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Gleam and Glow: Diamonds

Gleam and Glow: Diamonds

Diamonds are arguably a girl’s BFF, but like all friendships, there are nuanced shadings in the relationship, as it evolves and grows. So it is with diamond cuts and styles. While diamonds in the rough have been sculpted into gleaming gemstones for eons, it is only in the last century or so that we have become super-sophisticated, able to get the most shine and shimmer from that former lump of coal.


A 5.14 carat old mine cut diamond ring

It was just over a hundred years ago that diamond saws and lathes were first impressed into service, changing the look of finished gems, resulting in, among other things, the brilliant cut, a particular style with a certain number of facets, a function of careful calculations and cutting. (And as a point of education, the word cut does not, as most people think, refer to the shape of the finished stone. Whether that stone is marquise, round, pear-shaped, square, and so on, cut actually refers to the stone’s reflective characteristics, achieved by the way it is “sliced and diced.”) The brilliant-cut stone maximizes the literal brilliance (the amount of reflected white light) that can be coaxed from the stone and its inherent fire (how that light is split into the colors of the rainbow).


While all very technical, certain cuts are extremely prized, and among antique and vintage stones, old mine or cushion-cut diamonds hold their own when compared to their modern competitors. Sparkling cushion cuts (common in the 18th century and certainly popular well into the 1920s) are beautiful, dazzling in their own fashion; they were called cushion cuts because they were brilliants with rounded corners, like a cushion. The most popular of today’s diamond cuts is the round brilliant; its facets and proportions are carefully engineered by mathematical calculations and executed with sophisticated lasers. Their reflective qualities are highly sought after and it is the smart diamond cutter who knows that the cut determines the ultimate shape of the diamond; it is not about selecting a shape first and trying to charm it out of the stone.

diamond necklace

A diamond necklace with assorted round brilliant, baguette, marquise and pear-shaped diamonds

Regardless of the ultimate shape, a poorly cut stone will have less vivacity, less glimmer. Today’s tools enable cutters to embrace the use of precise, fancy lasers and computers to achieve optimal optical qualities, while wasting as little as possible of the rough stone.

Ruth J. Katz

(Image atop the article is a 10.01 carat I/VVS2 radiant-cut diamond)

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