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Diamond Education

History of the Diamond Cut

The history of diamond cuts can be traced to the late Middle Ages, until that time diamonds were enjoyed in their natural octahedral state—anhedral (poorly formed) diamonds simply were not used in jewelry. The first "improvements" on nature's design involved a simple polishing of the octahedral crystal faces to create even and unblemished facets, or to fashion the desired octahedral shape out of an otherwise unappealing piece of rough. This was called the point cut and dates from the mid 14th century; by 1375 there was a guild of diamond polishers at Nürnberg. By the mid 15th century, the point cut began to be improved upon: a little less than one half of the octahedron would be sawn off, creating the table cut. The importance of a culet was also realized, and some table-cut stones may possess one. The addition of four corner facets created the old single cut (or old eight cut). Neither of these early cuts would reveal what diamond is prized for today; its intense dispersion or fire. At the time, diamond was valued chiefly for its adamantine lustre and superlative hardness; a table-cut diamond would appear black to the eye, as they do in paintings of the era. For this reason, colored gemstones such as ruby and sapphire were far more popular in jewelry of the era.

In or around 1476, Lodewyk (Louis) van Berquem, a Flemish polisher of Bruges, introduced absolute symmetry in the disposition of facets. He cut stones in the shape known as pendeloque or briolette; these were pear-shaped with triangular facets on both sides. About the middle of the 16th century, the rose or rosette was introduced in Antwerp: it also consisted of triangular facets arranged in a symmetrical radiating pattern, but with the bottom of the stone left flat—essentially a crown without a pavilion. Many large, famous Indian diamonds of old (such as the Orloff and Sancy) also feature a rose-like cut; there is some suggestion that Western cutters were influenced by Indian stones, because some of these diamonds may predate the Western adoption of the rose cut. However, Indian "rose cuts" were far less symmetrical as their cutters had the primary interest of conserving carat weight, due to the divine status of diamond in India. In either event, the rose cut continued to evolve, with its depth, number and arrangements of facets being tweaked.

The first brilliant cuts were introduced in the middle of the 17th century. Known as Mazarins, they had 17 facets on the crown (upper half). They are also called double-cut brilliants as they are seen as a step up from old single cuts. Vincent Peruzzi, a Venetian polisher, later increased the number of crown facets from 17 to 33 (triple-cut or Peruzzi brilliants), thereby significantly increasing the fire and brilliance of the cut gem, properties which in the Mazarin were already incomparably better than in the rose. Yet Peruzzi-cut diamonds, when seen nowadays, seem exceedingly dull compared to modern-cut brilliants. Because the practice of bruting had not yet been developed, these early brilliants were all rounded squares or rectangles in cross-section (rather than circular). Given the general name of cushion—what are known today as old mine cuts—these were common by the early 18th century. Sometime later the old European cut was developed, which had a shallower pavilion, more rounded shape, and different arrangement of facets. The old European cut was the forerunner of modern brilliants and was the most advanced in use during the 19th century.

Around 1900, the development of diamond saws and good jewelry lathes enabled the development of modern diamond cutting and diamond cuts, chief among them the round brilliant cut. In 1919, Marcel Tolkowsky analyzed this cut: his calculations took both brilliance (the amount of white light reflected) and fire into consideration, creating a delicate balance between the two. Tolkowsky's calculations would serve as the basis for all future brilliant cut modifications and standards.

Diamond Cut Choice

The choice of diamond cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough stone, location of internal flaws or inclusions, the preservation of carat weight, and popularity of certain shapes amongst consumers. The cutter must consider each of these variables before proceeding.

Most gem-quality diamond crystals are octahedra in their rough state (see material properties of diamond). These crystals are usually cut into round brilliants because it is possible to cut two such stones out of one octahedron with minimal loss of weight. If the crystal is malformed or twinned, or if inclusions are present at inopportune locations, the diamond is more likely to receive a fancy cut (a cut other than a round brilliant). This is especially true in the case of macles, which are flattened twin octahedron crystals. Round brilliants have certain requisite proportions which would result in high weight loss, whereas fancy cuts are typically much more flexible in this regard. Sometimes the cutters compromise and accept lesser proportions and symmetry in order to avoid inclusions or to preserve carat weight, since the per-carat price of diamond is much higher when the stone is over one carat (200 mg).

