Celebrating our 60th edition seems like the perfect opportunity to discover a little more about diamonds - the ultimate “luxe” gemstone. Jewellery designer, gemologist and diamond expert, Marianne Pughe, from Saunders and Pughe Goldsmiths in Corbridge, gives us a lesson in dazzling diamonds...


Diamonds are composed of pure carbon, which has been crystalized in the cubic crystal system. Less heat and pressure can cause carbon to crystalize in the hexagonal crystal system resulting in graphite.

The age of a diamond is found by studying the inclusions which are found within. These are tiny impurities which can give lots of information about where the diamonds have come from and how long ago they formed.

The oldest known diamonds are 3,500 million years old, they formed within the earth’s fiery mantle long before the oxygen rich atmosphere which supports life had developed.


The rare beauty and indestructible quality of diamonds has fascinated mankind throughout history. One of the earliest legends is of ‘The Valley of the Diamonds’, dating back to the 4th century.

In a distant desert land there was a deep inaccessible valley, at the bottom of which lay an array of beautiful diamonds, guarded by deadly and ferocious serpents, the king of these lands would send his subjects on doomed attempts to retrieve the precious treasures but it always ended in death.

The loyal subjects deduced a way to get the diamonds, to please their king, they flung chunks of meat into the ravine, eagles would dive down to grab the meat which the diamonds would stick to and the clever, king’s men climbed up to the eagle nests to retrieve the diamonds.

Because of their purity and durability, diamonds have long been associated with protection and good fortune. There is one notable exception, the natural blue 45.52ct ‘Hope’ diamond which is said to be cursed and will bring grave misfortune to the wearer. It has passed through many hands in its tumultuous history, closely followed by death and tragedy.

It now resides in the Smithsonian Museum in America where it can be viewed by the public.


Diamonds are carried to the earth’s surface during violent volcanic outbursts, where liquid magma forces and smashes its way to the surface through volcanic pipes and chimneys, carrying the precious diamond crystals along with it.

Sometimes these diamond bearing pipes are eroded by wind and water over thousands of years and the diamond crystals are carried far and wide, tumbling along in fast flowing rivers which in time dry up and are covered with sedimentary rocks where the diamonds lay buried until they are discovered.

The earliest diamonds came from secondary sources in India, Borneo, Indonesia and Brazil. African diamonds were not discovered until 1867.


Although a rigorous system of grading is applied to diamonds to assess their value, no two diamonds are ever truly identical. Like snowflakes, each stone will have unique characteristics in the way the light reflects through and around the interior, splitting, flashing and dancing with spectral colours.

Diamonds are graded by using a very specific scale often referred to as ‘The Four Cs’.

Colour: The grade of colour, either the relative ‘whiteness’, or the rarity or desirability of fancy colours.

Clarity: Clarity or relative freedom from inclusions.

Cut: The style and quality of cut.

Carat weight: The weight of the stone. Anyone selling diamonds should be knowledgeable about the finer intricacies of ‘The Four Cs’.

Saunders and Pughe takes great pride in giving the best of advice on diamonds, whether it be showing a customer a special selection of loose stones or re-setting an existing older piece.

Designing is always sympathetic to the stone, to show it off in the most beautiful way. Marianne Saunders and Robert Pughe, along with their dedicated sales team, have been selling special diamond jewellery to the people of the Tyne Valley and beyond since they opened their shop in Corbridge in 2000.

Marianne is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain with FGA and DGA qualifications and Robert is a fine jewellery goldsmith. Saunders and Pughe Goldsmiths are members of the Company of Master Jewellers and The National Association of Jewellers.

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