Isadoras antique jewelry

A Beginner's Guide to Antique Diamond Cuts

One of my favorite things to do at Isadoras Antique Jewelry is to introduce a new client to the magic of antique diamond cuts. Because for many, once they go antique, they can never go back. Antique diamond cuts have a depth of sparkle that cannot be matched by the surface sparkle of a modern cut diamond. Antique diamonds draw the eye inward. And because most antique diamonds are cut by hand they have an individuality and character that cannot be emulated. And so, while an antique diamond can never be summed up by its parts, here is my attempt to explain the distinction between six of my favorite antique diamond cuts--the rose cut, old mine cut, old european cut, transitional cut, early modern brilliant cut & asscher cut.

With the exception of the rose cut diamond, most diamond cuts include a table, crown & pavilion. As you read about the diamonds below, understanding these three facets of a diamond's cut, will help you understand the distinction between the different cuts.

Diamond Cut Diagram

Rose Cut Diamonds: Popular from the 1600’s through the 1900’s, a rose cut is one of the very oldest faceted stone cuts. Often described as a faceted cabochon cut stone, the rose cut, unlike a modern gemstone cut has a flat base and a faceted domed top, causing it to look like a rose about to unfurl its petals. Rose cuts are a very shallow cut of stone so they often look larger than their carat weight at first glance.


Old Mine Cut Diamonds ( Miner's Cut Diamond ): Dating from the mid 1800’s through the 1900’s, Old Mine cut diamonds are most often found in Georgian and Victorian jewelry. Primarily hand cut with the aid of early machines, they are a favorite stone for those who love stones with deeply individual character, as each stone is hand cut and uniquely beautiful. I have to confess the old mine is my very favorite stone cut. The predecessor to the Old European cut and brilliant cut, from the top, they look like a gently rounded square. A deep cut, they have a high crown, small table and flat culet.

Old Mine Cut Diamond #OldMineCutDiamond #MinersCutDiamond

Old European Cut Diamonds: The Old European cut dates from the 1870’s through the 1930’s. It was popular during the Victorian, Edwardian & Art Deco eras. One of Isadora’s very favorite cuts, the Old European cut diamond is round, viewed from above. Like the Old Mine Cut Diamond, it has a high crown, small table and flat culet. It has 58 facets and is the predecessor to the modern brilliant cut diamond. The differences between an Old European cut and a brilliant cut stone are subtle, but distinct. Both have a beautiful sparkle, but an Old European cuts sparkle draws the eye inward while the brilliant cut tends to have an outward moving sparkle.


Transitional Cut Diamonds: One of the cuts with the shortest time period, the transitional cut, is none-the-less a gorgeous cut. Cut from approximately 1918 through the 1920’s and perfected by Henry Morse and his partner Charles Field, the transitional cut diamond is a round, faceted cut. An evolution of the Old European cut, the transitional cut (sometimes known as the Early American Cut) has a lower crown, more medium table, shorter pavilion and smaller culet than the Old European cut. This a very consistently proportioned and beautiful stone cut.


Early Modern Brilliant Cut Diamonds: Invented in 1919 by Marcel Tolkowsky, the brilliant cut for the first time put very specific proportions and mathematical computation to the cutting of stones in order to create maximum brilliance and dispersion of light. [For the highly interested: Given the diamond’s diameter to be equal to 100, the table should be 53% total depth 60-61% crown depth 16.2%, and pavilion depth 43.1%. Also ideal crown angle should be 34.5% and optimum pavilion angle 40.75%]. The Early Modern Brilliant cut has continued to evolve since its creation in 1919 and is one of the most popular cuts of stone to this day.

brilliant cut diamonds

Asscher Cut Diamonds: Developed in 1902 and popular during the Art Deco era for its geometric form and square step cut shape, the vintage Asscher cut is one of the most rare and beautiful of cuts. The Asscher cut is square or rectangular with wide corners. The crown is usually very high with a small table and large culet. As only the most expert cutters cut Asscher cuts, and only the finest stones were used, Asscher cut are almost always exceptional. In cutting the diamond you must loose a lot of the stone, which is one of the reasons the Asscher cut is so rare and those that exist so valuable.


** A Note About Culets. If you are looking at an older diamond and wondering why it looks like there is a tiny dot in the very center of the stone, you have probably located the culet. One of the idiosyncrasies of older cut stones, particularly Old European cuts and Old Mine cuts, is the existence of a culet. Modern stones come to a point at the very base of the diamond. In older stones they actually created a facet where that point now exists. And when you look at the top of the ring it almost looks like you can see a tiny dot in the center of the stone. The older the stone, often, the larger the culet.


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