|Point Cut||Rose Cut||Table Cut||Emerald Cut||Shield Cut|
|French Cut||Briolette cut||Mughal Cut||Single Cut||Swiss Cut|
|Brilliant Cut||Marquise Cut||Asscher Cut||Baguette Cut||Princess Cut|
Diamonds crystallize in various forms of which the octahedral and dodecahedral crystals are the two most common ones. These natural crystals have been adorned in their own right for millennia. The only source of diamonds until the beginning of the 18th century was India and it was here where mystical powers were attributed to the natural points. A well formed crystal shielded the owner from all kinds of mishap and these gems were reserved for the highest caste only.
For centuries to come natural points would remain the most precious of all diamonds and all pointed crystals encountered in jewelry right up until the 15th century appear to have been uncut crystals. In gemological literature these crystals have often received the name Point Cut, a term which is debatable because often there was no actual cutting involved apart from the removal of mineral matter which covered the crystals when they were found.
A natural octahedron by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0
Roman ring containing a diamond crystal. © Trustees of the British Museum
Natural crystals often have irregularities and are distorted. From the 15th century on diamond cutters would grind material off the stone trying to smooth the crystal and introduce some symmetry. In doing this they tried to keep the widest area of the stone intact; this became the girdle. After all, it's this part of the stone that will determine the 'look' of its size. A diamond cutter, when handling an octahedral crystal, would have three possible girdles to pick from and would choose the one giving him the largest outline.
From ancient times on the common idea was that a diamond needed to be 'natural and untouched' to maintain the best of its magical powers. The point cut was a way to bring crooked and flawed crystal towards the ideal: a perfect octahedral crystal, without appearing modeled by man.
Diamonds are the hardest substance on earth but do feature directional hardness; the material's ability to withstand scratching is different in certain directions. A diamond's hardness along its natural octahedral faces is very high. Therefor the grinding would have to be done on an angle that diverged at least one or two degrees from the natural angle of about 54.75°.
The above implies that the stone's points have to be cut shallower than the natural point. This slightly different shape causes different internal reflections within the crystal. A visible, diagonal square, touching the outline of the stone is what we see when we look down the point of a natural crystal. When the point is the result of fabrication its apex will be lower. The shallower the point, the smaller the diagonal square. This is illustrated in the images below.
A natural point
by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0
The difference between a natural point on the left and a fashioned point with its apex lowered on the right.
Not all diamond crystals are octahedral though. Dodecahedral crystals are commonly found and they were treated in the same way by the diamond cutters of the 16th century. Irregularities would be smoothened and the faces polished. When a dodecahedron is orientated with four of its faces up, a design emerges which is named the Burgundian Point Cut by Tillander.
It was a small step from the first Point Cuts to the first Table Cuts. When, around 1500, Table cuts became fashionable many point cuts were transformed into Table Cuts. Both Point and Table Cuts were often set with reflective foils behind them to maximize the light return. Apart from the internally reflected light, the diamond's superior lustre (surface reflection) makes it the brilliant gem it is. A high polish of the gem's faces is vital to bring a stone's brilliance (internal + external reflection) to its maximum.
Computer rendering of a diamond dodecahedral crystal with four of it's faces facing the camera. This orientation is what Tillander calls the Burgundian point cut.
Because virtually all diamonds from the 16th century have been recut we are very thankful for the accurate paintings of an artist named Hans Mielich. Somewhere in between 1552 and 1555 he painted the jewelry collection of Duchess Anna of Austria (1528-1590), wife of Albrecht V of Bavaria, with a great eye for detail in the gemstones. Anna must have loved diamonds because she possessed a fair few! Below follows a short peek into the Kleinodienbuch der Herzogin Anna von Bayern which has been digitalized by the Bavarian State Library and comes highly recommended as a view into the past!
a small octahedron.
a Mirror Cut ruby with an octahedron above it.
a rather large octahedron, or Pyramidal Point Cut when it was polished, above the pearl.
several table cut stones with a dodecahedral diamond, or Burgundian Point Cut when it was polished, below it.
