CUTTING AND POLISHING
has been shown in the opening chapter of this work that fancy has
still, and probably must forever have, a free range for its surmise
when and how the first diamond crystal was picked from the river-shore
wash of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Equally vague and conjectural must be
any effort to fix the period when a rough or natural diamond was first
artificially ground or polished. It is only certain that some rude
polishing, at least, was essential to the revelation of any notable
beauty in the diamonds of India; for the surface of these crystals is
covered with a grayish white film or incrustation, veiling their
refulgence so completely that the rough stones are scarcely more
ornamental than common quartz pebbles.
was in view of this obscuring that the apostle of deportment, the Earl
of Chesterfield, wrote to his son: " Manners must adorn knowledge and
smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough diamond, it may do
very well in a closet by way of curiosity and also for its intrinsic
value." 1 A contemporary of this high authority,
Dr. Samuel Johnson, was able to controvert this dictum by demonstrating
that knowledge can rise from obscurity without any adornment of
manners, but polish is indispensable to the revelation of the latent
beauties of the rough diamond.
Indian tradition runs back romantically five thousand years
to the first gleam of the Koh-i-nur or "Mountain of Light"
in the serpench of a chief who fell in the great battle described
1 Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield, July I, 1748.