Most people are attracted to antique cuts intuitively because of their characteristic retro vibe. Unfortunately, labs do not differentiate between modern and antique cuts, except for cushions. Today, the majority of antique cut diamonds on the market are modern replicas. However, this does not diminish their beauty and value. Antique cuts are scarce, so modern standards are not applicable in their evaluation.
Antique diamond cuts you should know about:
- Assher cut
- Antique cushion
- Old European cut
- French cut
- Single cut
Antique cuts are like orphans looking for a new home. They are steeped in fascinating history and charming traditions. Antique diamonds bring us closer to our roots, filling us with a sense of belonging to a bygone era.
Every antique diamond is unique. Their artisanal individuality makes up for mechanical precision. Antique diamonds were designed when candlelight was the primary source of indoor illumination, making them burst with intense fire.
When you compare a vintage diamond to a modern diamond, it’s easy to see the difference. Should the charming past radiating from every facet of an heirloom diamond be destroyed to increase the perceived value?
The answer is: No. Old cut stones are genuinely scarce and only get rarer with every passing day.
A recut diamond is identical to a diamond produced from rough yesterday. With the absence of a historical record, it’s impossible to tell when the stone has been cut.
Unfortunately, many of the world’s most famous and historic diamonds have been recut over the centuries of their lifetimes. Sometimes it was done to improve the appearance of stones, but more often to conceal their identity for criminal gain.
Antique diamonds offer timeless romantic appeal and dazzling fire. Unlike modern cuts, there are very few antique diamonds to choose from. An antique Asscher cut is undeniably the most beautiful of all antique diamonds. It is closely trailed by Antique Cushions and Old European cuts. The classic French cut is the absolute classic among accent stones.
An Asscher cut diamond seems to draw your eye to the center of the stone, to its magical depth, and the source of its incredible fire.
It is an octagonal cut with corners almost as wide as the sides, a small table, a high crown, and a deep pavilion. The table of an antique Asscher is typically less than 50%, with a total depth exceeding 70%, and with evenly spaced facet steps.
Antique Asschers come from estate jewelry and are hard to find. The True Antique Asschers are modern replicas of the antique cut. Both the antique Aschers and their replicas command premium prices due to their scarcity.
The Classic Asscher is a contemporary take on the antique Asscher cut. It mixes the wide-corner, small-table, uniform-facet concept with the low-crown, shallow-pavilion proportions of a contemporary emerald cut.
The Classic Asscher cut produced today is not as deep as the Antique cut. Its table hovers at around 60%, its depth is between 65% to 72%, its crown is lower, and the corners are not as wide.
Classic Asschers are reasonably priced, but they are in a limited supply and require a trained eye and lots of time and patience to distinguish them from modern Asschers.
The Royal Asscher Diamond Company was established in Amsterdam in 1854. Royal Asscher® is a patented brand owned by the company. The Royal Asscher® is a modern classic Asscher cut modified with two additional rows of pavilion facets. They are laser-inscribed with the brand’s logo and an identification number.
The Royal Asscher® is the only diamond that the GIA identifies as an Asscher cut on its certificates. All other Asscher cuts, including vintage and antique stones, are called a “square emerald cut” on GIA reports. Sold at a premium price, the beautiful Royal Asscher® is not superior to a well-executed Classic Asscher, which can rival the Royal cut in brilliance and fire.
A common square emerald cut is often called a modern Asscher. Using the term Asscher is misleading and deceptive since this modern cut lacks the mysterious elegance and finesse associated with the Asscher. A modern Asscher has tiny corners, a large table, and shallow depth. A typical depth is 60% to 70% and the table is 60% to 65%.
The Asscher cut is a step cut and requires superior clarity due to the higher visibility of even minor inclusions. Brilliant cuts are better at hiding inclusions with their brilliance. The recommended minimum clarity for an Asscher cut is VS1. Lower grades are acceptable for rare antique stones, such as the True Asscher cut.
Asscher cuts, just like other antique diamond cuts, tend to mask the diamond color and make it less noticeable. Therefore, warmer stones look more natural and face up whiter than expected.
