What is an old cut diamond?

I love the look of an old cut diamond; the way the facets are all individual, shaped in their own unique way. Each old cut diamond carries its own story and it gives you an instant feeling that you have stepped back in time.  For me, no other gemstone conjures such emotion at first glance.

When looking for a period piece of jewellery, either online or instore, you will hear the term ‘old cut’ arise frequently.  But what does it mean? And why are old cuts different to that of the diamonds we see produced today?

Well, we are here to lend a helping hand and provide advice on what it is that makes old cut diamonds different and what makes these beautiful creations so special. 

From a distance old cut diamonds look relatively similar to the brilliant cut diamonds produced today.   Each is round in shape, and each captures the light with a scintillating sparkle, but when you look a little closer you will see some distinctive differences.  

Hand Craftmanship

Before significant advancements in diamond cutting in the late 1800s, diamonds were cut by craftsmen who were responsible for every aspect of the look and feel of the diamond cut; the positioning of the facets lay in the creator’s eye.  In comparison, more modern cuts have a far more standardised and geometric design. It is this hand-finished aesthetic that makes old cut diamonds so appealing - an artisan would have worked for hours polishing the diamond by hand to give it the desired lustre.  

Sparkling Personality of an Old Cut Diamond 

Whilst brilliant cut diamonds have been cut to create the optimum sparkle, producing a bright, white light as the light enters the diamonds and bounces back through the top of the stone, the character and personality from the craftsmanship of an old cut diamond can be mesmerising. The old cut diamond has its very own ’scintillescence’, often subtly appealing with a soft glistening as the sunlight is captured on the angular facets.  The lustre of an old cut diamond can be much deeper and warmer; a glowing hue that captivates and draws the eye back into the stone. It is this glow that makes old cut diamonds look their best under candlelight. 

It is this undeniable charm that make the old cut diamond a perfect diamond cut for an engagement ring, a true piece of history with a stunning aesthetic. 

Old Cut Diamond Trilogy Ring

The Physical Characteristics of an Old Cut Diamond 

When comparing an old cut diamond to that of a modern brilliant cut, there is very little to differentiate the two cuts when considering facets, with modern brilliant round cut diamonds composed of 57 facets (the culet is a point rather than a facet) and old cut diamonds featuring 58 facets. 

That said, when we look at the overall appearance of the two cuts, we can see huge differences in the aesthetic.  This difference arises from the positioning of the facets with a smaller table (top facet) and a taller crown seen in the old cut.  

An old cut diamond is rarely fully symmetrical, as with hand cutting the facets are never completely identical. It is in these imperfections that the true beauty and appeal of an old cut diamond lies. 

Old Cut Diamond Terminology  

Old cut diamonds are often referred to in the industry as being Old European cut, the two phrases can be interchanged as they refer to the same cut of diamond. The Old European cut diamond is by the far the most prevalent cut in the antique and vintage jewellery sector. 

Old Mine cut diamond is another popular term given to an older cut diamond.  The great-grandfather of the modern brilliant cut, the name refers to a less even version of the cushion cut we have today.  It was developed in 18th century and cut with a variety of facet patterns. The variation of Old Mine cut always comprises a small table, high crowns and larger culet.  

The titles given to old cut diamonds pay homage to their history, with Old European referring to the cut being developed in Europe, whilst Old Mine is associated with the historic mines of their source. 

Old Cut Diamonds Anatomy


We hope that you have fallen in love with old cut diamonds as much as we have. When you look at the stone imagine the life story that diamond has had, who might have worn it previously and the captivating adventure the ring has been on.  Watch the diamond dazzle under candlelight over a glass of wine. 

If you have any questions regarding buying an antique or vintage diamond, please do not hesitate to contact us


July 05, 2019 — Naomi Jenkinson