Earlier this week, I refurbished two items of jewellery.
Both antique rings featured Old Cut diamonds.
Antique diamonds fascinate collectors and antique dealers. But do you know how to identify an antique diamond cut? Few buyers recognise a modern cut from an old cut.
Today, most old cuts come from antique jewellery.
Buyers look for large old cut diamonds to re-cut with better proportions. By doing this, older diamonds fall in line with current prices.
Old cut diamond eternity ring. Note the small table facet, lack of symmetry and extra depth for each diamond.
Interestingly, we resized this old cut eternity ring making it larger. Firstly, we removed the diamonds. Next, we added a section to the ring. Then, we matched another old cut diamond to the ring. Finally, we set all of the diamonds in place.
The term ‘old cut diamond’ refers to antique diamonds cut without the precision of modern cut diamonds. Other descriptions include ‘Old Mine Cut’ and ‘Victorian Cut.’
Most old cut diamonds appear thicker compared to modern diamonds. In addition, old cuts sparkle less due to a lack of symmetry. Light simply passes through poorly cut diamonds. So why would anyone want an old cut?
Old cut gemstones offer vintage charm—a connection to a bygone era. Many Victorian cut diamonds feature in charming jewellery styles; from antique diamond rings to Victorian diamond brooches.
Many years ago, during my career at a diamond merchant, we carried a parcel of antique diamond cuts. They originated from various sources. Some came from scrapped jewellery. We regularly dipped into this parcel to match up missing diamonds.
Part of our work involved ‘jobbing.’ Retailer jewellers sent rings missing diamonds. Our work involved matching up diamonds by shape, colour and clarity. We found the best match possible to restore jewellery and to make it wearable again.
In the above image, the distinctive polished culet of each diamond appears through the stone. This circular shape typifies the look of an old cut diamond.
The term ‘Old Mine Cut’ applies to many of the diamonds cut before the 18th Century.
Before the process of bruting, many of the diamonds assumed a square shape, appearing like the forerunner of the Cushion Cut.
Diamonds possessed a polished culet with far greater depth than most modern cut diamonds.
Old European cuts presented a far rounder shape, with a differing arrangement of facets.
Some Old Cut diamonds often called ‘Victorian Cut’ feature tell-tale characteristics. These include:
Deep proportions – diamonds appear thicker than modern round brilliants.
Small table facets – a small and tall table facet on the top of the diamond.
A polished culet – The bottom facet of the underside (Pavilion) known as the culet appears as a flat polished facet.
If you look at the image below, you will see the flat polished culet on the underside of the diamonds. From the opposite side (the table) you will see this as a small circle, viewed from the top of the diamond.
In the following video by GIA, we see the evolution and characteristics leading to the modern diamond cut.
As part of our service, we source old cut diamonds for clients. Owing to the limited availability of old cuts, we use our network of diamond merchants to source suitable stones.
Although many old cut diamonds demand lower prices than modern cuts, scarcity often sets their price above modern cuts.
Less choice exists in terms of colour and clarity compared with modern cut diamonds.
Another feature of vintage diamonds includes wear. For example, many old cuts possess nibbled edges; small nicks and chips out of the diamond girdle. Such wear comes from several lifetimes of setting and unsetting.
Some damage can be removed by repolishing older diamonds without reducing the overall carat weight. We assess each diamond on an individual basis for this reason.
From time to time, we re-model old cut diamond rings.
Working with a client’s own diamonds, we craft new ring styles, using old diamonds. The following example shows small old-cuts with high table facets, surrounding a large oval opal.
Part of our work involves un-setting large old cut diamonds. We set inherited diamonds and family heirlooms into new ring mounts. This service appeals to younger couples. Many inherit an engagement ring and prefer to wear a modern setting.
In addition, many old cut diamond engagement rings exist in thin, worn or poorly made settings. For this reason, we provide a service to cherish an original diamond added to a new ring mount.
The following old cut solitaire engagement ring would benefit from a remount.
With its beautiful old cut diamond, this solitaire ring would benefit from a brand new ring mount, made in Platinum. Note the worn claws no longer provide security for the diamond.
Large old cut diamonds benefit from recutting into modern diamonds. For example, an old cut weighing 1.15 carats will retain its 1-carat weight when recut. Owners sacrifice this weight to remodel the diamond into a modern cut. The value of the final diamond can far exceed the original purchase price.
Recutting often improves proportions, light performance, and the overall value of the stone.
The diamond below shows a nicely proportioned Old European Cut, with a small polished culet, and fairly shallow proportions. The stone is just under 2 carats in weight and measures 7.5mm in diameter.
Set into the original ring design, with a natural patina, we usually recommend leaving any such item alone. A huge market exists for pre-owned or cherished jewellery. In fact, an enormous demand exists for genuine antique or vintage jewellery designs.
Old European cut diamond, proportioned with a smaller polished culet.
We categorise other diamond cuts, giving them the label of old or antique cuts.
For example, rose-cut diamonds. Rose-cut diamonds feature a flat base with simple faceting over their curved surface. With a shallow cut, rose-cut diamonds let light through the stone and benefit from a mirror back to reflect light.
Other diamond cuts include antique cushion-cut diamonds and the original Asscher cut diamond with deeper proportions to modern versions.
Most old cut diamonds split the light spectrum creating greater fire. In contrast, modern cuts dazzle with more obvious brilliance.
Further reading – Wikipedia has some interesting and useful information on Diamond Cuts, including a paragraph on their history.
Mark attended Liverpool University and went on to pursue a career in the diamond industry. After more than a decade working in polished diamonds, Mark moved to the Isle of Wight where he launched Serendipity Diamonds. He works most days from their busy Ryde showroom, photographing jewellery and writing for the Serendipity Diamonds website.