Rose cuts are flat bottomed stones that feature triangular facets on the tipped crown. Rough that would be fashioned into a rose cut were usually slivers that would serve no other purpose; the cutters simply tried to make the best of it by applying a few facets on the top.
Rose Cuts, during the 16th century were overshadowed by the popularity of the Table Cut and the Point Cut, and should not to be confused with 'Rosettes'. These are several small stones that, together, form a floral depiction when set.
Nearly all Rose Cut stones received a reflective foil behind them when they were set in an attempt to improve their light performance. They were mainly manufactured in Antwerp and Brabant. (A group of Antwerp cutters had settled in the province of Brabant in order to evade the city's taxes.) A third centre was the city of Charleroi, to the south east of Antwerp near the French border.
The Earliest and simplest Rose Cuts are no more then three or six facets ground onto a crystal tip with a flat bottom. They often where very flat stones and occasionally they are found with a rounded outline. These stones appeared in the 16th century and their complexity increased in the centuries after their first arrival. The number of facets increased as well as their placing on the crown. Please note that all these illustrations represent schematic shapes. In reality Rose Cuts were hardly ever symmetrical and are usually found with rather irregular outlines.
From the 6-facet Rose it was a small step to the 12 facet Rose which is 'crowned'; it has a second row of facets. This intermediate stage in between the full Rose Cut and the simplest of all Rose Cuts, the three-facet Rose, was found to provide some brilliance but no dispersion.
Realising that this was due to the smaller facets the next logical step was to cut more facets onto the crown. These stones became rather popular during the 19th century. They were cut mainly in Amsterdam which, by this time, had taken over the function of Diamond Centre of the world from Antwerp.
The final stage in the evolution of the Rose cut is the Full Rose cut or twenty-four-facet Rose Cut. The oldest known Full Rose Cut is set in a pendant that is believed to date back as far as the end of the 16th century.
Cleaved off sections of dodecahedral crystals form ideal starting material for rose cuts. On the left you see the product of cleaving a full dodecahedron. The bulky part can be fashioned into a pavilion based stone while the tip is a natural 3-facet Rose.
The term 'Double Rose' refers to one stone that has the Rose Cut design for both it's crown and it's pavilion.
The term 'table cut' is used to indicate all types of cuts that have a table facet. Cuts that fall under this header are the historical full table, mirror or spread table, french, scissor and peruzzi cuts. But also the modern brilliant, princess and baguette cuts fall under this header.
After the beginning of diamond fashioning in the form of point cuts, cutters were quickly aware of their actions having influence on the performance of the stone in regard to their beauty. The angles of the pavilion facets proved to be in direct correlation to the stone's ability to return light in the direction of the viewer's eyes. A table facet improved the appearance of a stone immensely. The first table cuts were in fact pyramidal point cuts with one point removed completely and the other turned into a flat culet.
The rough diamonds that were available in the renaissance all came from the Golconda diamond fields in India. One has to consider that perfect octahedrons were the most popular shape in India. These stones were likely never to reach Europe. A lot of rough that found it's way to Europe had odd shapes that were unwanted in India. It is these 'rejects' that forced the European cutter to become creative in it's cutting designs.
The main objective of any cutter is weight retention. The second is the appearance of the stone which comes forth from the internal and external light reflection, also known as brilliance. The Renaissance cutters quickly discovered that pavilion angles of 45° were giving them stones with excellent brilliance. When possible, the crown would be cut at 45° as well.
The Point cut with one tip cut off. It has 4 main facets on the pavilion together with a culet. The crown features four main facets and a table facet. These stones were square or rectangular in shape and are the predecessors of the Emerald Cut and the Square Cut
There is many historical Table Cuts that display rounded or blunt corners. This is due to the fact that out many pieces of rough, such as a macle or half an octahedron a larger gem can be cut when two corners are sacrificed.
