During the 16th Century, the wealth of the ruling class grew exponentially, thanks to the treasures that flowed into State coffers, following the discoveries in Africa, America and the Orient. Jewelry enjoyed great refinement in the “Mannerism” period (see picture below), a style of art characterized by unusual effect of scale, lighting and perspective.
Paris and some northern Italian cities were the main market and processing centres for diamonds. From the 17th century until the end of the 18th century only the small, privileged ruling class (the aristocracy) could afford diamonds.
During that era, in the political system of pre-Revolutionary France, the society was divided into three states, and the aristocracy appeared as the most flamboyant, privileged one of all.
The first estate (the Catholic Clergy) did have its own celebration of wealth, with high ranking clerical members lavishly adorned with precious stones, gold, ivory and silk. But the aristocracy surpassed these expressions of wealth by far. These two powerful yet minority groups owned the land by birthright. They were nourished and serviced by the third Estate which comprised of all the people working the land.
With the improvement of the educational system, the discovery of new continents and cultures and the development of industrial technologies, some of these farmers eventually succeeded financially and became a powerful “Bourgeoisie” which took over the regime during and after the French revolution.
Picture this, a french countryside road near Versailles, 1760. Poor malnourished peasants dig in the dirt of an ungrateful soil, praying for crops to grow. A lacquered carriage pushed by gilded white horses is driven by a young prince flanked by young giggling aristocrats. The carriage makes a sudden halt, and as the horses nicker the poor peasants look up and are hypnotized at the view of pale ladies and men covered in feathers, furs, swords, silk brocades and diamonds.
The contrast between these two social groups must have been striking. In comparison with the harsh ungrateful existence of a peasant, aristocrats appeared healthy and happy. This would probably explain why over the decades since their apparition at court, diamonds were suggested to have medicinal properties.
Indeed, surely it was these mysterious shiny stones which brought wealth, health and happiness to their owners! In the course of the 17th century, diamond powder was sold as medicine, undoubtedly causing patients more pain than gain…
But could diamonds scientifically actually improve our health? This historical anecdote brings us to consider diamond for use in several medical applications due to its unique properties.
Some of the hottest trends nowadays in the beauty industry are when high-end, professional salons and spas offer Diamond microdermabrasion treatments based on spa diamond tip equipment. One treatment is called “Diamond Peeling”, in which the aesthetician uses diamond crystals and powder throughout the facial treatment.
DIAMOND hips to hop forever
Diamond coatings have been applied to a number of medical devices in recent years, including temporomandibular joint prostheses, heart valves, and microelectromechanical systems, for the purpose of extending implant lifetime.
DIAMONDS to fight against cancer
Diamond is ideal for biocompatibility, especially in the form of nanodiamonds, which can be used as drug delivery vehicles. Nanodiamonds are diamonds with a size below 1 micrometre. They can be produced by impact events such as an explosion or meteoritic impacts. In 2014, a team in the US showed how nanodiamond-based drug delivery had the potential to overcome drug resistant cancers, including breast and liver cancer. Many tumours resist treatment not because anticancer drugs aren't active, but because cancerous cells actively pump the drug out of the cell before it can take effect.
DIAMONDS for the Blind
Professor Steven Prawer is the director of the Melbourne Materials Institute, a multidisciplinary research initiative dedicated to using advanced materials science and technology to address problems of global significance. (http://materials.unimelb.edu.au). He has a worldwide reputation in advanced diamond science and technology with over 25 years of experience and over 250 scientific publications. He is currently a senior leader one of Australia’s most prestigious national projects dedicated to the development of a bionic eye. 'It's when you need something that is very hard and very biocompatible, very stable and has tunable electronic properties that diamond fits the bill,' says Prawer.
At the heart of the device he and his team are creating is a chip that will be implanted on the retina, and diamond is being used for several essential components. Images captured by a camera attached to a user's glasses will be transmitted to the chip, which will convert these data into electrical impulses to stimulate the optic nerve.
The device will work for people whose blindness is caused by lost photoreceptors, but whose neurons within the eye are still intact. Diseases that fall into this category include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of vision impairment among older people, and retinitis pigmentosa, which affects one in 3000 live births worldwide.
The “visionary” project, which has experienced funding issues, is still alive as of 2016. Scientists, researchers and patients are looking forward to testing results on animals.