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Old European Gem Cuts: Point, Old eight, Old Mine Cut

Evolution of the Faceted Diamond & Colored Gem

Article Copyright © 2012

The faceting of diamonds has come a long way in the last 700 years, but at each stage of advancement the pioneers of 'brillianting' diamonds have made great strides in bringing out the magic that is inherent in these gifts from nature.

Since the day that humans first discovered 'adamas' (diamonds), craftsmen have attempted to "improve" on nature, but that has not always been easy as these little chunks of elemental carbon are harder that anything that could be found to cut them. Still, the precursor for the "design" of the first faceted diamond lay within the rough stone itself, and the natural octahedral symmetry of the rough stone's closed isometric form.

With the realization that only a diamond could cut another diamond, this led to the invention of the first gem cutting machines (precursor to the "lap" or "Facetron") in the 1300s, and the career of the "diamantaire" (diamond cutter/polisher) was born. From this point forward it was a race to see who could design the perfect faceted cut which would bring out the maximum fire, brilliance, and light return from the stone.

Point Cut - early 1300s

The "point cut" (below left) is one of the first symmetrically faceted diamond cuts. The point cut design is dictated by the natural shape of an octahedral rough diamond. The "table cut" (below, right) was created by cutting off some of the top half of the point cut's octahedron to create a table.

Gemstone Cutting History - Point Cut

Single Cut - late 1300s

Invented in the late 14th century, the "old single cut" (aka "old eight cut") diamond has the addition of corner facets to create an octagonal girdle, an octagonal table, eight bezel or crown facets, and eight pavilion facets. The single cut may or may not have a culet at the bottom.

Gemstone Cutting History - Single Cut

Rose & Briolette Cut- 1500s

Invented in the mid 16th century, the "rose cut" is also known by the the "Antwerp rose," "crowned rose cut," "Dutch cut," and the Full Holland cut. The Rose cut can form a single hemisphere for a total of 24 facets or it can be two back-to-back hemispheres (Double Dutch rose) forming a total of 48 facets.

Gemstone Cutting History - Rose Cut & Briolette

The "senaille cut" is a rose cut with irregular or non-symmetrical faceting. The "briolette cut" is a modified "double Dutch rose cut" with one of the hemispheres being elongated. The briolette cut was designed primarily for use in a pendant or as a dangling bauble in a crown. The briolette was the precursor to the "pendeloque cut" which is a pear-shaped modification of the round brilliant cut.

Old Mine Cut - 1700s

The "old mine" cut is the earliest form of the "brilliant cut" diamond. Also called the "cushion cut", it has a cushioned or rounded girdle shape. This Old Mine cut is basically square with gently rounded corners and "brilliant" style facets. The crown is typically tall, resulting in a smaller table. The culet is usually large enough to be visible when viewed through the table.

Gemstone Cutting History - Old Mine Cut

Old European Cut - 1800s

The "Old European" cut was the forerunner of the modern round brilliant cut. The Old European diamond cut has a very small table, a heavy crown, and very tall overall depth. Like the modern round brilliant, the old European diamond has a circular girdle.

Gemstone Cutting History - Old European Cut

The Modern Round Brilliant Cut - 1900s

The "modern round brilliant cut" (below) was developed by Belgian diamond-cutter Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. This cut is also known as the "Tolkowsky Cut" and "Tolkowsky brilliant." Even with modern techniques, the cutting and polishing of a diamonds resulted in a loss of as much as 50% of the stone's total weight. The round brilliant cut was a partial solution to this problem.

Round Brilliant Cut & Natural Octahedron

As with its predecessor the "point cut" over 600 years earlier, the Modern Round Brilliant cut is beneficial when the crystal is an octahedron (diagram above), as two stones can be cut from one crystal with a minimum amount of waste.

Eight Cut & Swiss Cut

The "eight cut" is primarily used for small stones when a brilliant cut would be impractical. The eight cut is similar to the "single cut" in that there are eight four-sided trapezoidal facets at the crown, eight facets at the pavilion, and an octagon-shaped table for a total of 17 facets (18 if a culet is used).

Gemstone Cutting History - Eight Cut

A "Swiss cut" is a compromise between an eight cut and a brilliant cut, with a total of 33 facets (34 if a culet is used); 16 isosceles triangle facets on the crown and 16 facets on the pavilion. Both the eight cut Swiss cut are still used today for small very diamonds and gems (smaller than 2mm carat weight) as would be used in pavé settings.

On To:

Fancy Gem Cuts & Fantasy Cuts

Patented Signature Diamond Cuts

Gem Cutting Technology, Equipment & Techniques

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Bibliography on Diamond Optics

1., Faceting Machines & How-To Tips

2. Diamond Design, Reflection & Refraction of Light in a Diamond

3., Step-by-Step Gem Cutting Instructions

4. Gemstone Artists, The Gem Cutting Process .

5. Gem Society, Fundamentals of Lapidary Faceting .

6. US Faceters Guild, Faceting Diagrams & Gemstone Designs .

7. Rock Hounds, Faceting By Hand .

8. Bowers Museum, The Art and Nature of Precious Stones .

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