The traditional classic Asscher is a square cut with a length-to-width ratio of approximately 1.00 to 1.06. An elongated Asscher with a ratio that’s longer than 1.1 is called the Krupp cut. The name comes from the emerald-cut diamond given to Liz Taylor by Richard Burton. He purchased it at the Krupp estate auction for $300k – it’s currently worth millions.
Joseph Asscher, the founder of the Royal Asscher Diamond Company, is famous for working with two of the largest diamonds in history: the 995-carat Excelsior and the 3,107-carat Cullinan.
King Edward VII contracted Joseph Asscher to cut the Cullinan. Joseph studied the enormous piece of rough for six months. He finally notched a groove at a carefully calculated spot in preparation for the big moment. At precisely 3:05 pm, he took a shot of Jägermeister, mumbled something in Yiddish and hit the cleaver, and immediately passed out. After regaining consciousness, he learned that the stone split into three pieces, all according to plan. Was it stress or too much Jäger responsible for his fainting? We’ll never know.
Joseph fashioned the Cullinan into 21 gems, ranging from less than a carat to 70+ carats rock. The stones cut from the Cullinan diamond, all flawless, are exhibited at the Crown Jewels collection at the Tower of London.
The Asscher cut was created by the diamond cutter Joseph Asscher. His Royal Asscher Diamond Company Ltd. was established in Amsterdam in 1854.
The extended Asscher family has a reputation for being excellent diamond cutters and polishers. They work with hard-to-cut odd-shaped rough and are known to produce beautiful gems.
At one time, the Asscher factory employed 500 people. In the old days, the polishing wheels powered by steam engines were attached to long shafts with leather belts. The driving shafts ran the entire length of the building. Even after the introduction of electricity, the original shafts were retained.
Classic (Antique) Cushions are rare, timeless, and sophisticated jewels. In the trade, they are known as Old Miners. The Antique Cushion’s high-contrast faceting mutes color perception, so they look whiter than their modern counterparts. The Antique Cushion’s prized mix of fragmented brilliance and extreme dispersion is also unmatched.
Cushion Brilliants are essentially round brilliants with a pillow-like shape. Their pavilion facets originate at the culet and extend to the girdle in a star-like fashion. A stone loses its spot on the top of cushion’s Mount Olympus and becomes Cushion Brilliant when it matches at least three of the following criteria:
– the table is over 53%
– the crown angle is over 40°
– lower halves are 60% or less
– the culet is slightly large
Cushion Modified combines radiant-cut facets with a cushion-shaped outline and soft, rounded corners. Modified Cushions have excessive brilliance without contrast, giving them a “crushed ice” look. Some facets terminate below the girdle. In places where the facets meet, they form bulges that complicate the ring’s construction and carry dead weight.
The traditional Antique Cushion cut diamond is a beautiful jewel. It has a pillow-shaped outline, soft, rounded corners, an open culet or a keel, a small table, and a high crown. The Classic Cushion comes with Old World flair and romantic appeal. Antique cushions are not necessarily old. Most Antique Cushions sold today are recently cut.
The Antique Cushion was the dominant diamond cut for centuries until the advent of the modern Round Brilliant, which is uniform, scalable, easy to make, sort, and use. By going back to Antique Cushion, we are able to revive and recapture the magic of the Golden Era.
Antique Cushion diamonds have superior dispersion, radiating an abundance of fire when lit by flickering candlelight. An Antique Cushion has an open culet, a high crown, and large facets – a perfect combination of sophisticated elements for a connoisseur seeking a diamond with character and pedigree.
Antique Cushions are closer to Step-Cut diamonds in the way they transform light. They don’t have the dreaded “crushed ice” look of Modern Cushions.
Antique Cushions are classified as Old Mine Brilliants on GIA lab reports.
The Old European (or simply European) Cut is a vintage Round Brilliant Cut. It became popular in the late 19th century when its predecessor, the Old Mine Cut, lost its Cushion shape and became round thanks to the invention of the bruting machine. The Old European Cut retained the rest of the Old Miner’s charms – the high crown, small table, and open culet.
The Modern Round Brilliant is a direct descendant of the European Cut. Both have the same round shape and 57 facets, not counting the culet. The proportions and angles have, however, changed drastically.
The current proportions of the Modern Brilliant inspired Marcel Tolkowsky, Henry Morse, and others to experiment with angles and facets searching for the ideal round cut.
