Rapaport Magazine

Old Cut Charisma

Antique diamonds have been featured in jewelry for centuries — and their appeal continues to grow. So much so, that newer versions are available in today’s marketplace. But do these modern versions have the same inherent charm as their older cousins?

By Phyllis Schiller
The three classic diamond shapes — the rose cut, the old mine/old cushion and the old European/old Euro — were the products of the available technology of the time. As diamond cutters’ tools improved, so did the precision of the cuts. But for many, what antique cuts lack in perfection, they more than make up for in charm, which is appreciated by an ever-growing circle of admirers.
   Diamond dealer Rick Shatz, of the eponymous New York firm, points out that there has been a resurgence of popularity for the Old European cut as a bridal choice. “There’s a certain elegance and charisma and charm to old-cut diamonds that is different than the sparkle and brilliance of a modern-cut stone. People tend to view them as a completely different shape.”
   “Old stones are unique,” says Michael Goldstein, dealer in antique diamonds and jewelry. “They’re historical and they’re pretty.” Another plus is these older diamonds are considered green because they haven’t been recently mined. The fact that these diamonds are truly recycled stones, and possibly recycled many times, is not to be discounted, he says.

Quality of light
   Categorizing the three antique cuts, Gail Brett Levine, executive director, National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA), notes, “The old Euro is more round, old mine is squarish and the rose is in between, but roundish. The difference between an old mine and old European is in the back facets. Rose cuts and old mines have more softness but the old European is a very sparkling, scintillating stone.” Differentiating the look of these cuts from modern versions, she adds, “Old mine has a soft, squarish outline but not as hard-edged as a modern emerald cut. ” The older cuts also have provenance, she notes, “You have something original, made in the 1880s up to the 1930s.”
   According to Alan Levy, principal, J. & S.S. DeYoung Inc., New York City, “If you look at an old Asscher cut, it has a heavier crown, which causes the diamond to have more scintillation, color flashes from the diamond.” Levy says his preference is for the old-cut diamonds because of their heavier crowns. “Some people don’t like a crown angle greater than 45 degrees, but we do; it’s what gives the diamond ‘a personality,’ more charm and appeal.”
   There are telltale signs of difference between the old and new, says Goldstein. “The old European will have an open culet, that’s the first thing you’re going to see. The next thing to note is the girdle of the stone. An antique girdle either will be a knife edge, a very thin, very sharp girdle, or a bruted girdle, which looks a little white. Whichever, they’d never be faceted or polished…ever. So that’s the subtle difference with the modern.”
   Shatz notes that the Old European cut is one of the most popular of the old cuts. “It is similar to the round brilliant cut, but with a smaller table, bigger culet and shorter bottom halves. Old Mine cuts, however, tend to be misshapen and heavier, with depths of over 65 percent, cut with crowns that are very high and bottoms that are sometimes a bit flatter than we’re used to seeing today. They often have facets that aren’t symmetrical.”
   Modern cuts are cut for brilliance, explains Goldstein. “Light comes in and light comes back up at you.” Even with the same number of facets, the way they line up in an older stone reflects and refracts light in a softer way. “They have more personality. No other stone is going to catch the light in exactly the same way. I find my eye is drawn into the stone a little more, whereas with a modern diamond, everything pushes you off the surface so the stone catches light differently. It’s a subtle difference.”
   With the popularity of the older cuts, it’s no surprise that modern “antique” diamonds are on the market. But there is, say the diamond experts, a discernible difference.
   “Rose-cut diamonds cut by the Indians today are very flat, like slivers, and they have no life to them,” says Levy. The thicker crowns of the older stones, he says, have more life and charm.
   Old stones, notes Levine, “are lumpy” and not precision cut. “With a new old mine or old Euro, you get a ‘cookie-cutter’ look.” Newer versions are trading on the vintage appeal, says Levine. “But with the wannabes, the faceting is more regular and the girdles, if not even, then they are faceted using modern round brilliant parameters. So they have the old European look but not the sensibilities of the old cut.”

   Old stones today vary in price just as modern stones do. “But if you compare a well-made old stone to a modern triple EX cut,” says Goldstein, “the older stone might be a 15 percent difference. But it’s never going to be apples and apples. A typical diamond dealer is going to pay more for the modern and not look at the old. Take it to someone who wants it and it’s a different story.” Everything being equal, Goldstein says, the old European will be the most valuable; the cushion, less, and the rose cut after that.
   Older stones, points out Levy, are a niche market. “I don’t inventory round brilliants for studs of 2 carats or 3 carats or emerald cuts. But if an exciting lozenge-shaped diamond, an antique cushion or old Asscher cut, something interesting that comes along, then we’ll put money into a diamond. Jewelers are limited to a much smaller gross profit on a diamond compared to the healthier gross profit they can make on a colored stone. But when you have an unusual diamond, you can almost ask what you want within reason. That’s the key.”
Levine says the modern stones that look like old cuts, “usually go for higher because the people who produce them usually price them at modern list prices.”
   “I like an old cut better than a new one,” sums up Levine. “The diamond has more sparkle, more scintillation. You get a lot of light return. And even though it has a huge culet, the small little table on top just makes the stone talk. It says, ‘Look at me.’”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2016. To subscribe click here.

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