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Diamonds 101

The Debate Over Old Diamond Cuts

May 16, 2014

The debate over old diamond cuts is alive and well these days, mostly due to the new grading report description the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) added for round 58-facet brilliant cut diamonds, the “circular brilliant” cut, back in October.

Conversations continue between antique diamond dealers and the GIA over the grading of older diamonds because many of the diamond dealers have stones that don’t quite fit the parameters that GIA sets for grading modern cut diamonds. Many old cuts have been falling into the modern round brilliant category, where they sometimes received “fair” or “poor” cut grades.

There are plenty of beautiful diamonds out there that were cut 70, 80, even 90 years ago. Samuelson’s Diamonds recently sold the ring below to a customer, which was actually mined during the turn of the last century.

Old Mine Cut 1ct Diamond

These diamonds are cut beautifully and some customers actually prefer them to modern cuts. However, today’s standards are different and may bring out the highest light performance because of modern science and more advanced tools than 70+ years ago. This makes it difficult to judge them against today’s aesthetic. In spite of this, there is a market for their antique beauty. In fact, some consumers cherish their different interplay with light.

Our owner, Ron Samuelson’s loves when we get our hands on an old cut saying, “When we acquire an old mine cut or European cut diamond, we study the diamond and decide whether to recut it to a modern or leave it as is. This is an interesting part of the business that is all about aesthetics. If an older diamond is chipped and lumpy, we’ll make it a modern cut. However, if it looks symmetrical and has retained it’s beauty, we’ll often leave it as is or fix it just a little, keeping it as it was originally cut.”

So what’s the difference between the cuts of today, and those from the past? Let us explain:

  • Old Mine Cuts (1600’s to late 1800’s) – 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.

  • European Cuts (late 1800’s – 1930’s) – 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.

  • Modern Brilliant Cut (1920’s – present)– 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. There were many older round brilliants were cut between the 1870s and the 1940s, and some served as transitions between older and more-modern styles, some trade professionals call them “transitional cuts.”

The early 1900s also saw the popularity of the Asscher cut, a square diamond with cropped corners. Below is an example of an Asscher cut diamond we recently sold.

Asscher Cut Diamond

Currently, antique diamond dealers are calling upon the GIA to expand the parameters of what constitutes an old European cut, and even allow those who deal in older stones to opt out of receiving a cut grade entirely. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on this ongoing debate.

If you have questions about a particular cut of diamond, feel free to ask! Our knowledgeable staff is always happy to educate our customers on all thing diamonds.

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