Archive for August 2012


The Evolution of Diamond Cutting

Every once in awhile, we’re lucky enough to have someone walk in to the store and show us a diamond that was cut in the early 1900’s. It’s really amazing to see how well (or even how poorly) diamonds were cut with the few tools available at the time; I mean, we are talking about cutting the hardest stone on earth which can only be cut and polished with another diamond. The interesting thing about diamond cutting is that it has followed a fairly simple evolution alongside the evolution of the tools available to cut them. Today, symmetry is perfected by the aid of lasers and computer programs which tell us how to cut a diamond to retain as much of the original rough diamond as possible; but back in the day, this was all done by eye and by hand.

The Point Cut

The perfect rough diamond is called a “glassy”; and it’s a perfect octahedron (8 faces and looks like 2 pyramids connected at the base). Glassies are rare, and to have one requires some time, patience, and maybe a few favours. The Point Cut is basically a glassy with the sides slightly polished to remove bumps. This is the earliest diamond cut and it remained popular into the 15th century. At this time, a cutter’s only tool was a stationary polishing surface coated with diamond grit and olive oil.

The Table Cut

In the 1400’s, cutters started polishing off the tip of the octahedron, which created a table; hence, the table cut.

The Single Cut

The single cut was developed in the 1600’s and had 8 cuts; essentially the pointed edges of the octahedron were being polished into another facet. This gave 9 facets on the top and 8 on the bottom, for a total of 17 facets. This served as the basis for the round brilliant cuts we’re used to seeing today.

The Mazarin Cut

This cut was popular in religious jewellery in the 1600’s, and was named after France’s Cardinal Jules Mazarin. The cut is a cushion shape with 34 facets. As you can see from the diagram above, cutters seem to continue polishing edges into facets more and more; but the overall square outline of the original octahedron remains.

The Old Mine Cut

This is a cut we sometimes see come into the store. It’s often cut with some rough looking symmetry. This cut actually appears modern in style and is in fact considered an early version of the brilliant cuts we see today. Because of the Old Mine Cut’s 58 facets, brilliance and fire were greatly improved compared to previous cutting styles. A good way to spot an Old Mine Cut is its enormous culet (the tip at the bottom of the diamond). Nowadays, culets are so small you can hardly see them; however, the Old Mine Cut’s culet is so big that it’s a very apparent facet. If you look in the center of the Old Mine Cut diamond pictured to the right, you see what looks like an eye’s pupil looking at you through the table. That’s a massive culet!

The Old European Cut

The Old European Cut had a little bit more symmetry than the Old Mine Cut because it actually had a circular girdle. It stood tall; i.e., it was deeper than it was wide. We still see some of these come through the store, and at first glance they can be hard to distinguish from the modern brilliant counterpart because some of these were very well cut. New cutting technologies and geometrical proportions were being used to stricter standards as the diamond industry began to flourish.

The Modern Brilliant Cut

In the Early 1900s, Henry Morse, a Boston diamond cutter had been experimenting with a variety of cutting proportions in order to produce a particular effect. When he finally found what he was looking for, the industry’s cutters rejected his ideas. Marcel Tolkowsky (the uncle of Sir Gabi Tolkowsky) later published proportions for the Modern Brilliant Cut which were similar to those of Henry Morse had suggested. Tolkowsky’s proportions were, however, widely accepted and influenced many manufacturers.

Today, the Round Brilliant is often used as a basis for many new cuts. With the advent of computer and laser technologies, hundreds of new cuts have emerged; many of them branded to a particular manufacturer. Diamonds are now cut in all kinds of different shapes and patterns that give them their very own allure. Be it as it may, Marcel Tolkowsky’s Round Brilliant still stands above all other cuts on the market today.

May all diamonds be given their full potential in expressing beauty…whichever way they’re cut.

Kind regards,


The La Mine d’Or Family

Famous Diamonds

So I get a call from my mother-in-law last night asking questions about a famous diamond called the Taylor-Burton Diamond, which unbeknownst to me was a 68ct gift from Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 (I guess you have to be from that generation). Needless to say, this had me peering through page after page of famous diamonds which we sometimes learn about, but quickly forget about. Obviously, there are more than a simple handful of famous diamonds out there and some are famous for different reasons; rare color, value, size, origin, celebrity owned, etc. But this got me going through my lists and I had to put together a write-up of my personal Top 3 most impressive diamonds.

#3 – The Great Star of Africa (The Cullinan I)

The largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found was called The Cullinan. It weighed an astonishing 3,106.75 carats. From this stone, nine stones were cut; the largest was The Cullinan I which weighs 530.4 carats. It resides in the Royal Sceptre of the British Crown Jewels. Judging of famous diamonds sold at auction in recent times, the Cullinan I is likely worth over $400 million USD. This is definitely where fairytales come from. 

#2 – The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is a 45.52ct Blue Diamond (which is extremely rare) and is argued as being the most famous.  The diamond’s origin has been debated heavily; some say India, others say Burma. Either way, the diamond has changed many hands throughout it’s history. That being said, the diamond is known to be cursed. Legend of the curse dates back when the diamond would have been stolen from a Buddhist Temple in Burma by a French Merchant travelling through the area, which would have led to this curse.

The Hope Diamond also has a rare characteristic called phosphorescence, which is explained in a previous post Fluorescent Diamonds. It’s currently held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, is said to be valued at $350 million USD.

#1 – The Golden Jubilee Diamond

The Golden Jubilee Diamond (not the Diamond Jubilee!) is the largest faceted diamond in the world weighing 545.67ct. This yellow-brown diamond was cut by Sir Gabi Tolkowsky, whom we mentioned in our previous post Diamond Cut: The Human Factor. Gabi had been hired by DeBeers to cut the famous Centenary Diamond (a 273.85 D-Flawless diamond), however, the tools required to cut a stone this size had never been conceived. Thus, Gabi took what everyone thought as a big ugly brown diamond rough in order to practice and develop the necessary tools to cut the Centenary Diamond. After two years working in a vibration proof bunker, Gabi emerged with the now famous Golden Jubilee Diamond, along with all the tools he now needed to cut the Centenary Diamond.

The diamond is currently owned by the King of Thailand. It’s apparently valued at $4-12 million USD.

As mentioned above, there are more than a handful of famous diamonds in the world all of which are interesting for different reasons. Also, some have a value associated to them, but others are deemed priceless. These were my three favorites, what are yours?

Kind regards,

The La Mine d’Or Family