Antique Diamonds Cuts
A BRIEF HISTORY
Cuts and settings for gemstones and diamonds have morphed as much as the political and social landscape during the past centuries. Well into the early 19th century, all antique diamonds were hand-cut and polished. Technology and machines capable of near perfection were not yet available.
Like fashion, different centuries and eras favored a variety of cuts of diamonds and gemstones. Also, as tools and knowledge evolved, so too did the cuts of diamonds.
Antique diamonds are each slightly different in shape and, often, facet sizes and structures. Only in recent generations, perfection has won out. In the process, diamonds have lost much of their individual personality and charm.
Old diamonds often possess brilliance, life, and character which no modern diamond can compare.
The aim of polishing (or cutting) is to bring out the natural color and refraction inherent in each stone. Minimizing flaws or reducing the less-than-ideal qualities is also an important factor in shaping a gem.
Below is a broad overview of the evolution of the cut diamond beginning around the Renaissance period.
POINTED CUT DIAMONDS
One of the earliest cuts of diamonds was the pointed diamond, sometimes referred to as a writing diamond. Polished with very few facets, almost the entire original eight-sided crystal of the diamond is left intact. There are usually four facets that lead to a pyramid shape. Popular in the 15th - 16th centuries, this cut flourished for generations. However, they are rare to find today.
TABLE CUT DIAMONDS
A table cut diamond is aptly named for the fact that the top is flat, like an ordinary table. Each of the four sides has a simple facet similar to a bevel. These diamonds, although found in the 16th century, were most often utilized from the 17th through the earlier 18th century in jewelry. Below is an example of a late 17th century cross with table cut diamonds set into silver (the center is a rose cut green diamond).
ROSE CUT DIAMONDS
After the table cut, the rose cut became a newer and more fashionable method for cutting diamonds. Found in the 18th and 19th centuries (and still today), the cut fell out of favor when more brilliant cuts took hold. However, rose cuts can be found well into the late 19th century (often in Georgian revival jewelry) and even up to the early 20th century.
There are two basic forms of a rose cut. A single rose cut and a rose cut with more layers of facets. A single rose cut has one single layer of facets as in the surround of smaller diamonds pictured below.
Other rose cuts have two layers of facets as in the center stone in the ring shown below. Almost all rose cuts are flat on the bottom. Some double rose cuts are known as Dutch rose cuts and tend to be very high (or deep) with two (or even three) rows of horizontal facets.
Facet structures can vary from very naive to more structured. Antique rose cuts are always out of round. In other words, their perimeter is never perfectly round. If you find a diamonds that is perfectly round, it is usually a modern, machine-cut diamond made to look like an old diamond.
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SINGLE CUT DIAMONDS
This is a cut of diamonds usually with 18 facets in total and a very large table. It is often used in the late 19th and early 20th century well through modern times and many times for smaller, accent diamonds.
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BRILLIANT CUT DIAMONDS - AN OVERVIEW
Although their roots began in the 17th century, a type of brilliant cut diamonds came into wider use in the 18th century. While scarce, examples of jewelry set with brilliant cuts do exist within antique jewelry. Many of any size or importance were reset to suit changing styles.
In the 18th and well into the 19th century the most common form of brilliant cut was the old mine cut diamond. Cushion cut diamonds are another example of a brilliant cut.
Cardinal Mazarin has a diamond cut named after him. The Mazarin has thirty four (34) facets and is an early form of brilliant cut similar to a cushion cut. The Peruzzi cut was also another type of brilliant diamond. So named for Vincent Peruzzi around 1700 it contains 56 facets.
Brilliant cuts have many more facets than rose or table cuts as well as having a different facet structure. Faceted as well on the bottom or below the girdle, thus often exhibit more brilliance than their earlier counterparts.
OLD MINE CUT DIAMONDS
Old mine cut diamonds were a form of brilliant cut with a variety of facets structures. The outside perimeter is out-of-round, often more square or rectangular in shape. All are hand cut without the use of precise machines, and each one is as individual as the people who cut and wore them. Old mine cuts are often seen in 18th and 19th centuries in Georgian and Victorian jewelry. Key features include an open culet and a small table. Often they have an open culet where the facets come together at the bottom and leave a small flat surface.
OLD EUROPEAN CUT DIAMONDS
Old European cut diamonds are a form of brilliant cut diamonds with a variety of facets - usually fifty eight (58) with the key features of a small table, an open culet, and a round perimeter or shape. The invention of the power-driven bruting machine (patented in 1891) allowed the girdle (or perimeter) to be round (or almost round) rather than irregular. Unlike the old mine diamonds, these are closer to what we see today in modern diamonds. Note the large open culet at the center of the diamond pictured below.
CUSHION CUT DIAMONDS
This diamond is a brilliant cut diamond with a square shape with rounded corners. An example below shows its hand-cut nature and open culet. Sometimes this diamond is referred to as pillow top or buff top cut.
Various Antique Diamonds Cuts
Can you identify them?
MODERN BRILLIANT CUT DIAMONDS
Modern brilliant cut diamonds are those which are cut to maximize the brilliance of each stone. The most common form exhibits fifty eight (58) facets and has been in use since the first part of the 20th century and continues today.
Numerous facet structures are employed and every day new cuts are being developed to enhance a diamond’s extraordinary inherent refraction and shimmer.
Shapes range from the traditional round cut to all manner of configurations including emerald cuts (rectangular in shape), heart, oval and marquise, teardrop or pear shape, and square cut as well as non-traditional forms. No matter the shape, the diamond still reigns supreme in its ability to arouse desire and strike the senses.
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Crown - the top portion of the diamond from the girdle to the top.
Culet - the bottom tip of the diamond. In modern diamonds, all facets come to a point. In earlier diamonds, it is small flat area as not all facets meet at a perfect point.
Facet - one or many flat surfaces on a polished diamond or gemstone.
Girdle - the outermost edge of a diamond.
Pavilion - the bottom portion of a diamond from the girdle to the bottom tip of a gem.
Polishing - the act and art of faceting gems often referred to as cutting or polishing.
Table - the flat surface at the top of the diamond.
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