By Dirk Rendel
It may amaze you to hear this, but diamonds weren’t always the haute couture linchpin that they are today. Indeed, there was a time when they were thought to be beneath the status of the nobleman, much less the king or queen. These were those lovable, carefree days of the Renaissance and late Middle Ages. A magical time when the real gems that were in demand were things like pearls and turquoise. Sure, diamonds were thought to be pretty classy but they definitely weren’t the incredibly desirable treasures they are now. It wasn’t until a certain king in France came to power that diamonds began the climb to the peak of grandeur that they still enjoy to this day.
Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, was easily the most stylish, fashionable monarch who ever existed. When he took control of France in the late 1600s, his reign oversaw the overhaul, as it were, of France’s reputation in Europe. Before Louis, France was a moderately powerful nation but it was one that the rest of the world didn’t care too much about. Italy had previously been the fashion capital of the world and the idea of French tourism wasn’t even formulated yet. It may seem surprising now, considering that everybody thinks of Paris as the chic capital of the world, but this is just a testament to what an impact Louis had on the world.
Within decades of his reign, Paris was transformed. It became the first city to implement outdoor cafes, one of the most recognizable aspects of the city today. During that time the idea of fashion magazines, fashion districts, hair dressers, and even champagne were first introduced. Paris became the first city to have outdoor lighting, the better to shop at night with. But Louis’ most enduring contribution is still, to this day, his love of diamonds.
By the 1670s, diamonds were synonymous with the French Court and they soon spread all over Europe. After all, France had become the fashion capital of the world almost overnight and everything that flowed from Paris or Versailles was guaranteed to be trendy and new. It was an era when the first brilliant cut was introduced, something we’ll learn about very soon. But it is enough to know that as soon as diamonds became the most sought after jewels in the world, they never backslid. Diamonds have been enjoying top status for centuries now and, as it appears now at least, they won’t be relinquishing that honor any time soon.