More on cut. What’s old is new. Antique diamonds are really popular at the moment …
It is worth noting the difference between true antique stones and ‘antique style’ stones. When one speaks of antique diamonds, they are usually referring to Old Mine Cut (cushion shape) or Old European Cut (round shape) diamonds. Asscher Cut is also considered an antique cut but which has a totally different look and appeal.
Antique diamonds tend to be a light yellow or brown. It is extremely rare to find an antique diamond that is in the D, E, F color range (see my post on color).
Why? It is because very white rough diamonds are typically found very deep in diamond producing Kimberlite Pipes and the yellow or brown material are found near the top. When diamond producing Kimberlite Pipes were first discovered in South Africa in the late 19th century (most antique diamonds hail from this time period), miners were digging near the top.
As the decades wore on, and as miners bore deeper and deeper into the pipes, the rough material found are whiter and whiter. This is why antique diamonds are usually always slightly yellow or brown.
As a historical note, the discoveries in South Africa created a sudden increase in supply which enabled the middle-class to afford diamonds; a thing that had previously been reserved only for elite society. To create demand, De Beers launched an aggressive marketing campaign starting in the late 1930’s targeting young men and associating diamonds with romance and affluence.
The slogan “A Diamond Is Forever” was coined in 1947 by a female copywriter by the name of Frances Gerety employed at N.W. Ayer & Son – a leading American advertising agency hired by De Beers to drive sales in the U.S.
And the rest is history.
So, what does an Old Miner look like? Typically they are slightly irregular in shape – as the technology did not exist back in the late 19th century to create perfectly shaped stones. They have a large culet (the bottom facet on the pavilion of a diamond) and they are slightly yellow or brown.
As technology improved, cutters were able to achieve a close to perfect round shape and the Old European Cut diamond was born. These are the predecessors of the modern round brilliant.
I personally love the Old European. It is a shame that so many of them have been re-cut into modern rounds. They give off a soft glowing light with a beautiful pastel dispersion (the rainbow colors a diamond gives off). It is much softer than the modern round in terms of eye appeal.
Then, there is the Asscher Cut. This cut has a very modern aesthetic, in a way, because of its square shape, beveled corners and geometric concentric appeal.
Created in 1905 by Joseph Asscher, this cut enjoyed instant popularity.
I think the Asscher cut was very innovative for its time – nothing like it had been done before – especially not with diamonds … the Asscher family held the patent for this cut for decades until WWII.
The Asscher has quite a deep pavilion. Face up, an Asscher will look quite a bit smaller than a round brilliant of equal weight because so much of the weight is concentrated at the bottom of the stone … this is something to think about if you’re interested in size appeal.
Asschers are typically better suited for larger stones – 2.0 cts. and up. Also, an Asscher Cut diamond has to be very high in clarity … like an Emerald Cut, there are not a lot of hiding places for inclusions.
(images via Kalmar Antiques, diamondsbylauren.com, A La Vieille Russie, Royal Asscher)