Until diamonds were discovered in Brazil in the early 18th century, the majority of the world’s diamonds came from India. The extreme hardness of diamond makes it very difficult to cut so early jewelry uses uncut diamonds in their most common natural form: the octahedron. However, as the presence of the British in India increased during the 17th century, diamonds were routed through London to cities such as Amsterdam and Paris, all of which were cutting centers specializing in faceting gemstones. By adding more facets, lapidaries were able to unlock even more brilliance and ‘fire’ (the rainbow of spectral hues in diamonds).
Until the early 19th century, all antique diamonds were hand cut and polished so all antique diamonds are slightly different in shape and facet. It’s only in recent generations that diamonds with perfect facets - made possible only through modern equipment and technology - have become sought after. Yet, antique diamonds often possess brilliance, life and character with which no modern diamond can compare.
Here’s a brief rundown of some the faceting techniques and styles that resulted from evolving tastes in fashion as well as technological advances. So next time someone asks, you know exactly how you like your diamonds.
Point Cut Diamonds
By the 14th century, lapidaries in Europe were using diamond powder to polish gemstones, eliminating surface imperfections and shaping their octahedral faces. This technique led to ‘point-cut’ diamonds: the silhouette of the octahedron maintained but the face of the diamond enhanced into smooth, even surfaces.
Table Cut Diamonds
Table cut diamonds were known by the end of the 14th century. The cut is a modification of the octahedron, with the top of the pyramid evenly removed to create a large facet (‘table’) on the top of the stone. This facilitates even more light refraction and reflection, increasing the brilliance and luster of the stone.
Rose Cut Diamonds
In the late 15th to early 16th century, advances in cutting techniques and the introduction of a spinning wheel known as a scaif industrialized the faceting of gemstones and introduced new cuts such as the rose cut. Rose cuts feature triangular-shaped facets cut into the top of a stone while the underside typically remains flat. As gem-cutting became more specialized and advanced, jewelers could increase the number of facets, creating mesmerizing patterns of reflected light.
The Brilliant Cut
Developed in the late 17th century, the brilliant is the most common diamond cut today. The cut maximizes reflected light through patterns of facets on the upper and lower halves of the stone that radiate around a flat center, resulting in increased brightness and dispersion of rainbow colors.