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Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

What are old cut diamonds? What are old cut diamonds?

 

If you have had a look at our collection, you will see that we love old cut diamonds! In addition to finding them in original, antique jewellery, we love to incorporate them into modern items that we make ourselves. Reusing and recycling beautiful old stones is by far the most sustainable way to enjoy diamonds, and this way you don’t have to worry about the delicacy of antique jewellery for every day items, such as an engagement ring.

Old diamonds have their own unique charm, but they may not be for everyone. If you are unsure about what they are and how they differ from modern diamonds, then this post is for you.

Some context…

The modern round brilliant cut was developed as recently as 1919 by a gentleman called Marcel Tolkowsky. He was an engineer who calculated the ‘ideal cut’ for diamonds for his PhD research. He identified the ‘ideal’ proportions and angles of the 57 facets of a round diamond to produce the best visual effects and sparkle. The detail gets very technical, which we don’t need to go into, but in layman's terms: different surface angles of the facets and overall proportions of the diamond change the direction of light as it travels throughout the diamond. If the stone is cut within the strict mathematical parameters recommended by Tolkowsky, the sparkle will be maximised. We talk about this in a bit more depth and have some helpful diagrams in our blog post Everything you need to know about diamonds.

Here is a modern round brilliant cut for reference:

Modern round brilliant cut diamond1.82ct modern round brilliant diamond solitaire ring

The primary difference between modern round brilliant cuts and older cuts is this precision and uniformity. Older diamonds come in a myriad of shapes and sizes - it's part of their charm and individuality!

There are numerous variations in cutting shapes and styles over the centuries, however we are going to focus on those most commonly found today: the rose cut, the old mine cut and the old european cut. 


Rose Cut

The rose cut was developed during the 16th century, and continued to appear throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and are often found within examples of Georgian jewellery. It may surprise you to know that a rose cut has a flat bottom, or is slightly domed. It is also distinctive as it is made up of solely triangular facets, shaped to a slight point at the top. They have a unique sparkle, but you will notice very little fire and brilliance out of a rose cut diamond as there is no flat table, and the stone does not return the light to the eye of the viewer in the same way as later cuts. 

Image of a rose cut diamond

 

Old Mine Cut

An old mine cut generally is a style of diamond cutting primarily seen in Georgian and earlier Victorian jewellery. They were later termed ‘old mines’ as a way of differentiating them from the style of cutting that later developed following the discovery of the 'new' South African diamond mines in the 1860s. Previously, diamonds were found in Indian mines (originally thought to be the only location for diamonds in the world) and Brazilian, where diamonds were discovered in 1729. Old mine cuts have 58 facets, and are characterised by being much more cushion shaped or having a more irregular outline than their successor; the old european cut. Additionally, they typically have high crowns, small tables, and a large culet facet, clearly visible from the table. This is because the cutters had limited technology, and basically had to knock one diamond against another to shape and cut it - so you can imagine that precision was not at all easy! 

 

 

Old European Cut 

You will probably see this as being called an ‘old cut’, which is a more general term, but most commonly applied to this cutting style. Developed in the late 19th century, it is rounder (but sometimes still not quite round!) than an old mine cut thanks to the improvement of cutting technologies. The old european cut also has 58 facets, a high crown, small table and a visible culet facet, yet it’s smaller than those seen on old mine cuts. The facets are chunkier than a modern round brilliant, and produce more of a ‘checkerboard effect’ with light. You sometimes may hear of them being referred to as ‘candlelight diamonds’, which is not a technical term, but describes the flickering nature of the facets with low light levels thanks to this ‘checkerboard effect’. 

Old european cut diamond

 

A key characteristic of these old cut diamond styles, is visible evidence of the fact that they were worked by hand. There may be oddly placed extra facets as the craftsman realised that his facets don’t quite match up or fit, and he has to stick another one in to fill the void. The facet symmetry may not be great, or the table is not quite in the centre of the stone. All of these aspects add to the character, charm and individuality of old cut diamonds, of which no two are ever quite the same.

Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight, and so you may come across a ‘transitional cut’ which displays a mix of different cutting styles such as an old european cut and modern round brilliant -  and therefore it doesn’t quite fit into either category.

You may also notice that it is more common for older diamonds to have more of a yellow tint, and possibly be a bit more included than you may expect of a modern diamonds today. You have to remember that there was limited technology available and that the diamonds were mostly cut at a time prior to the discovery of African diamond mines, when diamonds were unbelievably scarce - so a greater range was deemed ‘acceptable’ than we may judge by our modern standards. 

