The diamond and coral trade at its
We have seen that the merchants of London consigned to India coral, precious stones, and silver, for the purchase of diamonds. (After 1750 another method was evolved of transferring to India the means needed by the trade: we shall return to this later.) Every year, between November and March, the period preceding the sailing season to India, a group of merchants applied to India House for permission to transport coral, silver, and precious stones to India for the purchase of diamonds. After 1720 the handling of these applications became a matter of routine. Rarely was any limitation imposed. In 1755 Moses Montefiore was allowed to export a quantity of coral on condition that there was enough shipping space, and a similar condition was attached to all licences issued that year and again in 1760. 1 Generally there was no need for such a qualifying clause because ships used to sail to India half empty. In this respect too the coral-diamond trade fitted in well with the interest of the Company — the bulky coral was taken on the outward journey, when ships had space enough to spare, while the diamonds, taken on the return journey, when ships were fully laden, presented no problem of storage. Normally the applications were approved without exception, and the names of the exporters and the contents of the licences were registered in the minute books of the Court of Directors. After receiving the licence, the exporter paid the usual fees and sent his goods or silver to India House in Leadenhall Street. There they were examined and sealed and the sign of the exporter — often consisting of his initials enclosed by a Shield of David — was put on the boxes. 2 The consignments were then loaded on East Indiamen which sailed to India in early spring, arriving there during the summer.
The coral needed for the India trade was usually bought at Leghorn; often it was the property of Leghorn merchants who sent it to India through their agents at London. Consignments