Arriving in Paphos, in 1589, Seigneur de Villamont, Chevalier of the Order of Jerusalem made the following observation: … it is half-ruined so that it profits little by the beauty of its site and the fruitfulness of the soil. There are found here a great quantity of very beautiful stones called Bafo diamonds: some of them indeed are beautiful enough to deceive many a lapidary.The peasants put them aside and sell them very cheaply. Baffa diamonds were mentioned by various travellers who visited the island over the centuries such as Cotovicus, a Doctor of Law from Utrecht who enumerates the minerals he saw on the island “in many places abundance of jasper, agate, emerald, crystal, red and white coral, other precious stones, and diamonds, though inferior in hardness and value to those of the East”. William Lithgow around 1620 and Cornelius Van Bruyn at the end of the seventeenth century and Prof. Hayman from Layden University, in the early eighteenth-century comment in a similar way. The latter wrote: “Near Baffe are mines of rock crystal, and a French merchant there showed me a most beautiful stone, which might pass for a diamond, and such stones being found in the mines here are commonly called Baffe diamonds. Ancient historians and geographers speak of various mines in Cyprus both of gold and silver, and gems.”
In fact, the Baffa diamonds were actually very high-quality quartz rock crystal. Quartz is a very hard crystalline mineral that has been used since antiquity for jewellery and is regarded today as a semi-precious stone. So, it appears that these diamonds/quartz were a good source of income to the Cypriots and impressed the travellers. Legend has it that Selim II wanted to conquer the island of Cyprus for three reasons: to enjoy the Cypriot wines, to procure Eleonora falcons for his hunting expeditions and to have the Baffa diamonds which he believed very precious. A piece of Baffa diamond can be seen at CVAR on the ground floor.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus)