Amongst all precious stones, the Diamond is unquestionably "King." A polished diamond, set in a ring or necklace, or even in a royal crown, is an exquisite jewel; it is also an expensive one.

Man has known of the diamond for thousands of years. One of the twelve precious stones that the Kohen Godol (High Priest) wore in the Choshen (Breast Plate) of the Ephod (garment of the High Priest), representing the twelve Tribes of Israel, was a diamond.

The diamond is known to be the hardest and strongest stone. The word "diamond" is derived from a Greek word meaning "unconquerable."

Until about 130 years ago, the diamond was very rare. In the year 1866, the children of a farmer in South Africa found a stone that sparkled and shone, and they played with it, and kept it among their toys. When their mother noticed the brilliant stone, she gave it away to a neighbor, who sold it to a peddler for a few pounds. That stone turned out to be a pure diamond that weighed over 21 carats.

People began to find more diamonds in the same area. In 1869, a shepherd boy sold a diamond of over 83 carats for the price of 500 sheep, ten cows, and a horse.

The news of the finding of these treasures spread like wildfire. There were soon several thousand "treasure hunters" near the River Vaal in South Africa, where the aboveÄmentioned diamonds had been found.

A couple of years later, began the digging in the now-famous diamond field in Kimberly. Here, also, the first diamond was found by accident.

A few "hunters" came upon the spot, where later the town of Kimberly was founded. They set up a farm. This was in the Summer of 1871. One of the workers did something wrong, and as a punishment, was sent out to dig in a field nearby. As he was digging, he discovered diamonds.

There was a rush on the field, and about 1,600 men bought shares in it, although it was only 10 acres in size. Everybody started digging on his own property, and carried the ore and pulled it up by chains to the mine surface; there the "ore" was washed and filtered, in order to get to the diamond stones. The mine field was turned into a thick net of chains; it hummed like a bee hive, everyone working for himself, not thinking about his neighbor. Quite often, the thin walls between the mines fell in, because there was no system or cooperation. Many times, one or another miner struck an underground stream that flooded his mine, and also the neighboring mines.

Two capable men dreamed of creating a monopoly of the diamond mines for themselves. One of them was an Englishman, Cecil Rhodes. He started his career by renting out water pumps to the various "diggers," and bit by bit started to acquire small shares in the profits. Also the other man, Barney Barnatto started buying more and more shares. A few years later Cecil Rhodes bought out Barney Barnatto, and thus became the sole owner of the famous "De Beer" mines. De Beer was the name of a South African family to whom the fields originally belonged, before the discovery of the diamonds.

Rhodes paid 26 million dollars to become the sole owner of the diamond mines. The corporation that he formed "De Beer Consolidated Mines Limited," nowadays controls the production and price of diamonds throughout the entire world.

Nowadays, 5 tons of diamonds are mined yearly, most of which goes for industrial purposes, not for jewelry. As aforementioned, the diamond is the hardest material in the world, and is used for many purposes, such as cutting iron and steel, sawing stones, polishing, grinding and scraping different kinds of instruments, etc.

The industrial diamond, although useless as jewelry, is as vital a part of today's mechanical industry, as electricity or other forms of power. In the year 1957, for instance, the U.S.A. imported 15 million carats worth of diamonds. Out of this amity, less than 2 million (1,800,000) carats worth were jewelry; the rest - more than 13 million carats, or almost 3 tons - were industrial diamonds.

The diamond, as a jewel, however brings up to 1,000 dollars or more, for a perfect quality, per carat, whereas an industrial diamond brings only 4 dollars per carat.

The South African diamond mines produce the majority of the gem diamonds. The Belgian Congo (in Central Africa) has the largest amount of the industrial diamonds. In 1957, 13 million carats were mined, but 95% of them is a cheaper quality industrial diamond, that is ground to powder and used for polishing purposes. The African continent as a whole produces 97% of the world's total production of diamonds.

World production is over 23 million carats yearly. Tanganyika, Ghana, French West Africa and other parts of Africa also produce a fair amount of diamonds, but they are all sold through the De Beer firm.

One of the first countries where diamonds were discovered was India. Diamonds were known there over 2,000 years ago. According to legend, the famous "Kohinoor" ("mountain of light") diamond, which is now one of the treasures of the British Crown, was discovered in India.

