Diamond: A Wonderful and Lasting Contribution of India to Mankind


Krishan Lal

National Physical Laboratory

New Delhi-110 012.




Mankind has been fascinated by the beauty and exceptional properties of naturally occurring gems since times immemorial. These prominently include diamonds, sapphire and ruby. Diamond occupies the highest position among gems due to its exceptional physical and chemical properties and aesthetic appeal. It is now well accepted internationally that Indians were the first to discover diamond and understand its various properties and use it in ornaments and other applications. Special techniques were developed in India to process the diamonds for jewellery. Some of these techniques, particularly those involving cleavage along crystallographic planes are amazingly prevalent even today. Presently, diamond has found wide spread applications in several sectors of human activity. Due to their exceptional mechanical, electrical, optical and thermal properties they have great potential for fabrication of solid state devices. Diamond films have been a subject of very intense investigations and have several applications. One of the most widely used applications diamonds is in cutting tools. The present day construction industry in India employs diamond cutting tools in large scale for preparing slabs of stones like granite and marble.


Our understanding of the science of crystals is relatively new. Several concepts about the chemical composition and structure of materials have evolved during the last 300 years or so. If one follows the history of developments in our understanding of diamond crystals, one can learn as to how our understanding of materials has progressed during the modern science era.

In this paper, we shall describe how in India mention of diamond is found in some of the most well-known scriptures. Major land marks in the development of our knowledge about diamonds are also described.

Diamonds: A Great Contribution of India


Several important Indian classics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata have explicit references to diamonds. If one looks at the period of these texts, one can infer about the state of knowledge about diamonds and the extent of their usage in society.