Full table cuts have been in fashion throughout the Renaissance. Only few have survived to see this day; they had excellent proportions to be recut to a modern Brilliant Cut.Mirror or Spread Table Cut
Diamonds are often found as twinned crystals (macles). These crystals are often very shallow and were subsequently relatively cheap due to their unfavorable form. In order to retain as much weight as possible these stones and other flat pieces of rough were often cut as mirror stones with a very large table and a shallow pavilion. The cut received it's name from the mirror like reflection of the large table facet.Step Cuts
The step cut is the predecessor of the Emerald Cut and Asscher Cut. Step cuts have main facets that are built up horizontally: the crown and pavilion are built up out of steps. This way rough that hasn't got enough depth can still be cut into a large stone with reasonable light effects.French Cut
A square table cut characterized by the diagonal cross made up out of the crown's main facets and the table facet.
The Emerald Cut is a rectangular step cut design which means it has horizontal facets which differ in angles of inclination. Although occasionally used for diamonds, it is more often used for colored stones which crystallize in long prismatic shapes which favor from a long rectangular design such as Tourmaline and Beryl, of which the green variety Emerald has been used to name the cut.
The Term Shield Cut, as suggested by Tillander, indicates all historical triangular cuts. The basic blueprint comes from half an octahedron: a was.
When an octahedron is cleaved through the middle, each half forms a stone with a large, flat bottom and a triangular top with slightly sloping sides. When the stone is mounted with the triangle facing up the stone resembles the shape of a shield; one of the most prevalent emblems of heraldry and warfare.
Unlike the term 'German cut', which means that the stones were cut in Germany, French cut stones aren't referring to the fact that they were cut in France. It refers to their shape and design. They can be recognized by the typical cross the crown facets depict. French cut stones are square or rectangular multifaceted stones. They derived from making optimal use of dodecahedral diamond crystals.
To cut the crown of a french cut diamond one of the tops of the crystal is ground down to create a table that sits diagonal to the sides of the crystal. At this point the remaining crystal faces form natural facets that only need slight modelling to make it a symmetrical cut as can be seen in the image on the right. The outline is squared and the pavilion is cut to 4 plain facets adjusting the angle of the original faces to allow a high light return. Varieties where the facets described above are divided in half to create more facets are common.
French cut diamonds date back to the beginning of the 1400's but they came into fashion in the 17th century where they were favored favored by royalty and nobility until the brilliant cut was first introduced. French cut diamonds regained popularity during the Art Deco Era where they complimented the regular, geometric designs brilliantly.
Its name is probably derived from the fact that it was more popular in France then anywhere else. You may encounter the term flat-bottomed French cut. This refers to stones without a pavilion (like a rose cut). Their crowns follow the style of the traditional French cut.
Briolettes are drop shaped, multi faceted stones. They are unique in the sense that they lack a girdle, a feature all other gemstone cuts have and by which they are usually set. Consequently briolettes are used as beads by drilling them or as pendants, being suspended from their tips.
Briolettes were fashioned in India as early as the 17th century. J.B. Tavernier sold two of them to Louis XIV and documented them in his book Six Voyages of Jean Baptiste Tavernier. Briolettes may have originated from the double Rose Cut which, when one of the sides is longer than the other, form a drop shaped stone. Looking at historic briolettes no such thing becomes obvious though. Most briolettes have facet arrangements which differ from the usual hexagonal arrangement of triangular facets which is so characteristic for the Full Rose Cut.
Around the same time diamond cutting began in Europe the Indians started fashioning diamonds. Who influenced who here isn't clear but it is a fact that the designs produced differ a lot from each other. The best known Indian cut is the Mughal cut, accurately described by J.B. Tavernier in his book 'Six Voyages'.
The name indicates a native Indian cut which followed the shape of the rough and often exhibits a large flat base and a reasonably large table facet seperated by a sloping array of smaller facets but these features are by no means a requirement for the name Mughal Cut. The best known example of a Mughal Cut was the fabled Koh-I-Noor (pictured on the right), which was re-cut into an oval brilliant in 1852 and currently resides in the Tower of London.