If this has whet your appetite, here is a selection of some of our old cut diamonds:

 

 

 

If you have had a look at our collection, you will see that we love old cut diamonds! In addition to finding them in original, antique jewellery, we love to incorporate them into modern items that we make ourselves. Reusing and recycling beautiful old stones is by far the most sustainable way to enjoy diamonds, and this way you don’t have to worry about the delicacy of antique jewellery for every day items, such as an engagement ring.

Old diamonds have their own unique charm, but they may not be for everyone. If you are unsure about what they are and how they differ from modern diamonds, then this post is for you.

Some context…

The modern round brilliant cut was developed as recently as 1919 by a gentleman called Marcel Tolkowsky. He was an engineer who calculated the ‘ideal cut’ for diamonds for his PhD research. He identified the ‘ideal’ proportions and angles of the 57 facets of a round diamond to produce the best visual effects and sparkle. The detail gets very technical, which we don’t need to go into, but in layman's terms: different surface angles of the facets and overall proportions of the diamond change the direction of light as it travels throughout the diamond. If the stone is cut within the strict mathematical parameters recommended by Tolkowsky, the sparkle will be maximised. We talk about this in a bit more depth and have some helpful diagrams in our blog post Everything you need to know about diamonds.

Here is a modern round brilliant cut for reference:

Modern round brilliant cut diamond1.82ct modern round brilliant diamond solitaire ring

The primary difference between modern round brilliant cuts and older cuts is this precision and uniformity. Older diamonds come in a myriad of shapes and sizes - it's part of their charm and individuality!

There are numerous variations in cutting shapes and styles over the centuries, however we are going to focus on those most commonly found today: the rose cut, the old mine cut and the old european cut. 


Rose Cut

The rose cut was developed during the 16th century, and continued to appear throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and are often found within examples of Georgian jewellery. It may surprise you to know that a rose cut has a flat bottom, or is slightly domed. It is also distinctive as it is made up of solely triangular facets, shaped to a slight point at the top. They have a unique sparkle, but you will notice very little fire and brilliance out of a rose cut diamond as there is no flat table, and the stone does not return the light to the eye of the viewer in the same way as later cuts. 

Image of a rose cut diamond

 

Old Mine Cut

An old mine cut generally is a style of diamond cutting primarily seen in Georgian and earlier Victorian jewellery. They were later termed ‘old mines’ as a way of differentiating them from the style of cutting that later developed following the discovery of the 'new' South African diamond mines in the 1860s. Previously, diamonds were found in Indian mines (originally thought to be the only location for diamonds in the world) and Brazilian, where diamonds were discovered in 1729. Old mine cuts have 58 facets, and are characterised by being much more cushion shaped or having a more irregular outline than their successor; the old european cut. Additionally, they typically have high crowns, small tables, and a large culet facet, clearly visible from the table. This is because the cutters had limited technology, and basically had to knock one diamond against another to shape and cut it - so you can imagine that precision was not at all easy! 

 

 

Old European Cut 

You will probably see this as being called an ‘old cut’, which is a more general term, but most commonly applied to this cutting style. Developed in the late 19th century, it is rounder (but sometimes still not quite round!) than an old mine cut thanks to the improvement of cutting technologies. The old european cut also has 58 facets, a high crown, small table and a visible culet facet, yet it’s smaller than those seen on old mine cuts. The facets are chunkier than a modern round brilliant, and produce more of a ‘checkerboard effect’ with light. You sometimes may hear of them being referred to as ‘candlelight diamonds’, which is not a technical term, but describes the flickering nature of the facets with low light levels thanks to this ‘checkerboard effect’. 

Old european cut diamond

 

A key characteristic of these old cut diamond styles, is visible evidence of the fact that they were worked by hand. There may be oddly placed extra facets as the craftsman realised that his facets don’t quite match up or fit, and he has to stick another one in to fill the void. The facet symmetry may not be great, or the table is not quite in the centre of the stone. All of these aspects add to the character, charm and individuality of old cut diamonds, of which no two are ever quite the same.

Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight, and so you may come across a ‘transitional cut’ which displays a mix of different cutting styles such as an old european cut and modern round brilliant -  and therefore it doesn’t quite fit into either category.

You may also notice that it is more common for older diamonds to have more of a yellow tint, and possibly be a bit more included than you may expect of a modern diamonds today. You have to remember that there was limited technology available and that the diamonds were mostly cut at a time prior to the discovery of African diamond mines, when diamonds were unbelievably scarce - so a greater range was deemed ‘acceptable’ than we may judge by our modern standards. 

If this has whet your appetite, here is a selection of some of our old cut diamonds:

 

 

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