Diamonds have been prized for their beauty and value for centuries. However, the process of cutting diamonds to enhance their brilliance and fire is a relatively recent development.
In fact, diamond cutting as we know it today only began in the mid-16th century. But how were diamonds cut in ancient times? Let’s take a closer look.
Ancient Diamond Cutting Techniques
The earliest known attempts at diamond cutting date back to around 200 BCE in India. Ancient Indian lapidaries used crude tools like bow drills and sandstone wheels to shape diamonds into simple forms, like beads or unpolished gems. It wasn’t until the 14th century that they began cutting facets into diamonds to create more complex shapes.
In ancient Rome, diamonds were typically left uncut or simply polished to enhance their natural luster. However, some Roman lapidaries did attempt rudimentary faceting using iron tools and abrasive powders.
The Rose Cut
One of the first true diamond cuts was the rose cut, which originated in the 16th century. The rose cut features a flat bottom and a domed top with triangular facets arranged in a symmetrical pattern. This style of cutting was popular throughout Europe during the Renaissance period.
The Point Cut
Another early diamond cut was the point cut, which was developed in the late 15th century. This style featured a pyramid-shaped stone with facets on all sides, but it lacked the brilliance of later cuts due to its shallow depth.
The Old Mine Cut
In the 18th century, diamond cutting techniques began to improve significantly thanks to advances in technology and tools. One of the most popular styles of this time was the old mine cut (also known as cushion cut). This cut featured a slightly squarish shape with rounded corners and larger facets than previous cuts, which gave it a distinctive sparkle.
The Old European Cut
The old European cut, which emerged in the late 19th century, was an improvement on the old mine cut. This cut featured a round shape with a smaller table (the flat top facet) and taller crown (the part of the diamond above the girdle). It was the first cut to incorporate the modern concept of symmetry.
The Modern Brilliant Cut
The most popular diamond cut today is the modern brilliant cut, which was developed in the early 20th century. This cut features 58 facets arranged in a precise pattern to maximize brilliance and fire. The modern brilliant cut is known for its exceptional sparkle and has become the standard for diamond cutting around the world.
From crude bead shapes to precision-cut modern brilliants, diamond cutting has come a long way over time. While ancient lapidaries used simple tools and techniques, they laid the foundation for advancements that have brought us some of the most beautiful and valuable gemstones in history.