Tavernier has left us with a fair few sketches of Indian native cuts, which illustrate the rather wide variety of possibilities. The term Mughal Cut is better understood to be describing a diamond cut in India in the 16th, 17th or 18th century rather than a certain shape or arrangements of facets:
One famous Mughal Cut diamond which is still to be admired today is the Orlov diamond:
The Old Single Cut is a variation to the early Table Cuts and is encountered from the earliest days of diamond cutting on. All one has to do to create one is to grind off the four corners of a square table cut and replace them by facets creating a stone with 9 facets on its crown and 9 on it's pavilion when we include the table and culet facets.
The New Single Cut can be described as a round stone with similar facets as the Old Single Cut without the culet facet. They feature an octagonal table facet with four mains on it's crown and 8 mains on it's pavilion. Truly round stones could only be manufactured in any serious quantities after the invention of the mechanized bruting machine at the end of the 19th century. During the Edwardian Period, Swiss Cut stones were the most prevalent cut used for small complimentary diamonds. This changed in the 1920's when Single Cuts took over that role because they were easier and cheaper to manufacture. Art Deco jewelry is often set with small single cut melée versus Swiss Cut melée in Edwardian jewelry.
Swiss cut diamonds are the late 19th century predecessor to the 20th century Single Cut. Their crowns are built up out of a table facet, eight crown star facets and eight bezel facets. Main facets are lacking which forms the difference with Brilliant Cut stones. Their pavilions are built up out of eight main and eight bezel facets.
These stones have been mainly used as small side-stones to compliment larger Brilliant Cuts. They are typically found in late 19th and early 20th century jewelry until they were replaced by the New Single Cuts around the beginning of the Art Deco period. Single Cuts were easier and cheaper to manufacture and took over the role of the standard cut for melée-sized stones.
When we think of a diamond, most of us will form an image in our mind which closely resembles the image above. This cutting design has become the ultimate standard and almost all of the rough diamonds that are found these days end up being fashioned in this style. We call it the Brilliant, the Standard Round Brilliant to be exact. The term 'brilliant' refers to the optimal light return this cutting design produces. When light falls onto a transparent gemstone it enters the stone and undergoes refraction. In order for the observer of a diamond to experience the stone's 'brilliance', light needs to be reflected within the gem so that it leaves the stone in the direction from which it came allowing it to reach the observer's eye. The Brilliant is the result of optimizing this effect by fashioning the diamond in a specific way.
In the ancient world diamonds were coveted for their supreme hardness. They symbolized invincibility and were worn by rulers who saw their status reflected by this superior stone. Their beauty was a secondary feature at best. In fact, in the early days diamonds weren't that pretty at all when looked upon with a modern eye. At the end of the Middle Ages, when diamond fashioning started, they weren't cut to achieve spectacular light effects. Table Cuts showed some brightness but nothing like what we are so used to today. The other popular cut attempted to resemble the natural ideal: a crystal point which shows very limited brightness and was loved because of it's shape and, when polished, surface reflection. Something changed during the 17th century. Diamond cutters in Europe had seen their arsenal of fashioning techniques evolve and their customers, the Baroque nobility, developed a taste for gems which sparkled in all colors of the rainbow and appeared brighter than ever before. The now so popular Rose Cut stones with their numerous little facets reflecting the candlelight in all directions needed to be complimented by something new, something bright and shiny.
A lot has been written on how the Brilliant came into being. Since the beginning of the 19th century various historians have published views on the birth of the Brilliant. Most often the names of Vicenzio Peruzzi and Cardinal Jules Mazarin are encountered in these writings. The first having been a Venetian diamond cutter credited with the first true brilliant design and the second with similar credits. These two 'facts' have been repeated ad nauseam in articles discussing the history of the Brilliant and have consequently become widely accepted. Whether Cardinal Mazarin designed a brilliant remains yet to be proven though. The only thing that is known with any certainty, is that he commissioned the twelve largest French crown jewels to be recut into a 'new design'. With Peruzzi it goes even a step further. In 1813 a French jeweler named Claire wrote 'La Science des Pierres Précieuses' in which he is the first to name Peruzzi as the inventor of the first brilliant around 1680. A few historians have since tried to find proof of this and all have come to the same conclusion: there is no evidence a diamond cutter named Vicenzio Peruzzi ever lived. It is like the man is a completely fictive character in Claire's text. In 1750, David Jeffries, an English jeweler and diamond dealer wrote his Treatise on diamonds and pearls in which he does an excellent job in teaching his readers how to recognize a good brilliant from a bad one but unfortunately, he doesn't get into the origin of the design. Brilliants had been around for some 50 years by the time he wrote his book and from Jeffries it can be deduced that a standard had evolved. Please do take note of the fact that the old Table and Point Cuts were still in fashion at the beginning of the 18th century as well.