Today, Old European Cut diamonds are found in vintage jewelry. They usually have poor symmetry and low color, and they are sometimes mistaken for antique cushions.
Like its predecessor, the Old Miner, the Old European Cut features spectacular “inner fire” by design.
Back when warm, flickering candlelight illuminated the 19th-century ballrooms, the Old European’s dramatic inner fire was a diamond’s most desired property. In later decades, when wearing diamonds outdoors became common, the emphasis shifted to cuts that maximize brilliance rather than fire.
- Old European Cut diamonds have small tables and relatively high crowns.
- There is always an open, often a large culet. The culet size may vary, but it is usually large enough to be seen with a naked eye.
- The Old European diamonds are not perfectly round. Cutting diamonds by hand often resulted in an off-round shape.
- The girdle of the old-euro is usually bruted. Its frost-like appearance is different from the clear faceted girdle of a modern diamond.
A Round diamond has to meet 3 out of 4 benchmarks to be certified as an Old European Cut by the GIA:
-A table size of less than or equal to 53%,
-A crown angle of 40 degrees or more,
-A lower half facet length of 60% or less,
-An open culet.
GIA treats an Old European diamond as a fancy shape and does not evaluate its cut. However, Old Europeans are considered to be Round Brilliants in the diamond trade. The round shape is significantly more expensive than any fancy shape.
The first Brilliants, known as “Mazarins,” were introduced in the 17th century. Uniform diamond cuts did not exist until then, so each diamond had highly irregular shapes and a jumble of facets.
Before the invention of the diamond saw, a single piece of rough yielded just one stone. The European Cut was given a high crown, a small table, and an open culet to maximize the yield. Skill and experience, rather than machinery and automation, give the Old European Cut a beautiful organic, artisan look. The imperfections add character and timeless charm that only one-of-a-kind diamonds possess.
Old European Cuts are no longer produced. They are a prized find by collectors and history buffs.
The Transition Cut also called the “American cut,” is a short-lived bridge between the Old European Cut and the Modern Brilliant. The experimental cut hosted a mix of modern and antique features in the same stone. The cut was invented in the 1870s by a Boston cutter and possibly a Red Sox fan. His name was Henry Morse, not to be confused with Samuel Morse, the inventor of the Morse code systems. Henry told everyone that a diamond’s beauty is more valuable than the rough yield. His goal was to find the most flattering proportions that return maximum light from inside a diamond. The diamantaires before him always strived to waste as little rough as possible during cutting. Henry, however, decided to go against the grain and waste as much rough as necessary to achieve the most sparkle.
The Jubilee diamond cut is usually reserved for large diamonds. It empowers a diamond to shine spectacularly. Compared to the round brilliant’s 58 facets, the Jubilee cut features 88 (sometimes 80) facets. Because it’s not deep and has no culet, the Jubilee has a glittering effect second to none. It is one of the brightest cuts you can find and also extremely rare.
A French cut diamond can be easily recognized by a rhomboid table that is turned 90 degrees to the diamond’s outline. The shape is usually square, but can be rectangular or even trapezoid. The pavilion of a French cut diamond is split into four plain facets, sometimes divided in half. The edges have smaller facets added for extra brilliance. A French cut has a small table created by slicing one end of a well-formed octahedral crystal. The Scissors cut is a variety of French cut with a bit more elaborate faceting.
The French cut is a marvel of elegance. The French cut came into fashion in the 17th century and has been used in high-end jewelry ever since. The name reflects the fact that these diamonds were favored by French jewelers. The French cut is a result of the evolution of the primitive Table cut diamond.
Antique-style French cut diamonds are produced using a well-formed octahedron rough. The modern French cuts are often produced by recutting baguettes and princess cuts and thus have a low crown and a large table.
The Rose Cut is one of the oldest diamond cuts. It became widespread in the 1500s and remained popular until the early 1900s when more complicated and precise cuts were developed.
Picture a flat round diamond with a bulging pavilion and a giant table. Flip it upside down, and you’ve got yourself a Rose Cut diamond. It’s an equivalent of a cabochon in diamonds.
Owing to its shape, carat-for-carat Rose Cut diamonds face up larger than any other diamond cut. This makes the Rose Cut an attractive purchase for those harboring a beer budget and a taste for vintage wine.
