The very first diamonds echoed the natural octahedron form as they are found in the rough. The first faceted example of a diamond was a Table Cut in the 14th Century. Diamonds were extremely rare and were graded by their weight rather than their colour and clarity as they hadn’t unlocked this beauty of fire and brilliance yet, it was not fully understood as the had limited cut knowledge.
Rose Cut diamonds were first introduced in the 15th Century. They were cut from a flat crystal and octahedra with more facets and were dome shaped with a flat base. They lacked fire and brilliance but were very pretty and are going through a resurgence at the moment. Diamonds that are in the lower colour spectrum are being cut as Rose Cuts and they are unique and have a charm of their own.
During the 17th Century, the Table Cut developed into the Single cut by polishing away the edges of the octahedron. A similar version is still used today and called the Single or Eight cut.
What really changed the history of diamonds was the discovery of the South Africa Pipe Mine in 1869. Previously we had only ever found secondary deposits, but now we found the direct source and as a result, from this period onward, there was a large increase in the volume of diamonds available, which is really evident in late Victorian diamond jewellery.
The increased supply of diamonds gave the confidence and opportunity to experiment and develop cuts, and as a result diamonds became rounder and rounder. This meant they were not only prized for their weight but also for their performance i.e. brilliance and fire.
Before the Pipe Mine was found we had the Old Mine cut which was cushion in shape and subtle. After the Pipe mine the Old European cut was developed which was more like the round Brilliant cut we are familiar with today.
Along with the developments in diamond cuts came the introduction of Platinum at the end of the 19th century. Up until now jewellery was made in yellow gold with silver back to provide the 'whiteness'. But this new metal offered increased strength and the desired 'white' colour.
This truly showed off the new ‘brighter’ round brilliant cut diamonds, and diamond setting become more open and finer because the platinum provided the strength to allow this. This can be seen very clearly when comparing Victorian jewellery with later Edwardian jewellery.
Then we reach the ultimate story of the evolution of cutting when the modern round brilliant cut was developed in 1919 by Marcel Tolkowsky a polish diamond cutter who mathematically calculated the ‘ideal’ cut diamond. This maximised both fire and brilliance to the optimum level we have today.
There are several different ideal cuts on the market and they are all about maximising performance. But there is still a beauty in old cut diamonds, and a lovely way of summarising it, is one is like candlelight and the other like electricity. They are both beautiful and they both have a place.
But all natural diamonds have an individuality and romance about them because just as we like to think there is one person out there for us, there is hopefully also one diamond out there for us to, because we are all individuals.