The cut of a diamond is one of the famous four Cs – cut, color, clarity, and carat – determining a diamond’s quality, and many agree it’s the most important one. Different cuts have been popular throughout history, and one that gained prominence during the Art Deco era still doesn’t cease to impress: the Old European cut.
Here, you’ll learn everything you should know about this impressive diamond cutting technique.
What Is an Old European Cut Diamond?
An Old European cut diamond (also called an Old Euro cut diamond) is a round cut diamond that was made between the 1890 and the 1930. Most Old European cut diamonds at that time were hand cut and polished because there were none of the modern machines and technology we have today. Candlelight was the main source of light, and diamonds were cut to maximize the light coming from the candles.
The Old European cut predates the modern round brilliant cut.
History of Old European Cut
As you would rightly assume, the Old European cut was developed in Europe. It evolved from the old mine cut, which was popular in the late 18th century. This cut was common during the Art Deco period when jewelers focused on maximizing the carat weight instead of sparkle.
This doesn’t mean Old European cut diamonds don’t have any brilliance. Since they were hand cut by candlelight, these diamonds don’t have the “perfect” appearance we see in modern-day diamonds. This is actually what makes Old European cut diamonds so special; since there was no technology that would allow precise, symmetric cuts, every diamond is unique. Hence, finding two identical Old European cut diamonds is impossible.
Although this cut is typical for antique jewelry, it’s still very popular today.
How to Identify an Old European Cut Diamond
Before explaining the characteristics of an Old European cut diamond, let’s first understand the anatomy of every diamond.
Anatomy of a Diamond
All diamonds share the same anatomical characteristics, regardless of their cut: crown, table, pavilion, girdle, and culet. Diamond facets – the flat surfaces that absorb and reflect light – can typically be found in any part of the diamond except the culet. In rare cases, the culet can feature one facet.
The table is a diamond’s top surface that contains the largest facets. This part is always flat and dictates the entire diamond’s proportions. Typically, a diamond’s table reveals the most brilliance and sparkle.
A diamond’s crown is the upper half of the stone and consists of facets from below the table to above the girdle. Although it may seem like a small part, this is where most facets are found, especially with diamond cuts that maximize brilliance.
A girdle connects the crown and the pavilion, and is usually the widest part of a diamond. Depending on the diamond, the girdle can be thick or thin, smooth or rough, and even faceted.
The lowest part of a diamond is called the pavilion. This part is vital for a diamond’s brilliance and fire. A well-shaped pavilion will disperse light instead of retracting it, creating the wonderful visual effect diamonds are known for.
A culet is a diamond’s lowest point. In the diamond world, there are divided opinions on how a culet should look. Some argue this part should never contain a facet and consider it a defect, while others like a faceted culet.
Characteristics of an Old European Cut Diamond
Old European cut diamonds are round in shape and feature a small table and a large culet. They have a total of 58 facets that are typically much larger than in round brilliant cut diamonds. Old European cut diamonds are easy to identify because of the small spot at the table’s center. This spot comes from the large culet that doesn’t have pointy edges like modern round brilliant cuts. Thanks to this large culet, more light escapes through the diamond, leaving a darker spot on the table’s surface.
They also have a higher crown compared to other diamond cuts. Since Old European cut diamonds were hand cut using antiquated cutting techniques, they don’t have the symmetry of modern diamonds. While this makes each diamond unique, many people don’t like the imperfection.
How to Identify an Old Euro Diamond
The first place that you’re going to look in order to identify an Old European cut will be the visible culet. After that, there are a few more direct ways to identify it. Here’s our list, in descending order, of the easiest ways to pick out an old Euro.
One of the hallmarks of the old European cut diamonds is their visible culet. To view the culet, you can peer through the top of the diamond. On a diamond larger than 1 carat, you can find the culet without even using a loupe. Take a look at the rounded facet in the diamond of the picture above.
- Large culet. The culet is the facet at the bottom of the diamond.
- Small table. The table is the facet at the top of the diamond.
- Frosted girdle. The girdle is the facet that encircles the diamond between the crown and pavilion. If it’s frosted and opaque, it’s likely old. Read more.
- Bumpy girdle. If the girdle shows tiny side cracks, it’s a good sign that the diamond is old.
- Larger Facets. The old European cut diamond will show facets from the top that are “larger” and “less splintered” than a modern diamond. See next section.
Old European Cut Diamond vs. Brilliant Cut Diamond
As mentioned, the Old European cut predates the brilliant cut, so the two have several similarities. Still, these two cuts differ in numerous ways. Here’s how Old European cut diamonds compare to brilliant cut stones.
Perhaps the biggest similarity between the two cuts is the equal number of facets; every Old European cut and brilliant cut diamond has 58 facets. The difference is in the size, because Old European cut diamonds have significantly bigger facets. Thanks to this, Old European cut diamonds focus more on fire dispersion; they feature multicolored flashes of light. This isn’t the case with brilliant cut diamonds, which feature smaller facets that maximize the brilliance.