Round, oval and other shaped Brilliants were cut in these early days but just weren't the standard and only occurred in instances where the rough happened to be favorable for such an outline. The Brilliants Jeffries describes are squarish and have main angles of 45° for both the crown and pavilion. The table facet isn't octagonal like Claire's Peruzzi Cut but displays a fourfold symmetry. The lower girdle facets are short, the girdle thin, but not knife edged to avoid chipping and the design has a culet facet of a certain size. His description is the first attempt at standardizing the brilliant design, something which would see successive modifications in more recent times.
Although Jeffries' writings show that the path to standardization had been taken, Brilliants of the 18th and 19th century show no such sign. The means diamond cutters had to introduce a symmetrical outline, a requirement for even facet distribution, and were still extremely limited. Bruting still occurred by hand and was a time consuming and difficult task. One also has to consider that shaping a stone to become symmetrical in its outline costs a lot of material. Weight has always been the decisive factor when pricing diamonds so cutters have alway been keen to retain as much weight as possible. This explains the predominantly squarish outlines of early brilliants. Most rough had square shapes as had the diamond cuts of the past which acted as a starting point: the great recutting of old cuts had begun. The rise of the Brilliant coincided with depletion of the Indian diamond mines so at first it was mainly existing Table and Point Cut stones which were recut into the new fashionable design. Many of the old Table Cuts had missing or blunted corners, a problem which the cutters solved by creating a square outline with rounded corners: a cushion shaped stone. When, around 1730, a steady production of Brazilian diamonds was realized most of this new rough was cut into cushion shaped Brilliants. The term used to indicate these brilliants of the second half of the 18th and most of the 19th century is the 'Old Mine Cut'. The term was introduced in the late 19th century and is still encountered today.
Round Baroque Brilliants had been around since the end of the 17th century as exceptions but weren't the most fashionable ones. This changed gradually over the second half of the 19th century. The great pioneer of the Round Brilliant was Henry D. Morse (1826-1888) who was a diamond cutter from Boston, USA. Morse met an engineer named Charles Field and together they invented a steam driven bruting machine which they patented in 1874. This machine enabled Morse to shape symmetrical, rounded stones more easily which could then be fashioned with a symmetrical distribution of facets.
A drawback was that the rounding of rough with the aid of the bruting machine caused weight losses which were unacceptable by the cutters of that day. This was solved when a power driven circular saw was invented, allowing cutters to waste less by using the cut off sections as rough for small stones.
The introduction of mechanical cutting devices revolutionized the diamond cutting industry. Round became the new standard and symmetry became an important factor. European diamond cutters quickly adopted the use of machines and started producing Round Brilliants en masse. The products of these later 19th and early 20th century cutting houses are called 'Old European Cuts', a term which indicates stones with round outlines, reasonable symmetry, octagonal table facets, deep pavilions, high crowns and short pavilion bezels. The open culet persisted as well. Occasionally the term 'Old European Cut' is encountered to indicate all somewhat round brilliants predating the introduction of the Standard Round Brilliant, even the completely unsymmetrical ones which were fashioned in the 18th century.
Morse didn't just revolutionize diamond cutting techniques, he also revolutionized the Brilliant design by lowering the angles of the crown and pavilion to increase brilliance. He further reduced the size of the table and culet facet and lengthened the pavilion bezel facets. His ideas weren't instantly implemented by the men who so gratefully adopted his machines, his contemporary cutting colleagues in Europe, but were picked up some 30-40 years later in the second decade of the 20th century by two gentlemen named Frank Wade and Marcel Tolkowsky. Both these men published their ideas of how a properly proportioned brilliant should be built up. Wade published his views in 1916 and comprised modification of the brilliant design. Tolkowsky did the same but then in Europe in 1919, trying to back up his findings with mathematical calculations of the brilliance.
