Shopping for diamonds can be both thrilling and intimidating - these sparkling gemstones come in a huge range of colors, shapes, sizes and cuts. While determining a round cut diamond from a heart shaped diamond is relatively simple, identifying diamond cuts requires a closer look, as well as some background knowledge of the history of diamonds. Read on for an exploration into the fascinating history of different diamond cuts.
History of diamond cutsDiamonds are the hardest known material on earth, making cutting them into desirable shapes a unique challenge. As early as the 6th century, lapidaries in India discovered that the only material hard enough to cut a diamond was another diamond. Diamonds of lesser quality were ground into dust and used to polish the clearest and brightest diamonds in Europe during the 14th century, but the most noteworthy development in diamond use was the development of facets in the 15th century. Artisans discovered that using wheels to carve diamonds allowed for a wide variety of facets and cuts. Facets refer to the flat planes on a diamond; the combination of different facets results in a diamond’s cut.
Early diamond cuts used the existing diamond shape a much as possible, as seen in point cut and table cut diamonds, both introduced during the 16th century. The ring above dates to the 19th century, but features a nostalgic Renaissance-inspired style and point cut diamond at its center. As diamond cutting technology improved, both the quality of diamond cuts and the variety in types of diamond shapes expanded.
One historic diamond cut which has stood the test of time is the rose cut, still popular today with those preferring a subtle, romantic glow. Rose cut diamonds are flat on the bottom which limits how much light can reflect up through the top of the stone, but does give a larger look than a brilliant cut diamond of comparable carat weight. The history of earrings features many rose cut diamonds, as this cutting style is well-suited to many different jewelry pieces. If you prefer romantic gemstones with a unique story and luminous glow, a rose cut diamond could be the perfect fit. The above ring shows how these classic diamonds can be seamlessly incorporated into a modern setting.
How is a diamond cut?Today, diamond-cutting methods are extremely precise and aided by computers, leaving little room for human error. Diamonds are cut to maximize the gemstone’s radiance, based on mathematics pioneered by the engineer Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. Tolkowsky studied diamond cutting methods and discovered the ideal ratios for cutting a diamond, which was later termed the round brilliant cut. Even a century later, these same proportions give the maximum sparkle to a diamond.
Diamond rough can come in massive quantities, and lapidaries use computer programs to determine the best combination of different diamond shapes and cuts to minimize waste. Mapping the location of large inclusions within the diamond is another important step, and can influence which cuts are chosen. Once the plan is made, the lapidary must cleave the section of the diamond they intend to cut, and then create the chosen diamond shape. Each step of the process requires the use of diamond dust or powder to cut and shape the diamond. The final step is faceting and polishing the gemstone to achieve the best and most beautiful diamond clarity.
What are the different types of diamond cuts?
Old mine cut
Old Mine cut diamonds are unique in that each diamond was hand-carved by artisans, meaning no two are exactly alike. During the 18th and 19th century, a diamond cutter chose the best possible specimens and carved by candlelight, meaning Old Mine cut diamonds are stunning in any lighting condition.
The history of necklaces includes many Old Mine cut diamonds, and these lovely stones can be seen in everything from royal jewelry to a historic diamond engagement ring. The above necklace displays over 20 carats of Old Mine cut diamonds, each with their unique shape showcased by a bezel setting. For many collectors, Old Mine cut diamonds possess a unique style which makes them far more desirable than modern brilliant cut stones. Knowing each diamond was hand-cut and individually tailored to its rough form adds value and distinguishes these gemstones.
Old European cut
The Old European cut was essentially a refinement of the Old Mine cut, appearing from the late 19th century into the early 20th century. This cut displays many of its predecessor’s features, but a more rounded shape with better symmetry.
The Old European cut diamond often appears in classic Art Deco era jewelry, just like the above ring. Many popular necklace styles from the period featured white diamonds and rich blue sapphires, making this ring a perfect complement to your Art Deco collection.
Brilliant cut diamonds are the most popular choice, simply because this cut maximizes the radiance and sparkle of any gemstone. Although Tolkowsky is credited with perfecting the brilliant cut, jewelers in the Baroque period developed its precursor as a complement to the traditional rose cut diamond. Although lacking the precision of the modern brilliant, these diamonds still sparkled and were stunning in candlelight.
When Tolkowsky set out to measure the ideal diamond cut, he quickly learned that diamonds cut too shallow or deep lacked the fire and brilliance of other stones. The modern brilliant cut results in maximum sparkle, making it highly desirable for engagement rings and all diamond jewelry.
Step cut diamonds feature linear facets in parallel, and are seen in emerald, baguette and Asscher cut diamonds. Depending on the diamond’s shape, the facets may be rectangular or square, but are always graduated from the center This cutting style is very elegant, although less sparkly than brilliant cut diamonds due to having larger facets.
The patented Asscher cut diamond design employs step cuts arranged as a square shape to produce a stunning “hall of mirrors” effect. The gemstone above boasts Flawless diamond clarity, allowing you to see the famed Asscher cut in its best form.
True to their name, mix cut diamonds combine both brilliant cut and step cut facets to maximize the potential of a gemstone. One of the most popular diamond cuts with mixed facets is the radiant cut diamond, which features 70 facets. If you examine the radiant cut yellow diamond above, you can see the step cut facets around the outer edge and brilliant cut facets towards the center.
How are diamond cuts graded?
Grading a diamond cut requires high-level training and the use of tools to magnify and inspect each facet of a diamond. If your diamond comes with a GIA certificate, you will see the cutting style indicated as well as a grade for the polish and symmetry, two factors that influence the quality of the cut. While polish refers to the smoothness of each facet, symmetry determines whether the facets are properly aligned. The best diamonds will be graded excellent on both factors, assuring you that the cut of your diamond emphasizes its beauty rather than detracting from it.