Old European diamonds also have higher crowns and larger culets than brilliant cut diamonds. This larger culet can be spotted in the diamond’s center, which isn’t the case with brilliant cut diamonds that feature pointy culets.
Another vital difference is that Old European cut diamonds are handcrafted, while modern brilliant cut diamonds are machine cut. While they don’t have the symmetry of brilliant cut diamonds, Old European cut diamonds are valued for their uniqueness.
Since they were mostly cut between 1890 and 1930, Old European cut diamonds are considered antique. Nowadays, modern brilliant cut diamonds are classic and have become a symbol for engagement rings. This also means it’s much easier to find brilliant cut diamonds than Old European cut (OEC) diamonds.
It’s important to mention the price difference. A high-quality OEC diamond can be up to 15% more expensive than a modern brilliant cut diamond.
Difference Between an Old Mine Cut and Old European Cut Diamond
The old mine cut was the most popular cut before the Old European cut. Most existing old mine cut diamonds are featured in jewelry dating from the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. The term “old mine cut diamonds” is used for diamonds sourced from old mines at the time, so it’s not directly related to the diamond’s shape.
Old mine cut diamonds and Old European cut diamonds have only a few differences, and one of the most significant ones is their shape. Contrary to Old European cut diamonds that are completely round, old mine cut diamonds feature a square shape with slightly rounded edges. They also have a thicker culet and a wider girdle.
Both old mine cut diamonds and Old European cut diamonds have 58 facets and are handcrafted. Both feature higher crowns compared to modern brilliant cut diamonds. Since old mine and Old European diamonds are cut by hand, they are unique and asymmetrical. It’s impossible to find two identical diamonds dating from this era.
It’s important to mention that the term “old mine cut diamonds” is often used to describe Old European cut diamonds. This term often represents handcrafted, antique diamonds, including the Old European, rose, and cushion cuts. While modern brilliant cut diamonds originated from old mine cut diamonds, they are never described as such because they are machine cut.
What’s the Price of an Old European Cut Diamond?
Talking about a diamond’s price is hard because it depends on several factors, and the cut is just one of them. The other three Cs (color, carat, and clarity) also play an important role in a diamond’s price. It’s crucial to understand that diamonds don’t have a fixed per-carat price. The higher the carat weight, the higher price per carat. The same goes for color and clarity; the higher the grades, the more expensive a diamond will be. Even a one-grade difference can significantly increase a diamond’s value.
In today’s market, a high-quality Old European cut diamond can cost 10-15% more than round brilliant cut diamonds. Of course, this isn’t a universal rule. Modern diamonds often cost much more than Old European cuts because they are more proportional and have more brilliance.
Top 7 Tips for Buying an Old European Cut Diamond
Buying an OEC diamond can be challenging, and these seven tips can make it easier.
1. Buy Only From an Expert Jeweler
The most important action you need to take when purchasing a diamond is to find a reputable, experienced jeweler. Such a jeweler can help you find a diamond that matches your preferences and budget. They can provide detailed information about every diamond in their collection and give valuable advice.
Reputable jewelers offer exquisite diamond collections with the necessary certificates that prove their origin and quality. This means you don’t have to worry about buying a fake diamond or one with a falsified certificate.
2. Make Sure It Comes With an Appraisal
If you want to purchase an Old European cut diamond, ensure it comes with an appraisal from a reputable company, like the Universal Gemological Laboratory (UGL). The appraisal confirms the diamond’s quality and describes its color, clarity, carat weight, cut, measurements, symmetry, and other important characteristics. If your piece of jewelry features more than one diamond, the appraisal should describe all of them.
Besides confirming the diamond’s value, an appraisal can be used to verify your ownership and for insurance purposes. Most insurance companies won’t issue a policy if you don’t get an appraisal. Even if your company doesn’t, you should still get one to avoid underinsuring the diamond.
Another benefit of an appraisal is that it can serve as a backup plan for damaged or lost jewelry. The detailed description can be used for recreating a diamond just like the original.
3. Take Your Time
Buying an Old European cut diamond isn’t something you should rush into. While it may be tempting to purchase the first one you see, especially when you know high-quality Old European cut diamonds aren’t common, it’s better not to rush. Take your time to talk to different jewelers, explore the four Cs of every diamond you’re interested in, and try to negotiate the price.
It’s not every day that you buy a diamond, and since they can have quite a hefty price tag, don’t purchase one unless you’re 100% satisfied with your choice.
4. Focus on Your Preferences
As mentioned, every genuine diamond comes with a certificate that proves its quality and describes the main characteristics. While high color and clarity grades certainly sound appealing, they shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind when purchasing a diamond.
