A beginner’s guide to old cut diamonds

Otherwise referred to as ‘old European cut, the old cut diamond is a hand-cut stone rising in popularity during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco period.

As an antique diamond, the old cut is preserved in wonder and history with each stone carrying its own story and sentiment that goes beyond its machined cut alternative.

To date, there’s growing demand for old cut diamonds across the UK. Its beautifully imperfect facets and age-old features make it the perfect gift for antique enthusiasts (as well as a popular stone for an engagement ring).

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start by learning a little more about the history of the old cut diamond and why it might be the right stone for you.

What is an old cut diamond?

Before the practice of bruting was established in the late 19th century, diamonds were cut, shaped and polished by hand.

Each facet, complete with its own charm and character, would be a product of hours spent by artisans shaping and polishing stones to create a near-geometric design.

When compared to the modern-day machined brilliant diamond, however, an old cut offers little contest in the way of perfect symmetry and even light distribution.

But it’s the imperfection of an old cut that ironically makes it so perfect. Every flaw, every facet, every feature, as unique and distinctive as the next, offers a piece of history you won’t find with any other diamond.

When did diamond cutting begin?

The first accounts of diamond cutting are recorded as early as the 1400s when a Flemish stone polisher, Lodewyk van Beren, started the idea of facet symmetry.

Using his invention known as a ‘scaif’, he would rotate and grind diamonds on a polishing wheel coated in diamond dust and olive oil to facet each stone. As diamond cutting tools and techniques grew in sophistication during the 15th and 16th centuries, new forms of diamond cuts would become available, namely the pear-shaped cut, the Rose cut and, of course, the brilliant cut.

Other diamond cuts include: radiant, heart, princess, cushion, asscher, round, pear, emerald, oval, marquise

Old cut diamonds in antique and vintage jewellery

As a principal stone for jewellery from the 1890s to the 1930s, the old cut diamond features on many Art Deco pieces such as brooches, necklaces and engagement rings.

However, as more old cut diamonds are purchased and then recut into brilliant cut diamonds for improved light distribution, genuine antique pieces with old cut diamonds are rising in rarity.

But for shoppers with a keen eye, genuine antique pieces featuring old cut diamonds still pop-up in the preowned market. At GA Jewellers and Pawnbrokers, we have a broad selection of old cut diamonds to suit any style or budget.

Features of an old cut diamond

The untrained eye may find it challenging to distinguish an old cut diamond from a cluster of brilliant cut alternatives. But if you look a little closer, you’ll notice the old cut typically has:

  • a small table (flat part at the top of the diamond)
  • broader facets with short lower-half facets
  • polished culet (bottom facet on underside of diamond)
  • steep crown (part of diamond above girdle)

When placed under the light, an old cut diamond usually gives off a fiery distribution with dramatic flashes and sparkle that makes them so desirable.

Old cut vs. brilliant cut

While the brilliant cut offers perfect symmetry and sparkle scintillation through its machine cut facets, the craftmanship of an old cut emits a charm and character that makes it just as desirable.

Its angular facets, designed to mimic the flicker of candlelight, gives off an eye-catching glow which preserves the gemstone as a perfect choice for engagement rings and other sentimental jewellery items. With that said, deciding between an old cut and brilliant cut diamond is entirely down to your preferences.

If you want professional advice and guidance to help you make the right decision, feel free to get in touch. We’d be glad to help.