicolor, there arose a new industry with a decidedly historical basis: costume jewelry, related both to archeological discoveries as well as movies.
But costume jewelry, snobbishly referred to as paste, wasn’t quite the thing when embarking on a new life-adventure such as marriage.
So the diamond engagement ring with a real diamond became the symbol of a rosy future for American youth. And because the world looked at whatever Americans did, the diamond ring became a universal symbol as well.
In optimistic, post war America, diamond engagement rings, along with refrigerators, stoves and air conditioners became an emblem for success. Every girl wanted one, and every boy believed he had to provide one!
In those non-descript offices on 47th Street, diamond dealers sat around thinking up ways to increase sales, and get an edge in a traditionally backward and overly competitive secretive business. It couldn’t really be called an industry, then.
The Amsterdam manufacturers had been decimated, and then resurfaced in Antwerp, Belgium. Just as Wall Street was home to the Stock Exchange, Antwerp had its Bourse.
But labor in Western Europe was expensive, and suddenly, casting about for alternatives, there was a fledgling diamond industry growing up in faraway Bombay (as Mumbai was called then).
By the 1960s, courageous souls were making the trek to buy diamonds mined in South Africa and manufactured in India. It was a daunting proposition, but a few intrepid souls decided that the risk was worth the 26-hour journey to the other side of the world.
(to be continued)