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Engraved Diamonds

( Originally Published 1911 )



The third stone of the second row in the Jewish High Priest's breastplate, according to the biblical translation, was a diamond, and in common with the others had the name of a tribe of Israel engraved upon it. The name given to this stone in the ancient writings, " Jahalom," may have represented the diamond. Some Hebrew scholars think it did. More, think the name stood for some other stone, probably agate. It is possible that the diamond was intended, though the stone used may have been another but similar stone, as the ancients undoubtedly confused different colorless trans-parent stones with the diamond. The supposed diamond might have been white zircon, topaz or rock crystal, though thought to be diamond. If the stone was really diamond, the art of engraving diamonds must be one of those ancient arts which were later lost, for conclusive evidence does not exist of engraved diamonds earlier than the sixteenth century. It seems probable that either the " Jahalom " of the breastplate did not signify diamond, or if it did, that the stone was one of similar appearance only and not what it was supposed to be, for all the engraved diamonds known, have come to knowledge since the date generally set for the discovery of the art.

It is said that Jacopo or Como da Trezzo, or his pupil, Clement Birazo, discovered the art of engraving the diamond at Milan in 1556. According to Blum, Ambrosius Caradossa was the first to sculpture it. A specimen of Jacopo da Trezzo's work, set in a ring, was exhibited in the Italian section of the Paris Exposition of 1867, and another by the same artist, on which the arms of Charles V are engraved, is in existence. Streeter says that the Duke of Bedford has one with the head of the philosopher Posidonius. He also mentions a portrait of the Spanish prince, Don Carlos, by Clement Birazo; the arms of Queen Mary of England by Jacobus Thronus; a signet of Mary of Modena, Queen of James II, with an interlaced cipher M. R. surmounted by a crown; five fine examples, of which four are signets, in a collection at Florence, consisting of one which be-longed to Catherine de Medici, with the monogram M. C. and a coronet; one with the Medici shield crowned; one with the crowned arms of Portugal and another small one with a shield, arms and coronet. Three in the Hope collection have the portrait of a philosopher, the head of Emperor Leopold II and one with an en-graved cross. A thin stone with the head of Napoleon was exhibited in the Paris Exposition of 1867. In the Streeter & Co. collection was an old marquise ring which formerly belonged to Marie Antoinette. On an oblong diamond in the center was engraved " Marie."

Old records show that on January 16, 1628-9, 267 was paid to Francis Walwyn for cutting, polishing and engraving the arms of Charles I with the initial letters of the Queen on each side, upon a diamond. This was the signet of Queen Henrietta Maria. There is an-other of Walwyn's, a signet ring of Charles I when he was Prince of Wales, in the collection of gems at Windsor Castle. It has the Prince of Wales' plume of feathers cut in it.



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