There was once a diamond with a legend attached, called "the great Mogul," and it weighed 787 carats. About 300 years ago, it disappeared, and was cut up into smaller stones. One part Of it weighing 280 carats (also no "baby") turned up in the crown of an Indian Rajah.

Amongst the Russian treasures, there is a diamond from the crown jewels of the former Czars. It is called "Orloff," and weighs 220 carats. A French soldier stole it from a Hindu temple, from the eye of a statue that stood there. This took place in the year 1700, or thereabouts. The stone changed hands many times, with plenty of bloodshed involved, till it arrived in Amsterdam in 1774.

There, a Russian prince, Orloff, bought it (for about a half a million dollars) and gave it as a present to Queen Catherine the Second. Some believed that it was also a part of the lost "Great Mogul."

One of the most famous of all diamonds is the "Hope" diamond, a rare, deep blue stone. It involved the tragic deaths of twelve people; it also caused tragedies in two royal families. It is part of a bigger stone, that belonged to the French King, Louis the Fourteenth. It was stolen at the time of the French Revolution. At a later date, it turned up (44 1/2 carats large) in England, where a banker, Henry Thomas Hope, bought it in the year 1800, or so.

Later on, the Turkish Sultan, AbdulÄHamid, bought it, and gave it to his favorite wife to wear around her neck. He also seemed to have "bad luck" from it, as he lost his throne. The stone now belongs to a diamond merchant in New York.

The biggest diamond in the world was found in the "Premier" diamond mine in Transvaal, South Africa. This new diamond mine was discovered in 1902 by a certain Thomas Cullinan. Three years later, the foreman, Frederick Wells, noticed a ray of light in the mud of the open mine; with his pocket knife, he dug up the biggest diamond in the world - 3,106 carats, or 1 pound and 6 ounces in weight.

The Transvaal Government presented the "giant" to King Edward the Seventh of England. The stone was named "Cullinan " The king chose the famous diamond cutter, J. Osher of Amsterdam, to cut the stone.

This expert studied the stone for months on end. A knock in the wrong place would splinter the stone to pieces.

The responsibility and strain were indescribable. A few times he fainted in the middle of his task. Finally, he split it very successfully into nine large royal diamonds, and 100 smaller jewels. The largest stone weighed 530 carats and was set into the Royal Scepter. The stone bears the name "First Star of Africa."

The "Second Star of Africa" from the Cullinan diamond weighs about 130 carats, and adorns the British Royal Crown, which is worn at the Coronation.

To cut and polish a large raw diamond can take an expert a whole year. Extreme patience is needed, expert workmanship, and iron nerves. Each diamond has its own peculiarity. The diamond cutter studies the inner "muscles" or grain of the stone, makes numerous marking lines around the stone, so as to obtain the largest stone and the smallest number of little stones as possible; because the larger the stone, the bigger the price.

It sometimes happens that an expert can split the stone with one bang of the hammer at the correct point, as J. Osher did with the Cullinan stone (and fainted on the spot). He was later informed that the blow was highly successful. Nowadays, the diamonds are mostly cut by special saws. These are round wheels, paper thin, which are covered with diamond dust mixed with olive oil, and they spin mechanically at a great speed, sawing the diamond very slowly, often for many weeks. Only one diamond can cut another diamond, because there is nothing harder than a diamond.

How much patience and love is accorded a "raw diamond" until it becomes a beautiful jewel that shines with all the colors of the rainbow!

The Baal Shem Tov, whose birthday is on the 18th of Elul, remarked very aptly that every Jew is a "diamond," because a Jew possesses the natural qualities of a diamond; he is hard and determined (a stiff-necked people"), and unconquerable in his deep inner belief in the Almighty; the inborn Jewish traits and qualities shine like rays.

But, just as a diamond is raw and dull when taken out of the earth, and only after being washed, scrubbed and polished does the "real" diamond emerge, so is the case very often with a Jew. His good traits are hidden deep down inside him, under a layer of "mud," that needs to be washed off and cleaned, until the inner sparkle shines through to the surface. Here also, much patience and love is needed, great Ahavas Yisroel (Love for a fellow Jew) to bring out that which is good in the other Jew. One has to hit the right "spot." Moreover, just as a diamond is needed to cut and polish another diamond, so is it with us Jews. It is only in a truly Jewish environment that a Jew can develop his highest qualities.