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Diamonds and Their Cuts in Antique and Vintage Jewelry

Updated on April 25, 2012
Traditional Rose Cut
Traditional Rose Cut
Old Mine Cut
Old Mine Cut
Old European Cut
Old European Cut

The Diamonds you see in a piece of antique or vintage jewelry may give you some hints as to the history of the item. On the other hand, they may lead you far astray from the true age of the item. This article will try to give you some information that helps sort out fact and fantasy. The Diamonds we discuss will include the forms normally seen in jewelry of the last 200 years.

The Rose Cut: This cutting style may have originated in India, in the 1500s, and soon migrated to European cutting centers of the time, such as Venice. Used widely in Georgian jewelry, it is also seen in many item of jewelry from later eras. The stone has a flat back and may have as few as three individual faces on the upper surface of the stone.

The Old Mine Cut : This cutting style has a square or cushion shape outline. The crown area is thicker than the Modern Round Brilliant cut. The total depth of the stone, in relation to the diameter of the stone, is greater than the Modern Round Brilliant. The culet, the large facet on the bottom of the stone, is often quite large compared to a Modern Round Brilliant.

The Old European Cut: With the exception of the circular outline that it exhibits, this cutting style is similar in most characteristics to the Old European Cut.

There are many transitional cut diamonds, mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These stones will exhibit some characteristics of the Old European cut, but may include some more modern characteristics.

Some ancestors of the Old Mine Cut, such as the Mazarin Cut and the Peruzzi Cut,, developed in the 1600s. The development of the ‘triple cut’ diamond shapes, such as the Old Mine Cut, coincided with the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the early 18th century. The shape was probably the most widely used shape for the next 150 years. The rounded outline of the Old European Cut became widely used only when modern Diamond fashioning methods, including mechanized bruting and sawing, became widespread, around 1870.

This information may help you establish the earliest possible or probable date of an item. However, a number of complications arise when actually dating the stones, as all these cutting styles are still being produced or capable of being produced at any time since their development. When mounted in jewelry, it becomes more complex. An older stone may be reset into a new mounting, or a new stone may be placed into an older setting. There can be a number of reasons for this, including sentimental ones involving heirloom pieces. The next owner of the piece, may have no idea of this fact and honestly judge the age of the stone or the mounting incorrectly.

Other cutting styles, such as the Asscher Cut and the more traditional Cushion Cut, were popular a century or more ago. With the recent revived popularity of some traditional style settings, newly cut stones in these older styles are appearing on the market.

Some newer cutting styles for Diamonds are a clear indication of at least a newer diamond in a piece, no matter what the age of the actual piece. Princess Cut and Radiant Cut Diamonds are modified brilliant cuts with a square or rectangular shape, and the cuts were first marketed in the 1970s. They did not see widespread use until the 1990s. It is rare that one would be encountered in a piece of jewelry older than 20 years.

There are also some anomalies, Diamonds that resemble the 20th century Modern Brilliant Cut, but which were cut in the 19th Century, and even in the 18th century. The English round-Cut, or Jeffries Cut, dates from the mid-18th century and does resemble many aspects of the Modern Round Brilliant. An American cutter, Henry Morse, marketed round diamonds around the time of the Civil War that came very close in appearance to the Modern Round Brilliant, which was developed around the time of World War I. These stones are seldom encountered in estate jewelry. Some diamonds cut with more than the normal 58 facets are occasionally encountered in vintage and antique pieces, as well, but this is also infrequent.

Occasionally, the term ‘European Cut’ is used. There is no clear meaning to the term, which may be an incorrect reference to an Old European Cut. It may also mean the stones are cut in Europe, which may or may not reflect a fine quality of cutting. It may mean a stone that is cut to certain proportions used in some European grading systems , such as the Scandinavian Standard Brilliant Cut. If you ar buying a Diamond that is represented as a European Cut, ask the seller what they mean by the term. If you are selling a Diamond as a European Cut, know what you mean by the term.

One of the great advantages of buying antique or vintage diamond jewelry is the potential for an excellent value. Intricate handworked mountings are very expensive to duplicate with modern labor. Control of the Diamond market by a single cartel is no longer the case. For years, one company and its subsidiaries, controlled the flow of at least 80% of the world’s diamonds. While their share of the market is still significant, perhaps 40-50%, the market for rough and newly cut diamonds does not offer any incredible bargains. Previously owned diamonds are not controlled nearly as much by those market forces.

Diamonds that are already mounted in jewelry can not be graded as accurately as loose stones. Weights, color grades, and clarity grades are all approximate. While a large center stone is occasionally removed from an older piece for accurate grading, then remounted in the same piece, this does not occur with the majority of older Diamond jewelry pieces.

Diamonds can become chipped or damaged over the years, in normal wear. This is particularly true of Old Mine Cuts and Old European Cuts. They will often exhibit chips at the girdle edge of the stone, the knife-like rim that separates the lower portion of the stone, the pavilion, from the upper portion of the stone, the crown. Certain styles of setting do offer more protection to these stones than others. Any previously owned jewelry should be carefully inspected for damage to the stones or setting, and the stones should be checked to make sure they are secure in their settings, with all prongs intact.


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