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Antique and Vintage cut diamonds are a throwback to an earlier time, before the invention of technology that would allow for modern day diamond cutting.
The term "Cut" refers to the symmetry, proportion, and polish of a diamond. It does not relate to its shape. A diamonds cut will affect its brilliance, and a poorly cut diamond will have less luminance.
Diamonds have a distinct three-part structure. The diamonds midsection is called the girdle, the top is known as the crown, and the bottom is called the pavilion. The flat part on top is referred to as the table and is often the gems largest facet. The tiny facet capping the diamond's pavilion is called the culet.
Modern day diamonds are cut to maximize sparkle, whereas vintage diamonds where cut to maximize carat weight. There are several different vintage cuts still in use today; these include: point cuts, single cuts, rose cut, French cut, old mine cut, cushion cut, old European cut, and Asschers.
The point cut dates back to the mid 14th century; this cut is a simple polishing of the octahedral crystal faces to create even and unblemished facets. By the mid 15th century, the point cut was improved upon by having one-half of the octahedron sawn off, creating a table cut.
Diamonds cut this way appear black to the eye. They do not reveal the "fire" that diamonds are known for today. During this era, colored gemstones such as ruby and sapphire were much more popular.
The single cut dates back to the 1300's and is also known as the eight cut, they traditionally have eight crown facets and eight pavilion facets, with an octagonal shape. Modern single cuts have been modified to have a rounder shape with more facets.
A single cut diamond has a large table and the culet may be pointed or flat.
The rose cut came about in the middle of the 16th century and was common during the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Rose cut diamonds are named for their shape, which resembles a rose bud in bloom. The cut consists of triangular facets (from 3 to 24) arranged in a symmetrical radiating pattern with no table facet. The bottom of the stone is left flat - that is, it lacks a pavilion.
A rose cut diamond will have a circular shape. It used to be that you could only find rose cut diamonds in antique pieces, but modern jewelers are now making them, due to a rise in popularity.
A popular cut in the 1700's, the French cut is used in both diamond and sapphire jewelry. The name French cut comes from the fact that they were in higher demand in France than anywhere else.
In the French cut, the crown appears square when viewed from above. It has nine crown facets, with the square (or rhombus-shaped) table facet diagonal to the square of the crown. The four sides of the table are joined by four triangular facets that point towards the corners of the crown. This gives the appearance of a four-pointed star.
The crown of these diamonds is usually high, and the table is small. The French cut was a favorite during the Art Deco period.
Old Mine Cut
The Old Mine cut was invented in the mid-1800's through the 1900's. It is the predecessor to the Old European cut and the brilliant cut. It was popular in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
From the top, an old mine cut diamond looks like a gently rounded square; it is a deep cut with a high crown, small table, and flat culet.
Old mine cuts are often confused with modern cushion cut diamonds. Technically, the old mine cut is a type of cushion cut because it has a rectangular shape and rounded corners. However, the cushion cut has had years of refinement, giving it more distinct qualities.
Old mine cuts have smaller tables, open culets rather than no culet, higher crowns, and deeper pavilions than cushion cuts.
Old European Cut
The old European cut was developed in the 19th century. It is the forerunner of the modern day brilliant cut and is considered the most advanced cutting technique of the 19th century. it was widely used in the Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Nouveau eras.
Old European cut diamonds are circular in shape and quite similar to old mine cuts regarding faceting. Like the old mine cut, these diamonds possess a high crown, small table, and large culet. The difference is, the old European cut has a circular girdle, shallower pavilion, and different arrangement of facets. The old European cut boasts 58 facets for more intense sparkle.
The cushion cut is similar to the old mine cut. Both cuts are considered “Old-World Diamonds.” The cushion cut combines a square cut with rounded corners, similar to the shape of a pillow. This cut has been around for almost 200 years. Until the early 20th century, the cushion cut was the most widely used diamond shape.
The Antique cushion cut evolved over the centuries with subtle changes, such as the shrinking of its culet and the widening of its table. Different to the old mine cut, there doesn’t appear to be a hole in the middle of this cut, which indicates that the culet has been reduced to increase its ability to shine.
Created in 1902 by Joseph Asscher, this cut was the first "signature" diamond cut. They are a modern take on a vintage diamond shape. The Asscher cut is square or rectangular with wide corners. The crown is usually very high with a small table. The culet is large.
Modern Round Brilliant
In the early 1900's, diamond cutters were experimenting with new cutting techniques. In 1919, a breakthrough came with the introduction of the round brilliant. This cut maximized fire and brilliance and has since become the standard diamond cut. Like the Old European cut, the round brilliant has a circular girdle and 58 facets. The difference being, the round brilliant lacks a culet.
I hope this article helps you understand the evolution of diamond cuts. Let me know if you have any questions!