Stones were expected to show a well balanced mix of brilliance and fire. The angles at which the crown and pavilion are cut are the decisive factors for brilliance while the size of the table is the decisive factor for the amount of dispersion a stone will show. The larger the table the more brilliance it will show but this at the cost of dispersion. The reversed is true too. When a diamond has a small table facet it will show a lot of dispersion but little brilliance. Wade's ideal had a rather small table, thus showing more fire at the cost of brilliance. Tolkowsky's table facet was quite a bit larger, allowing for a more balanced dispersion-brilliance ratio.
Tolkowsky's proportions gradually became the standard over the 20th century. The culet has become a point and the pavilion bezels longer and narrower. These days almost all diamonds are cut in the same Standard Round Brilliant (SRB) design.
The Brilliant design has been implemented on various shapes resulting in stones such as ovals, hearts, marquise and pears. All these stones display the same principle built up of the brilliant, it is just their outlines which differ.
The Marquise Cut (a.k.a. the Navette Cut after the Latin 'navalis', meaning boat shaped) can be traced back to Paris around 1745. The cut is a member of the brilliant family and the story goes that it was first commissioned by Louis XV. He would have ordered the cut for a jewel which was to be worn by his mistress: Mme de Pompadour. This lady was given the title of Marquise in 1745 and the cut was named to honor her and popularize her new title.
The cut is a modified brilliant of elliptical shape with pointed ends. Consequently the cut has undergone the very same evolution as the round brilliant: the older marquise cuts have wider pavilion main facets and lower bezel facets which intersect at approximately one third of the way towards the culet. The open culet persists into the 1930s when it starts to transition into a closed culet. Keep in mind that exceptions in the form of earlier examples with closed culets do exist; the above describes the general trend, not a hard rule. The diagrams below illustrate these changes:
In 1902 the Dutch diamond cutter Joseph Asscher developed the cut that would carry his name on into the future. The square, step cut, design had been around for ages but the modifications Asscher implemented (two more rows of facets and a diagonal cross blunting the corners of the square) made the cut into a design that could be patented. This high crowned diamond cut, with perfect symmetry and 74 facets loses an additional 15% of the rough weight in order to gain the greater dispersion and brilliance associated with an Asscher cut.
In 1980 Queen Juliana of the Netherlands awarded a royal title to the Asscher Diamond Company thus changing its name to the Royal Asscher Diamond Company and its patented cut to the Royal Asscher Cut.
The baguette cut represents an elongated, rectangular table cut. The modern version, as in the ring on the right, was (re)introduced for diamonds by Cartier in 1912. The linear, rectangular cuts from which the modern baguette is derived have been seen in jewelry and paintings since the mid-sixteenth century under the names Hogback or Dos d'âne.
The name 'baguette' comes from the French bague. Currently, bague translates as finger ring but, until the seventeenth century, the term was used to indicate jewels in general. Therefore the diminutive 'baguette' is translated as 'small jewel'.
Baguettes are cut from long, slender bits of rough which remain when you cleave an octahedron twice. The original hogback was just that: half of half an octahedron. When a table facet is introduced on one of the long sides you are left with what eventually morphs into our modern baguette: an elongated table cut. In the diagram below this process is illustrated. The first row of images illustrates the cleaving, the second row shows the result after cleaving from different angles and the third row shows how a hogback is transformed into a basic baguette. Additional fashioning, adding more facets to the crown and pavilion can then transform the basic baguette into the modern baguette.
In the 16th and 17th century hogbacks were often used together to fill figures or letters. The modern baguette as we know it is almost exclusively used to adorn a larger stone.
Being one of the more modern diamond cuts the Princess Cut is often indicated as being a square brilliant but this is technically incorrect. Its basic design is quite different from that of a square brilliant and is actually a parody to the French Cut.
This design emerged in the 1960's and has become one of the most popular cuts today.