While the round brilliant cut is considered standard for diamond, with its shape and proportions nearly constant, the choice of fancy cut is influenced heavily by fashion. For example, the step cut baguette—which accentuates a diamond's luster, whiteness, and clarity but downplays its fire—was all the rage during the Art Deco period, whereas the mixed Princess cut—which accentuates diamond's fire and brilliance rather than its luster—is currently gaining popularity. The princess cut is also popular amongst diamond cutters: of all the cuts, it wastes the least of the original crystal. Older diamonds cut before 1900 were cut in "primitive" versions of the modern round brilliant, such as the rose cut and old mine cut (see History section). Although there is a market for antique stones, many are recut into modern brilliants to increase their marketability. There is also increasing demand for diamonds to be cut in older styles for the purpose of repairing or reproducing antique jewelry.

The size of a diamond may also be a factor. Very small (< 0.02 carats (4 mg)) diamonds—known as stars—are usually given simplified cuts (i.e., with fewer facets), but as cutting and polishing technology has improved this is not necessarily always the case. This is because a full-cut brilliant of such small size would appear milky to the human eye, owing to its inability to resolve the stone's dispersive fire. Conversely, very large diamonds are usually given fancy cuts with many extra facets. Conventional round brilliant or fancy cuts do not scale up satisfactorily, so the extra facets are needed to ensure there are no "dead spots". Because large diamonds are less likely to be set in jewelry, their cuts are considered for how well they display the diamonds' properties from a wide range of viewing directions; in the case of more moderate-sized diamonds, the cuts are considered primarily for their face-up appeal.

Diamond Polishing and Symmetry

Polish and symmetry are two important aspects of the cut. The polish describes the smoothness of the diamond's facets, and the symmetry refers to alignment of the facets. With poor polish, the surface of a facet can be dulled, and may create blurred or dulled sparkle. It may constantly look like it needs to be cleaned. With poor symmetry, light can be misdirected as it enters and exits the diamond.

Diamond Shapes

Diamonds do not show all of their beauty as rough stones; instead, they must be cut and polished to exhibit the distinctive fire and brilliance that diamond gemstones are known for. Diamonds are cut into a variety of shapes that are generally designed to accentuate these features.

Diamonds which are not cut into a round brilliant shape are known as "fancy cuts." Popular fancy cuts include the baguette (French, meaning rod or loaf of bread), marquise, princess cut (square outline), heart, briolette (a form of the rose cut), and pear cuts. Newer cuts that have been introduced into the jewelry industry are the "cushion" "radiant" (similar to princess cuts, but with rounded edges instead of square edges) and Asscher cuts. Many fancy colored diamonds are now being cut according to these new styles. Generally speaking, these "fancy cuts" are not held to the same strict standards as Tolkowsky-derived round brilliants and there are less specific mathematical guidelines of angles which determine a well-cut stone. Cuts are influenced heavily by fashion. The past decades have seen the development of new diamond cuts, often based on a modification of an existing cut. Some of these include extra facets. These newly developed cuts are viewed by many as more of an attempt at brand differentiation by diamond sellers, than actual improvements to the state of the art.

Diamond Fancy Cuts

Even with modern techniques, the cutting and polishing of a diamond crystal always results in a dramatic loss of weight; rarely is it less than 50%. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Oddly shaped crystals such as macles are more likely to be cut in a fancy cut—that is, a cut other than the round brilliant—which the particular crystal shape lends itself to. The prevalence and choice of a particular fancy cut is also influenced by fashion; generally speaking, these cuts are not held to the same strict standards as Tolkowsky-derived round brilliants. Most fancy cuts can be grouped into four categories: modified brilliants, step cuts, mixed cuts, and rose cuts.

Hearts and arrows

The term Hearts and Arrows is used to describe the visual effect achieved in a round Super Ideal Cut diamond with perfect symmetry and angles that exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts & Arrows. When viewed under special magnifying viewer, a complete and precise visual pattern of 8 hearts is seen while looking down through the pavilion and 8 arrows when viewing the stone in the table up position can be seen.

Diamond Cut Grading

The "Cut" of the "4-Cs" is the most difficult part for a consumer to judge when selecting a good diamond. This is because some certificates will not show the important measurements influencing cut (such as the pavilion angle and crown angle) and will not provide a subjective ranking of how good the cut was. The other 3-Cs can be ranked simply by the rating in each category. It requires a trained eye to judge the quality of a diamond cut, and the task is complicated by the fact that different standards are used in different countries.

Diamond Carat

The carat weight measures the mass of a diamond. One carat is defined as 200 milligrams (about 0.007 ounce avoirdupois). The point unit—equal to one one-hundredth of a carat (0.01 carat, or 2 mg)—is commonly used for diamonds of less than one carat. All other being equal, the price per carat increases with carat weight, since larger diamonds are both rarer and more desirable for use as gemstones.

