To understand antique diamonds, it's helpful to examine the modern diamond. In the simplest representation, a modern diamond has 3 main parts. The top of the diamond is called the crown and the bottom is called the pavilion. The part that separates the crown and pavilion is called the girdle. A modern brilliant cut diamond has 57-58 facets or polished surfaces. The flat part on top of the diamond is the table, which is the largest facet. The culet is a tiny facet at the very bottom of the pavilion. If the pavilion comes to a point at the bottom, the diamond does not have a culet.
Today's modern brilliant diamond is precisely cut to maximize the diamond's "fire", which is the play of light that reflects off the stone's facets. When grading the cut of a modern diamond, one must consider several characteristics: table size, crown angle, pavilion depth, girdle thickness, as well as polish and symmetry.
When judging diamonds in antique jewelry, one must be careful not to judge antique diamonds by modern standards. Antique diamonds have a soft romantic glow that many people find very appealing. Antique diamonds typically have smaller tables, higher crowns, deeper pavilions and thicker girdles than their modern counterparts. Antique diamonds were cut to maximize carat weight, not "fire". That's why the proportions of old diamonds are quite different from their modern counterparts.
Diamonds were cut by hand until the early 1900's. This was a laborious, time-consuming process. Unfortunately, many antique diamonds have been re-cut with modern cutting techniques. This has caused demand for these old cut diamonds to soar in recent years, along with the prices that people are willing to pay for them.
Rose cut diamonds were introduced as early as the 1500's and were popular until the early 1900's. The shape of a rose cut diamond resembles the petals of a rose bud. The bottom is flat. The crown is domed shaped and the facets meet in a point in the center. The number of facets varies from 3,6,12,18,to 24 facets.
The old mine cut diamond is the earliest form of the modern brilliant cut. Also called the "cushion cut", it has a cushioned shaped girdle. This cut of diamond is characterized by a high crown, small table, deep pavilion and large culet. Other names for this cut are: old miner, peruzzi cut, and triple cut brilliant.
The old European diamond has a very small table, a heavy crown, and great overall depth. This diamond cut was the fore-runner of the modern brillant cut. Like the modern round brilliant, the old European diamond has a circular girdle.
The single cut diamond has an octagonal girdle, a table, eight bezel (or crown) facets, and 8 pavilion facets. It may or may not have a culet.
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