The second oldest known diamond cut is called the table cut. Though the term applies to all diamonds with flat top facets, including the round brilliant, its earliest form was that of a point cut with its top ground away. What remained was crown with a square top facet bordered by four parallelograms, four triangular pavilion facets and a culet at the bottom.
While the early table cut led the way towards shapes like the emerald cut and Asscher cuts, it didn’t take in light very well. In medieval and Renaissance paintings, diamonds appear black with a glossy surface. While diamond cutting took the step toward making facets, it would take many more years before cutting techniques would bring out the full qualities of a diamond.
The earliest known diamond cut was a variation on its natural state, two pyramids fastened together at their square base. However, not every diamond exhibits this shape. Still more do resemble pyramids, but display irregularities. To improve the appearance of subpar rough, the first lapidary techniques were created.
Aside from cleaning dirt and debris from the diamond’s surfaces, two could be rubbed against one another to smooth and gradually alter their shape. The widespread use and acceptance of diamond dust as an abrasive, and tools that simplified use of ground diamonds made polishing rough into cuts a more streamlined, but still time consuming process. Gradual innovations and the preference for natural looking, though improved stones made point cuts popular for many centuries. It wouldn’t be until the late 1300s that other cut styles surfaced.
Changes in diamond cutting technology during the 16th century allowed for increasingly elaborate faceting, leading to the rose cut. This type of stone had a flat bottom and a series of upper planes terminating in a point. The earliest versions had only six facets, though later editions had twenty four or more. One variation on the cut, known as the double rose, could have as many as forty eight facets, with half of them on the crown and the other on a pavilion.
Most rose cuts have asymmetrical planes and irregular girdles, making their ability to reflect light inconsistent. To remedy this quirk, many of them were backed in foil when mounted, increasing brightness. Despite their limited dispersion, rose cuts were popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, appearing on many pieces of jewelry.
Old European Cut
A precursor to the Round Brilliant, the Old European cut was popular during the late 19th century. Unlike the Old Mine cuts that came before, Old European diamonds were consistently round and focused on symmetry. Their cut emphasized high crowns, deep pavilions and angles that focused on enhancing play of light.
The advent of the diamond saw enabled the rise of Old European cuts. Previous diamonds were shaped through grinding, which left a lot of dust in the wake of a pretty stone. Most lapidaries prefer to preserve a diamond’s weight. With the saw, pieces that came off of the central stone could be cut into salable diamonds in their own right, and allowed room for greater experimenting.
Popular during 16th, 17th and 18th century India, the Mughal cut is similar to the Rose cut in that both have large bottom facets that connect directly to the diamond’s crown. Instead of a pavilion to add brilliance or highlight clarity, all of the shaping is done on the upper stone. What distinguishes the two is that while the Rose cut has a standard number of facets terminating into a point, the Mughal cut follows the stone’s natural shape and has no standardized pattern.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier recorded this diamond cut as part of his India travelogues, including several sketches and diagrams. It is through him that the original Mughal cut of the famous Koh-I-Noor is remembered to this day. Another noted diamond of this shape is the Orlov diamond.
French cut diamonds have a non-indicative name. Rather than alluding to a country of origin or the name of a creator, the French cut designates a particular shape. They are square shaped, with a flat table and pointed pavilion. Their crowns have nine to thirteen facets and four facets in the pavilion. When viewed from above, they appear to have an X across the diamond.
The French cut was developed during the 1400s and enjoyed popularity from the 17th century onwards until the round brilliant was created. This cut and its geometric dimensions gained a brief resurgence during the Art Deco period. They were used in a variety of jewelry types and settings, including with holes drilled through one corner to wear as pendants.