The price per carat does not increase linearly with increasing size. Instead, there are sharp jumps around milestone carat weights, as demand is much higher for diamonds weighing just more than a milestone than for those weighing just less. As an example, a 0.95 carats (190 mg) diamond may have a significantly lower price per carat than a comparable 1.05 carats (210 mg) diamond, because of differences in demand.

In the wholesale trade of gem diamonds, carat is often used in denominating lots of diamonds for sale. For example, a buyer may place an order for 100 carats (20 g) of 0.5 carats (100 mg), D–F, VS2-SI1, excellent cut diamonds, indicating a wish to purchase 200 diamonds (100 carats (20 g) total mass) of those approximate characteristics. Because of this, diamond prices (particularly among wholesalers and other industry professionals) are often quoted per carat, rather than per stone.

Total carat weight (t.c.w.) is a phrase used to describe the total mass of diamonds or other gemstones in a piece of jewelry, when more than one gemstone is used. Diamond solitaire earrings, for example, are usually quoted in t.c.w. when placed for sale, indicating the mass of the diamonds in both earrings and not each individual diamond. T.c.w. is also widely used for diamond necklaces, bracelets and other similar jewelry pieces.

Diamond Color

The finest quality as per color grading is totally colorless which is graded as "D" color diamond across the globe, which means it is absolutely free from any color. The next is very slight traces of color which can be observed by any expert diamond valuer/grading laboratory. However when studded in the jewellery these very light colored diamonds do not show any color or it is not possible to make out color shades. These are graded as E color or F color Diamonds. Diamonds which show very little traces of color are graded as G or H color diamonds. Slightly colored diamonds are graded as I or J or K color. A diamond can be found in any other color also other than colorless. Some of the color diamonds such as pink are very rare diamonds and are priceless.

A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue, or color. However, in reality most gem-sized natural diamonds are imperfect. The color of a diamond may be affected by chemical impurities and/or structural defects in the crystal lattice. Depending on the hue and intensity of diamond's coloration, diamond's color can either detract from or enhance its value. For example, most white diamonds are discounted in price as more yellow hue is detectable, while intense pink or blue diamonds (such as the Hope Diamond) can be dramatically more valuable. The Aurora Diamond Collection displays a spectacular array of naturally colored diamonds, which occur in every color of the rainbow.

Most diamonds used as gemstones are basically transparent with little tint, or white diamonds. The most common impurity, nitrogen, replaces a small proportion of carbon atoms in a diamond's structure and causes a yellowish to brownish tint. This effect is present in almost all white diamonds; in only the rarest diamonds is the coloration from this effect undetectable. The GIA has developed a rating system for color in white diamonds, from "D" to "Z" (with D being "colorless" and Z having a bright yellow coloration), which has been widely adopted in the industry and is universally recognized, superseding several older systems. The GIA system uses a benchmark set of natural diamonds of known color grade, along with standardized and carefully controlled lighting conditions. Diamonds with higher color grades are rarer, in higher demand, and therefore more expensive, than lower color grades. Oddly enough, diamonds graded Z are also rare, and the bright yellow color is also highly valued. Diamonds graded D-F are considered "colorless", G-J are considered "near-colorless", K-M are "slightly colored". N-Y usually display light yellow or brown.

In contrast to yellow or brown hues, diamonds of other colors are more rare and valuable. While even a pale pink or blue hue may increase the value of a diamond, more intense coloration is usually considered more desirable and commands the highest prices. A variety of impurities and structural imperfections cause different colors in diamonds, including yellow, pink, blue, red, green, brown, and other hues. Diamonds with unusual or intense coloration are sometimes labeled "fancy" in the diamond industry. Intense yellow coloration is considered one of the fancy colors, and is separate from the color grades of white diamonds. Gemologists have developed rating systems for fancy colored diamonds, but they are not in common use because of the relative rarity of such diamonds.

Diamond Clarity

Clarity is a measure of internal defects of a diamond called inclusions. Inclusions may be crystals of a foreign material or another diamond crystal, or structural imperfections such as tiny cracks that can appear whitish or cloudy. The number, size, color, relative location, orientation, and visibility of inclusions can all affect the relative clarity of a diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and other organizations have developed systems to grade clarity, which are based on those inclusions which are visible to a trained professional when a diamond is viewed under 10 x magnifications.

Diamonds become increasingly rare when considering higher clarity gradings. Only about 20% of all diamonds mined have a clarity rating high enough for the diamond to be considered appropriate for use as a gemstone; the other 80% are relegated to industrial use. Of that top 20%, a significant portion contains one or more visible inclusions. Those that do not have a visible inclusion are known as "eye-clean" and are preferred by most buyers, although visible inclusions can sometimes be hidden under the setting in a piece of jewelry.

Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not affect the diamonds' performance or structural integrity. However, large clouds can affect a diamond's ability to transmit and scatter light. Large cracks close to or breaking the surface may increase the likelihood of a fracture.

Diamonds are graded by the major societies on a scale ranging from flawless to imperfect.

Diamond Fluorescence

About a third of all diamonds will glow under ultraviolet light, usually a blue color which may be noticeable under a black light or strong sunlight. According to the GIA, who reviewed a random sample of 26,010 natural diamonds, 65% of the diamonds in the sample had no fluorescence. Of the 35% that did have fluorescence, 97% had blue fluorescence of which 38% had faint blue fluorescence and 62% had fluorescence that ranged from medium to very strong blue. Other colors diamonds can fluoresce are green, yellow, and red but are very rare and are sometimes a combination of the colors such as blue-green or orange. Some diamonds with "very strong" fluorescence can have a "milky" or "oily" look to them, but they are also very rare and are termed "overblues." Their study concluded that with the exception of "overblues" and yellow fluorescent diamonds, fluorescence had little effect on transparency and that the strong and very strong blue fluorescent diamonds on average had better color appearance than non-fluorescent stones. Since blue is a complementary color to yellow and can appear to cancel it out, strong blue fluorescence had especially better color appearance with lower color graded diamonds that have a slight yellowish tint such as "I" color or "J" color but had little effect on the more colorless "D" through "F" color grades.

Light performance

In the gem trade, the term light performance is used to describe how well a polished diamond will return light to the viewer. There are three light properties which are described in relation to light performance: brilliance, fire, and scintillation. Brilliance refers to the white light reflections from the external and internal facet surfaces. Fire refers to the spectral colors which are produced as a result of the diamond dispersing the white light. Scintillation refers to the small flashes of light that are seen when the diamond, light source or the viewer is moved. A diamond that is cut and polished to produce a high level of these qualities is said to be high in light performance.

The setting diamonds are placed in also affect the performance of light through a diamond. The 3 most commonly used settings are: Prong, Bezel, and Channel. Prong settings are the most popular setting for diamond jewelry. The prong setting consists of four or six 'claws' that cradle the diamond, allowing the maximum amount of light to enter from all angles, allowing the diamonds to appear larger and more brilliant. In bezel settings the diamond or gemstone is completely surrounded by a rim of metal, which can be molded into any shape to accommodate the stone. Used to set earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, bezel settings can have open or closed backs, and generally can be molded to allow a lot of light to pass through. Channel settings set the stones right next to each other with no metal separating them. This setting is mostly used in wedding and anniversary bands. The outer ridge is then worked over the edges of the stones to create a smooth exterior surface. This also protects the girdle area of the stone.

Diamond Hardness

Diamond is the hardest natural material known, where hardness is defined as resistance to scratching and is graded between 1 (softest) and 10 (hardest) using the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Diamond has a hardness of 10 (hardest) on this scale. Diamond's hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name.

The diamond hardness depends on its purity, crystalline perfection and orientation: hardness is higher for flawless, pure crystals oriented to the direction (along the longest diagonal of the cubic diamond lattice). Therefore, whereas it might be possible to scratch some diamonds with other materials, such as boron nitride, the hardest diamonds can only be scratched by other diamonds. In particular, nanocrystalline diamond aggregates were measured to be harder than any large single crystal diamond. Those aggregates are produced by high-pressure high-temperature treatment of graphite or fullerite.

Hardness of diamond contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well. Unlike many other gems, it is well-suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching—perhaps contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in engagement or wedding rings, which are often worn every day.

The hardest natural diamonds mostly originate from the Copeton and Bingara fields located in the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, perfect to semiperfect octahedra, and are used to polish other diamonds. Their hardness is associated with the crystal growth form, which is single-stage crystal growth. Most other diamonds show more evidence of multiple growth stages, which produce inclusions, flaws, and defect planes in the crystal lattice, all of which affect their hardness. It is possible to treat regular diamonds under a combination of high pressure and high temperature to produce diamonds that are harder than the diamonds used in hardness gauges.

Somewhat related to hardness is another mechanical property toughness, which is a material's ability to resist breakage from forceful impact. The toughness of natural diamond has been measured as 2.0 MP and the critical stress intensity factor is 3.4 MN. Those values are good compared to other gemstones, but poor compared to most engineering materials. As with any material, the macroscopic geometry of a diamond contributes to its resistance to breakage. Diamond has a cleavage plane and is therefore more fragile in some orientations than others. Diamond cutters use this attribute to cleave some stones, prior to faceting.