Carat is one of the 4C’s of diamonds and is considered to be one of the most essentials factors influencing its value.
But how did it become the global standard for measuring gemstones? How is it related to ‘Carob’?
It all began thousands of years ago when traders – not just gemstone traders but all traders – set out to define a standard for measuring a unit of weight. It had to be uniform and readily available to everyone. So they turned towards natural products like plants to set identical standards.
At that time, there were two plants that were grown all over the world – wheat and carob. They were the staple food and hence readily available across the globe.
The carob seeds were believed to be remarkably similar irrespective of where they were grown. Each seed was identical to another and so, it became a standard unit of measurement.
People would place the object on one side of the scale and add carob seeds to the other side till it balanced. The number of seeds on the balance described the weight of the object.
The carob scale was adopted far and wide by everyone and continued to be the most popular standard till early 19th century. By 1817, the trade routes had evolved and cultural exchanges began. Along with the intangible exchanges, the British measurement system, then known as “The Old English Weights and Measures”, was also introduced.
In order to equate the carob scale with the British version, each carob seed was individually weighed. For the most part, they weighed between 0.1885 grams and 0.2150 grams, which yielded an average of 200 milligrams per carob. Linguistic influences and accent differences did the rest of the work in converting “carob” to “carat”.
Since the carat is a sensitive measure – it measures milligrams instead of grams – it became widely associated with gemstones and diamonds.
The “Karat”, on the other hand, refers to the purity of gold. It’s best not to mix up the two concepts.
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