Sunday, September 7, 2014

The History of Different Diamond Cuts

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How were diamonds cut throughout history? What was the value or significance to different cuts, and how difficult were they for diamond polishers to achieve? It might surprise you that while diamonds have been used in jewelry for many hundreds of years, they did not always appear the way we see them today. Let's look at the history of diamond cuts and how the most popular cuts today came to be.

Before the 14th century, diamonds used in jewelry were left uncut in their natural octahedral shape. Eventually, craftspeople began to polish the sides of the diamond into what is known as the point cut -- two points on either side, like two pyramids fixed at the bases. The difference in appearance between a natural diamond and a point cut diamond is remarkable, and they became the norm. By the mid-15th century, specific diamond-polishing guilds were in effect, and the diamond's shape changes really began to take off.

The next style of diamond cut was the table cut. The top pyramid of the point cut was sawed off into a straight surface, or culet. With a beveled edge, this new shape for the diamond gave rise to terminology for its parts: the top part, with the face and beveled edges, is called the crown. The bottom part, usually pointed, is the pavilion. A table cut diamond would appear black, because its cut did not reveal the diamond's fire. Interestingly, many paintings of the era depict black diamonds that are actually table cut regular diamonds. Because of this, diamonds were not nearly as popular for jewelry as colored stones like rubies and emeralds.

A Flemish polisher named Lodewyk van Berquem invented a new method of polishing diamonds in 1476. Using a device he conceived of called a scaif, he was able to cut stones into a pear shape. This shape allowed for triangular facets on each side of the stone's point, letting the light bounce in a way that had never been seen before.

In the 16th century, the rose cut become popular. The rose cut has a crown with triangular facets radiating from a center point, and a flat base (as in, no pavilion). These qualities gave this cut a more impressive shine. Different styles of this cut include the hexagonal Antwerp rose cut, the oval briolette rose cut, and one that resembles two rose cuts leaning against each other: the double Dutch rose cut. It is possible that the rose cut style was influenced by Indian stone-cutting techniques, as some Indian diamonds have similar triangular facets radiating outward. The distinction lies in the symmetry of the European stones, where carat weight was sacrificed for balance. Rose cut diamonds remain today in antique jewelry and in general are not as popular as more modern diamond cuts. However, they remain in high demand for those looking for period jewelry and unique vintage pieces.

In the middle of the 17th century, the brilliant cut made its debut. Vincent Peruzzi was a Venetian polisher who was able to increase the number of facets in a diamond to 33 -- a far more impressive cut than the rose cuts that came before it. This revealed the diamond's fire and brilliance. Cut in rounded squares and rounded rectangles, the shape of these diamonds is referred to as a cushion. This cut was popular in the 18th century specifically. By the 19th century, the cushion shape was advanced to what is referred to as "the old European cut." Its facets are differently arranged, and it is shallower and more round. In these ways, it is more like today's brilliant cut diamonds.

When compared to brilliant cut diamonds today, though, even these outstanding specimens appear dull. That's because the cuts of today round the diamond as well as adding facets -- meaning the light reflects better within the stone. Around the turn of the 20th century, better tools, such as lathes and saws, allowed for more ambitious cuts, such as the brilliant cut we know today. Marcel Tolkowsky analyzed the amount of white light reflected, also known as brilliance, and the amount of fire, to attempt to develop the best proportion of each. His calculations are not perfect, but they remain helpful to the industry today. The technique of analyzing a diamond's characteristics using mathematical calculations has become commonplace in the industry today. Computer generated models help to determine the best angles for the most beautiful diamond cut.

The round brilliant remains the most popular cut for jewelry diamonds. It is particularly favored for engagement rings, but also for earrings and pendants. The second most popular cut is the princess cut, what's known as a mixed cut. Invented in the 1960s, it has the same high degree of brilliance as the round brilliant, but its face is square. This means it will weigh more than a round brilliant of the same size. It's no wonder that this relatively new cut is vying for popularity with the round brilliant. Other popular cuts are the pointed oval of the marquise, the triangular trilliant, step cuts like the emerald, and even heart shape.

A diamond's cut is one of the most important things to consider when shopping for a diamond. It determines the brilliance and fire, and it is directly related to the carat weight of the stone. Most importantly, the different cuts determine the shape of the stone itself. Does your special someone want a flirty and fun heart-shaped stone, or a sophisticated emerald cut? Do they prefer the more modern looks of the princess or round brilliant cuts, or vintage looks like the rose cut? Once you've selected the perfect cut for your diamond jewelry, you'll want to make sure that you store your impressive new heirloom in a jewelry box or case that matches the diamond's splendor.

ChasingTreasure has a wide selection of luxury jewelry boxes that are ideal for containing your most precious diamonds. There are more choices for luxury jewelry boxes than there are diamond cuts!

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