The crown of a Rose Cut is dome-shaped, formed by the facets meeting at the center. The Rose Cut reacts very differently to light than other diamonds because of its flat bottom and shallow depth. The absence of a pavilion results in washed-out luster and dull brilliance.
A Rose Cut diamond crown has six triangular facets that resemble the petals of an unfolding rosebud. Perhaps having a drink can help you make the same connection. A conventional Rose Cut diamond crown has six triangular facets arranged in a hexagon and small triangular facets completing the second row. Large stones have as many as seven or eight rows of facets.
Rose Cuts come in many shapes, although the majority are round.
Variations include the Briolette, a hexagonal Antwerp Rose, and a Double Dutch Rose, which resembles two Rose cuts united back-to-back. A Rose with a large table is called a portrait diamond.
Rose Cut diamonds are timeless – it’s a pretty cut that gives any jewel a unique vintage feel. They can be used in any piece of jewelry and are exceptionally graceful in earrings, pendants, and necklaces.
The Rose Cut enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when Jennifer Anniston was proposed to with an 8-carat Rose Cut solitaire which sparked a short-lived renaissance. It’s still trendy and widely used in inexpensive fashion jewelry.
The Single Cut is one of the oldest diamond cuts. It is a very simple cut, essentially an upgrade from the Table Cut, which the Point Cut preceded. The Point Cut diamond is a naturally formed octahedron crystal polished but not faceted. With the advancement of diamond cutting techniques, the square Table cut gave way to the octagonal Single Cut.
Single Cuts rose to prominence in the 1920s. They were common accent stones in Art Deco pieces that saw extensive use of antique cut diamonds.
They are easy to tell apart – the Modern Single Cuts do not have open culets.
Antique diamonds were cut by hand under dim light, so they were malformed, ill-proportioned stones with uneven facets and poor symmetry. Some think this was the secret of their charm, but others disagree. Today, Antique Single Cuts are found filling up tight spots in vintage jewelry.
Modern Single Cuts are fashioned using high-precision technology. They have perfect symmetry and command a premium price.
It depends. If stones smaller than 1.2 mm are used, Single Cut diamonds look better. Single Cut diamonds match well with Antique Cut center stones. Antique replicas and bespoke jewelry can all benefit from using Single Cut stones. Using a Single Cut in modern bridal jewelry is usually an unnecessary expense because they are premium stones. Single Cut diamonds are more expensive than Full Cuts and are in limited supply.
The diamonds used in modern jewelry are typically Full Cut diamonds. Each tiny stone is the replica of a large round brilliant. As the diamond’s size gets smaller, its facets shrink so much that its reflections blend into a single point of light. In other words, they lose their brilliance which is the diamond’s ability to blink.
On the other hand, the facets of a similar-sized Single Cut are three times larger. This gives a Single Cut superior brilliance when they are tiny.
Today, Single Cuts are used exclusively in ultra-high-end jewelry pieces and hands and dials of luxury watches. Single Cuts burst with brilliance and fire – they form a repeating pattern of facet reflections giving pavés a fabric-like texture.
The first Pear Shape was invented in the mid-15th century by a Flemish cutter, Lodewyk van Bercken. The cut was a variation of a Rose Cut but with a point.
The True Antique Pears are not Briolettes or Rose Cuts. Instead, they have tables, crowns, and pavilions. Their point is usually blunted or even rounded, and they have large open culets.
They are hard to come by, and if you ever find one, do not let these marvelous and unique stones out of your sight.
Europeans learned about the existence of briolettes in the 1600s when Jean-Baptiste Tavernier brought some from India to France. Louis IV, Marie Antoinette, Henry Philip Hope, Persian and English royalty owned and admired diamond briolettes. Unfortunately, briolettes were the first casualties of recutting old stones into modern cuts depriving the world of the ancient art form because the cut was deemed inefficient and wasteful.
It wasn’t until the Victorian and Art Deco periods that briolettes rose to prominence again. Once again, gems were being cut to new standards set in the diamond industry. Briolettes returned to the spotlight with a renewed appreciation for history, used by well-known designers, including Leon Mege. Their subtle beauty is proving to be timeless.