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The Legend of the Valley of Diamonds

I remember reading about the Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor from the Arabian Nights when I was young.

In the story of his Second Voyage, Sinbad is accidentally marooned on an island. He finds the giant egg of the legendary Roc, a monstrous bird. Hoping to escape the place, he ties himself to the bird's leg when it sat on its egg. The Roc afterwards flew to an impenetrable valley inhabited by giant snakes. It caught one of the serpents in its bill and flew away after Sinbad managed to untie himself.

The valley floor was strewn with diamonds which Sinbad could not help but admire. He hid for time in a cave to stay safe from the snakes. Later on huge chunks of greasy meat began landing in the valley thrown by merchants who had devised a way of getting the diamonds out. The diamonds would stick to the meat which were then carried out by strong eagles back to their nests. The merchants then helped themselves to the gemstones. All Sinbad had to do was tie himself to a large piece of meat and he was soon carried away to the eagle's nest and was saved by a merchant.

Although Sinbad the Sailor didn't exist except in a story, the fables of a legendary valley of diamonds and the use of greasy meat to retrieve the gemstones have existed for thousands of years. The story was brought to the West by Alexander the Great's (356--323 BCE) troops returning from India. It also appears in Marco Polo's (1254 -- 1324) "Book of Marvels" published in 1298. Other versions also come from Persia (modern Iran), China, and even Armenia.

Where this legendary valley was located, if it existed at all, is any one's guess. Perhaps India since the first diamonds were found there in river beds. Or Sri Lanka, the legendary island of gems. The scary parts of the story were likely made up to warn treasure hunters away or at the very least, made a great tale to tell around campfires.

That diamonds are "lipophilic" or fat-liking is however true. Over a century ago, a De Beers employee noticed diamonds did not get wet with water but stuck to grease readily. This characteristic was exploited to separate diamonds from rock using grease tables in the past.

Unfortunately, this same property means the oils from your fingers, as well as cosmetics, soap residues, lotions and so on will also accumulate on diamond jewelry. They will require periodic cleaning.

Photo source

References
Wollamshram.ca 's The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor
American Museum of Natural History's Myths and Legends
Excepts from Berthold Laufer's The Diamond


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2 comments:

  1. Great article.I remember this stories about Sinbad and it was great to read about them once again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Shows how some of these old legends had a kernel of truth in them!

    ReplyDelete

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