Stamped with Diamonds

We have heard of stamps featuring royalty, significant contributors to society, space, sports, movie stars and beyond… But diamonds? Yes, they exist.

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It was 1840 when British Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp was issued. The revolution in steam powered rail transport and industrial printing increased the reach of stamps globally. Now letters with postage stamps could travel faster and in mass scale. This meant not only that the personal letters could be sent across the world, but also information about politics, societal issues, culture, commerce, and investments could now be spread farther and with much ease. Postage stamps, this way, truly revolutionized communication and education.

Diamonds on postage stamps stood as symbols of growth and vision for countries, representing aspirations, stories as well as pride in their natural resources. What could communicate this shining vision better than diamonds?!

Posting sparkles
The legacy of popular diamonds is celebrated as exhibits in museums, or in private auctions and collections. The majority of people never get to behold these natural wonders in person. One of the most unique ways that the socio-cultural impact of diamonds has been celebrated is in postage stamps.

Diamonds adorn postage stamps in countries across the world. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, South Africa are some of the more than 40 countries that feature natural diamonds on stamps. Often deeply entwined with the cultural fabric of the country and people, diamond stamps are a love-letter to mother nature’s most unique wonders.

A Glittering Legacy
The social importance of natural diamonds and the cultural impact it has had all over the world is undeniable. Since they were first discovered, diamonds have been instrumental in communicating life’s most meaningful messages, forging connections and self-expression, and now making an impact where it matters.

In the present day, diamonds not only serve as powerful symbols of expression, they are impacting society in tangible and positive ways. Diamonds are empowering and enriching communities. Diamond producers are actively reducing carbon footprint, conserving water, preserving biodiversity, consistently working towards protecting the environment and playing a crucial role in healthcare, education and, promoting gender equality and inclusivity.

Famous Diamonds on Postage Stamps
A symbol of pride and a celebration of heritage, postage stamps have highlighted some of the most fascinating diamonds of the world. In fact, the world’s most famous and coveted diamonds are recorded for posterity on postage stamps.

Here are some of my favourite diamond postage stamps.
I love the magnificent Cullinan Diamonds on South African postage stamps issued in 1980.

Also breathtaking are the fabulous 2019 South African stamps featuring some of the most celebrated diamonds, like the Eureka, the Star of South Africa, the De Beers, the Excelsior, the Jubilee, the Cullinan, the Golden Jubilee, the Centenary, the Heart of Eternity, the Blue Moon of Josephine, the Millennium Star and the Premier Rose diamond.

The 1971 Soviet stamp featuring the historic table-cut Shah diamond with engraved inscriptions is another stamp that I greatly appreciate. As well, a 2017 Russian stamp of the Orlov diamond. Both the Shah and Orlov diamonds originated from the fabled Golconda region in India.

Diamonds on world postage stamps
Famous Diamonds on world postage stamps
Diamonds on world postage stamps
Famous Diamonds on world postage stamps.
Famous Diamonds on world postage stamps.
Botswana Diamonds postage stamps
A stamp from Botswana depicts a sorter examining a rough diamond. Depicting the transformation process of a diamond, this stamp celebrates diamond mining in Botswana.
Image: Botswana Post.

Talking about my favourite stamps, Belgian diamond stamps always make the cut.

The Diamonds of Antwerp 
It was in the early 15th century that Antwerp gained prominence in the realm of natural diamond trading. With Lodewyk van Berken inventing a new form of diamond polishing tool, the scaife, natural diamonds could be made to sparkle like never before. This invention changed the diamond industry, European nobility flocked to acquire diamonds that were polished with the scaife. As more buyers as well as craftsmen flocked to Antwerp, by the 1890s, a well-known diamond industry had been established in Antwerp.

In fact, Antwerp’s diamond district, also known as the Diamantkwartier or Diamond Quarter, is still the largest diamond district in the world with a turnover of an estimated 54 million dollars every year. Even though much of the cutting and polishing work have been moved to other centers, 50% of the world’s diamonds come back to Antwerp to be cut and polished every single year. 

Diamond postal stamps
A symbol of pride, these celebrated postage stamps often make history.
Image: Antwerp World Diamond Centre

A stamp of ingenuity
In Belgium, “Antverpia 2010” postage stamp is known to be one of the most celebrated ones of all time. With only a handful of postage stamps in the world featuring diamonds, and even rarer featuring a diamond jewellery piece and a living jewellery artist’s work; “Antverpia 2010” postage stamp is one that every collector lust after.

Antverpia 2010 postal stamps
In 2010, the Antverpia 2010 postal stamps were issued to immortalize the significance of diamonds in Antwerp where 50% of the world’s diamonds come to be cut and polished every single year.
Image: Antwerp World Diamond Centre

On April 15, 2010, a special edition diamond stamp was issued by the Belgian Post. A tribute to the 101-carat Bel Canto diamond necklace that I had designed, this stamp was named Antverpia 2010. The HRD Design Awards winning necklace was immortalized as a celebration of the historical significance of diamonds in Antwerp and the crucial role Antwerp plays in the world of diamonds. 

The diamond necklace featured on this stamp was designed by me in collaboration with Diarough N.V, one of the world’s most influential diamond companies based in Antwerp.

diamonds on postage stamp
How it was made! Reena’s hand drawn design blueprints and the ‘Bel Canto’ diamond necklace during fabrication.
Images: Reena Ahluwalia and Thierry Van Dort.

Bel Canto means ‘Beautiful Singing’. My necklace is inspired by the Opera. For me music is all about feelings and emotions. In my design I have attempted to recreate melody, the high and low notes sung by legendary Soprano Maria Callas. I believe that’s what diamonds do so effortlessly, they evoke emotions, transform ideas and express the sublime.

Belgian postage stamp
Award-winning, 101-carat ‘Bel Canto’ diamond necklace by jewellery designer Reena Ahluwalia on “Antverpia 2010”, a special edition Belgian postage stamp.
Image: Reena Ahluwalia and Thierry Van Dort

Stamps as cultural record
Postage stamps preserve history, circulate ideas and connect people and geographies. Just like diamonds have over the ages.

As the digital age advances, the enigmatic world of postage stamps will see changes. Still, the love of personalized letters will ensure that stamps won’t go away. Newer stamps will keep being issued, but some, precious and rare, stand the test of time – much like ethereal natural diamonds. 

Diamond postage stamps
World Postage stamps including key players in the world of diamonds. Diamond postage stamps have varied themes – from rough to polished diamonds to royal diamond jewels, diamond mining, and even movies that feature diamonds like James Bond as well as beloved Disney characters in India.
Images: Israel Post, La Poste – The French Postal Service, The B-post, Deutsche Post, Indian Postal Service, the Royal Mail, BotswanaPost, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Postal Corporation.