The most important factor to keep in mind when purchasing an OEC diamond is your (or your loved one’s) preferences. The diamond doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to match your requirements. In some cases, a diamond with lower color and clarity grades can look just as good or even better than a diamond with the highest grades. Even if it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. You’re the one buying it, and it should look good to you.
5. Consider the Setting
Unless you’re buying a loose diamond, it’s crucial to consider the diamond’s setting. Some colors and shapes can make the diamond look whiter, while others can make it appear yellowish. It ultimately comes down to your preferences.
6. Compare the Diamonds
Since Old European cut diamonds are handcrafted, you can’t find two identical ones. The cut quality, polish, and symmetry can vary. You may not notice this until you see two diamonds of a similar carat weight close to each other. This can be an excellent tactic for discovering what you like and determining which diamond could be the right fit for you.
7. Do Your Research
Researching a diamond’s characteristics, certification, appropriate settings, and price can be vital for making the right choice. If you’re not well-informed, you risk being tricked into purchasing a fake diamond or one that doesn’t match your criteria. Although it’s not your job to know everything about diamonds, a bit of research can make the process much easier and quicker.
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How to Set an Old European Cut Diamond
An old mine European cut diamond is an excellent choice for antique jewelry. In terms of the setting, OEC diamonds look great with settings that feature details and intricate designs, highlighting the stone’s beauty. Edwardian, Georgian, and Art Deco jewelry are ideal for Old European cut diamonds.
When it comes to metal, Old European cut diamonds are often paired with platinum or white gold. However, they can look just as beautiful in yellow or rose gold.
How to Buy a Loose Old European Cut Diamond
Buying a loose diamond allows you to take a good look at it and create a unique piece of jewelry. If you want to purchase a loose Old Euro cut diamond, it’s vital to check the certification that comes with it. Ensure the diamond is certified by a reputable institution, like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
It’s important to purchase the diamond from a reputable jeweler that can give you detailed information about the stone and answer all your questions. Take your time to inspect the diamond and ensure it matches your requirements.
Contact us if you want help looking for a loose old European cut diamond.
Pros and Cons of Old European Cut Diamonds
Every diamond cut has its advantages and drawbacks. Let’s see why an Old Euro cut diamond may or may not be the right choice for you.
The Pros of Old European Cut Diamonds
- They are unique – Since every genuine Old European cut diamond is hand cut, you can be 100% sure nobody will have the same diamond as you. This gives them a unique appeal many people appreciate.
- They have a “fire,” in spite of the fact that Old European cut diamonds don’t have the same brilliance and sparkle as modern diamond cuts. But keep in mind that this doesn’t make them any less impressive. Old European cut diamonds have a fire, a special effect when light touches a diamond’s facets and disperses into rainbow colors. This colored sparkle makes the OEC diamond even more attractive.
- They can be affordable – You can often find Old European cut diamonds at a more affordable price than modern cuts. This allows you to get a great-looking diamond without spending a fortune.
- They are rare – Since they are antique, Old European cut diamonds aren’t that common. Those who like rare Old World jewelry will appreciate this characteristic.
- Eco-friendly – Diamond mining isn’t the most environmentally friendly activity. Since Old European cut diamonds have already been mined, their impact on the environment is virtually nonexistent at the moment.
The Cons of Old European Cut Diamonds
- Limited options – While many consider the uniqueness and rarity of Old European cut diamonds as an advantage, it’s important to look at the other side, which is their limited selection. There aren’t as many options to choose from, which isn’t the case with modern cuts.
- Imperfect cuts – Another potential drawback of Old European cut diamonds is their imperfection. Since no modern machines were used for cutting the diamonds, they often look a little asymmetrical. Some may say this is a part of the diamond’s charm, while others prefer diamonds with perfect facets and symmetry.
- No listed GIA cut grade – Because they are handcrafted, Old European cut diamonds vary greatly in quality. Due to this, GIA doesn’t give a cut grade for Old European cut diamonds. Still, the certificate can give you information about a diamond’s color, carat weight, and clarity.
- Warmer colors – Most of the Old European Cut diamonds are usually in the warmer color range of I color – L color. White colors like D – H colors are very rare to find.
Shop Old European Cut Engagement Rings
Estate Diamond Jewelry has been collecting vintage jewelry for over 30 years and is proud to share its rare collection of old European rings collections online. Click here to view our entire collection of Old European cut diamonds. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us.
Bernex Ring. Circa 1925
Dutchess Ring. Circa 1950
Your preferences are vital for choosing the perfect Old European cut diamond. Purchasing one can be challenging. If you need help selecting the right diamond or have any diamond-related questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our antique diamond experts.
We’ve been in the business for decades and have the expertise to help you find the diamond you’ve always wanted. Plus, we have an impressive collection of vintage jewelry featuring Old European cut diamonds.
Contact us to schedule an appointment in our New York showroom. If you’re not in New York, we’ll be happy to help you via a video appointment.