Having been an Antique dealer and jeweller for over 20 years I have been asked many times about different diamond and gemstone terminology. Here I will try to answer the question I get asked a lot about the difference between the Old Mine Cut, Old European cut and the modern Brilliant round cut diamonds.
It is essentially a questions about the age of the stones and the way they were cut or facetted.
OLD MINE CUT. Real Romance in this stone
A favourite of discerning collectors of vintage jewellery, old mine cuts share the same number of facets, 58, as the modern round brilliant (often brilliant cuts have 57 as the bottom 'culet' is not present), but offer a look dealers praise for its “personality” and “charisma.” Since diamonds first started appearing in jewellery, these stones were a product of the technology of the time — or rather the lack thereof. The diamonds, cut without the advantage of motorised machinery, followed the rough diamond’s octahedral shape. Until the late 1800s, the diamond cutters of the day were faceting stones to the best of their ability, creating mostly squarish or rectangularish cushion-shaped diamonds, as well as some that were only rounded out by eye.
The reward of diamond cutting from this less-technologically-dependent age, was that the cutters of these old mine stones saw a very pure connection between the rough crystal and beauty. There was no academic grading process, no certificates, no labels and no linear scales. The aim was just to produce the brightest, whitest stone.
An old mine cut diamond evokes the past, when diamonds were measured by eye and cut by hand, so this historic diamond cut is a great choice if you’re looking for an engagement ring with antique or vintage qualities.
From the early 18th century to the late 19th century, the old mine cut was perhaps the most common diamond cut and the cut you’ll most often find in Georgian (1714-1837) and Victorian era (1837-1901) jewellery. You can recognize an old mine cut diamond by its squarish shape: it has 58 facets like today’s modern round brilliant cut diamond, but that’s where the similarity ends. In addition to a different shape, an old mine cut has different diamond proportions: it typically has a smaller table, larger culet and higher crown. It also has short lower half facets and a girdle that is very thin in places and, as a result of these factors, an old mine cut diamond has a very distinctive look.
Early diamond cutters (today known as bruters) shaped old mine cut diamonds by following the octahedral shape of the diamond crystal, laboriously grinding two diamonds together to achieve the desired shape, and a diamond polisher then polished the facets. Due to the shape of the rough and because the diamonds were hand crafted, dimensions varied from stone to stone. This made every old mine cut diamond unique, or put poetically, have its own personality.
Old mine cut was one the first type of diamond cuts used widely commercially. It predates any type of machines to cut the facets into the stone and therefore relayed on the skill and eye of the diamond cutter. These diamonds were generally cut in the 1700's to 1900's and were prevalent during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Diamonds with this cut possess a squarish girdle with gently rounded corners. Old mine cut diamonds have a high crown, a small table, and a large, flat culet. All Old Mine cut diamonds are rear and expensive due to the fact they are not produced any more and have a real appeal of grace and grandeur. They are true investment pieces.
OLD EUROPEAN CUT. Where the character and personality is still there.
In the 1800’s and 1900s, with the advent of motorised machinery, there was a transition into what is known as an old European, or old cut. A more mathematically precise round variation of the old mine cut, it was the bridge between the roundish old mine cut and the modern round of today. It is distinguished by an open cutlet that is not nearly as open as an old mine cut, although large by today’s standards. The bottom halves added to the primary eight facets are short. They usually take up only 50 percent or less of the distance between the girdle and the culet, whereas, in a modern stone today, those facets go up to 85 percent. Most old European cuts are also distinguished by a very small table, usually less than 53 percent.
The old European diamonds were very popular from the 1840s through the Art Deco period. And while you might find roundish old miners the difference between the cuts can be seen on the back facets. On the old European, they radiate out from a large culet pretty much evenly, like a pie would be, whereas the old miner has rays and then kite facets coming off the culet.
Modern stones are cut for brilliance, which means light comes in and light comes right back at you. Old stones tend to be a little deeper — light comes in and your eye is more drawn into the stone; they’re not as brilliant.
Old European cut diamond (often called simply 'old cut'). Like the old mine cut, diamonds cut into this shape possess a high crown, small table, and a large, flat culet. However, the old European cut has a circular girdle. With 58 facets, it is the predecessor of today’s modern round brilliant cut. The Old European cut dates to the 1800s and was used mostly during the Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Nouveau eras.
ROUND BRILLIANT CUT. - Today's precision is the worlds loss
These will probably be the stones you are most familiar with as they are the ones used on modern jewellery where a round diamond is used.
Modern Brilliant cut diamonds started to be produced In the early 1900s, diamond cutters began to experiment with new techniques and of course better diamond cutting equipment and machines. A breakthrough came in 1919 with the introduction of the round brilliant cut. Due to its ability to maximize fire and brilliance, the round brilliant cut has become the standard and most popular way to cut diamonds. Like the old European cut, a round brilliant cut diamond has a circular girdle and 58 facets. However, the round brilliant cut lacks a culet. The round brilliant cut became prevalent during the Art Deco and Retro periods.
These stones are bright and reflect the light perfectly (if cut properly) but in my humble opinion they lack any character or personality. They are light and bright but not warm and comfortable. You cannot feel the skill or personality of the stone cuter as you can with old mine and Old European cut diamonds.
Please browse through our selection of jewellery and if you can find what you are looking for please contact us and we will do our best to locate your perfect piece.
Thanks you for reading.
R.D.Brown and Sons