April's birthstone, Diamond, is one of the most popular and coveted gemstones in existence. I spent a summer working in an antique and vintage jewelry store where I fell in love with diamonds and was set on a whole new professional path to become a gemologist. But it wasn't just any diamond that changed my journey... It was the world of antique cut diamonds.
Timeless Allure of Antique Diamond Cuts
Many antique cut diamonds offer a romantic and soulful appeal. Unlike modern cut stones that are fashioned to return a bright, white, spiky-looking light, antique cuts have a softer appearance and more colorful nuance.
Most of the rough diamonds that came out of the ground a hundred+ years ago came from mines that had warmer-colored diamonds of ivory and champagne, allowing the diamonds a more understated charm. They were hand-cut without precise rules about facet size or angles, giving each and every stone a unique appearance yielded through the artistry of the person who faceted the diamond. Antique diamonds have angles that are often exaggerated and large facets. They are cut to maximize the height of the diamond's rough form and interact with light with mesmerizing effect.
Antique diamond cuts are known for their magical play with light. Some antique diamonds were originally meant to be viewed in candlelight and were cut to maximize scintillation, which is the soft sparkle as light is reflected off of the surface of the diamond. These diamonds were often set "en trembler" at the ends of little springs, causing the diamonds to "tremble" and sparkle when worn.
Antique diamonds are also prized for maximizing Dispersion. The steep angle of the upper half of the diamond (the crown) and small table facet of the Old European Cut Diamond and the Antique Cushion Cut cause light to enter the diamond at various angles. The white light ricochets and dances within the diamond, bending and breaking into its spectral colors repeatedly. The result is Fire: a beautiful, prismatic effect with flashes of the rainbow coming to the eye.
There are several different antique diamond cuts, many dating back several centuries, with the oldest originating in the 1300s. In my work, the most commonly found antique diamonds are the following:
Dating back to the 1300s, this antique diamond cut is set apart from others by its octagonal shape and its simple, elegant design. Single cut diamonds are feature eight facets on the diamond's crown (ie: top half) and eight facets on its pavilion (ie: bottom half).
Rose Cuts and Briolettes
With a flat base and a dome-shaped top composed of triangular facets, the Rose Cut is known as such because its shape resembles that of a rose bud blooming.
A Briolette is a diamond drop that clusters facets around a diamond bead to allow for shimmer from all sides when suspended from the top.
Rose Cut and Briolette diamonds were some of the first faceted diamond shapes. Originally cut during the Victorian era to be worn in candlelight, both shapes maximize scintillation, playing with light by softly reflecting light off of their surface.
The old mine cut features a square-shaped silhouette with slightly rounded corners. If you’re familiar with diamond cuts, you may have noticed that it resembles the modern cushion cut with its slightly square shape.
Old mine cut diamonds first appeared in the early 1700s and were popular during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Diamonds of this type are known for having a large culet, deep pavilion, small table, and a high crown. With 58 facets, just like the modern round brilliant cut, the old mine cut’s asymmetrical shape offers a distinguished, lively, and poetic feel.
An Old European Cut (Old Euro) is an antique diamond cut that is the precursor to the modern round brilliant cut diamond. The Old European Cut is regarded as the most advanced antique cut due to their rounded shape created through a process called "bruting" in which two diamonds are rubbed around each other to create a round outline.
Dating back to the late 1800s, the Old European Cut remained a prevalent design throughout the late Victorian era, Edwardian era (1901-1910), and Art Deco period (1920-1930s). Similar to the Old Mine Cut, Old European Cut diamonds feature a small table, high crown, and large culet.
In my jewelry designs, I gravitate toward the use of the stones above and use diamonds that are guaranteed to have been supplied by legitimate sources that are not involved in funding conflict. All diamonds over 0.20-carats in my engagement ring collection are Recycled diamonds.
What Are "Recycled Diamonds"?
Recycled diamonds — also known as reclaimed or estate diamonds — are diamonds that were previously set in jewelry and have re-entered the diamond supply chain as loose gemstones. Recycled Diamonds are eco-friendly diamonds and are the most environmentally-friendly and socially conscious choice. Because they’re repurposed instead of newly mined and very little energy is used to bring them to market, there is very low impact on the environment.
To extract diamonds from the Earth, the mining process requires massive amounts of soil to be removed. Harm to the air, soil, and water quality can occur and possible chemical contamination can impact local communities during mining. Recycled diamonds help us avoid these risks. In fact, there is nearly zero environmental or social impact when it comes to these responsibly sourced recycled diamonds.
Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring material, which means they are perfect for recycling — they can be worn and reset without any trace. Once reclaimed, these diamonds are used to create brand new pieces of jewelry.