In general, whenever it seems we are discussing or reading about diamond cuts and styles in their historical context, the subject usually covers pretty much the same few coveted antique styles, like for example the antique Old Mine Cut, a cut most associated with the antique cushion brilliants styles of yesteryears.
If we dare dig a bit deeper, we will get the usual historical progression starting with ancient point and table cuts (~12th Century), a style which remained a favorite while continuously evolving through the centuries until the development of the antique brilliant cuts (Old Mine Cuts 17-19th Centuries), moving into the rounded Old European Cuts (19-20th Centuries) and finally to present day modern round brilliants (e.g. triple-X – triple-0 Ideal and H&A).
Between the beginnings and the development of the standard brilliant style we have centuries of very slow advancements in faceting styles, ability/techniques and knowledge before cutters started understanding the role of lights within diamond lapidary works.
One of the more unrecognized factors but a crucial advancement was the initial occurrence when cutters realized they are able to split a main facet (usually a four sided polygon) by polishing two neighboring triangular facets on the junctions separating each main facet. The antique diamonds featured in this article are such surviving specimens.
The quiet precursor to the 58 facet standard brilliant style
Double cuts, Old English Stars and sometimes referred to as Mazarin’s (fig 1) started to appear around the first decades of the 17th Century.
Such are considered the next stage in the natural evolution of the old single cut (8 crown & pavilion facets). At that time in history, diamond optical capabilities were still unknown so light dispersion and reflections were not cutters objectives.
Figure 1 – Old English Star vs. Old English Square
The initial splitting of the 8 single cut facets occurred primarily on the crown sections of the diamonds (*sometimes later cutters added facets to the pavilion section). By further polishing the junctions separating each of the 8 (single cut) facets from table to girdle created for the first time a new octagonal shaped table…, and so the triangular star facet was born. (See fig 2 )
I am envisioning such faceting occurred after cutters were able to notice a plurality of surface reflections as the crown section was interacting with lights. More sparkle, more attention – and so more facets were required.
* Not to be confused with the Old English Square which I will elaborate more in a continued article.
Figure 2 – How star facets were born – 17th Century
When a Crown was a Crown
It was surprising to learn that historical diamond cutters initially considered the top part of the diamond as its crowning glory, evidence shows that the first attempts to further subdivide main facets was conducted to the crown part of the diamond. Ironically in those days, the crown section was identified as “bezel”. The usage of the word crown came at a much later stage.
The Old English Star diamonds pictured in this article all possess eight singular main facets on their pavilions (fig 3 & fig 3a). Could it have occurred that cutters saw something we modern age cutters didn’t have a chance to?
I sometimes really wonder.
Today I am at peace with myself that the number of facets are much less important if and when the diamond is cut proportionally to embrace its interaction with lights. The general or more common belief that more facets equals higher brilliance and fire is simply an erred assumption.
Figure 3 – Crown & pavilion views – pavilions posses single facets from girdle to culet
Figure 3A – Pavilion views from another direction
A Star Facet is Born
For some reason, the double cut went mostly unnoticed through the majority of diamond cut history but especially during the last two decades when antique cuts grew and still are growing in popularity and demand.
Documented from as early as 1620’s, adding triangular facets to the old single cut crown faceting created a visual impact fueling a necessity to further explore and discover the optical wonders diamond material displays when it meets with any source of light.. which were quite limited throughout history. The star facet was born. (See fig 4)
Figure 4 – A Star facet is born (encircled blue)
All this occurred well before the discovery that the pavilion section of the diamond is primarily responsible for its optical capabilities. This will allow us to move into our next antique style we will be covering which is also considered part of the double cut family…, most probably a natural evolution from the Old English Star to the slightly more advanced Old English Square (see fig 1).
To be continued…