A vintage engagement ring with 7 diamonds resting on a velvet-lined antique ring box

The Allure of Antiquity: A Guide to Old Diamond Cuts

A vintage engagement ring with 7 diamonds resting on a velvet-lined antique ring box

Considering the prevalence that diamonds have had throughout human history, it should come as no surprise that these precious gems have a storied history of their own.

While round brilliant and radiant cut diamonds are all the rage these days, the methods and styles of diamond cutting have evolved dramatically over time. The result? A spectrum of fire and sparkle for jewelry lovers to choose from! Today, we’re exploring the world of old diamonds, covering five fascinating cuts that predate the modern round brilliant and hold an allure that continues to resonate with jewelry enthusiasts.


1. Old Mine Cut (18th - Early 20th Century)

The Old Mine Cut, also known as the Antique Cushion Cut, is a beautiful piece of jewelry history. Popularized during the 18th through the late 19th centuries, it predates the widespread use of technology in diamond cutting. The Old Mine Cut has 58 facets like today’s modern round brilliant cut diamond, but that’s about all these two cuts have in common.

When crafting old mine cut diamonds by hand, diamond cutters would use the gem’s natural octahedral shape as a guide. These diamonds were cut with the goal of weight retention over maximizing brilliance; each stone is also completely unique due to their hand-crafted nature.  Old Mine Cuts can be recognized by their squarish shape, large facets and culet, and higher crown. As a result, these gems often display a captivating play of light and dark within the stone. Old Miner’s Cut diamonds, especially those with higher color grades, can exhibit a “moody” warmth and fire that modern cuts struggle to replicate.

Fun fact: The term “Old Mine Cut” is assumed to have come into vogue around the late 1800s, when diamond production from Africa began to eclipse production from the “old mines” of Brazil and even older mines of India.

2. Old European Cut (19th - Early 20th Century)

The Old European Cut, a precursor to the modern round brilliant, emerged in the 19th century and became particularly popular during the Art Deco era. These cuts also boast 58 facets, but they are typically rounder than the Old Mine Cut and have a smaller culet. Compared to its modern counterparts, the Old European cut features larger facets with a smaller table (the top flat facet), as well as a higher crown.

All of these factor’s result in a romantic, “candlelit” effect to the stone, that some liken to a “hall of mirrors.” Like Old Mine Cuts, they may also exhibit a subtle warmth of color and a distinct fire, whereas the modern round brilliant cut will usually display a white, “splintery” brilliance.

3. Moval Cut (Early 20th Century)

The Moval Cut, though not technically an “old cut” according to some professionals, holds a special place in the hearts of vintage jewelry enthusiasts.

Popularized in the early 20th century, it combines the elegant, tapered edges of a marquise cut with the rounded points of an oval cut. Moval cuts were most often seen in the Edwardian and Art Deco eras, suiting both the delicate, lacy looks and sleek, geometric designs of these respective movements. These cuts are particularly well-suited for those seeking a diamond that covers more real estate on the finger than an oval cut, but who prefer a softer profile than a marquise.

A close up of an Art Deco diamond necklace featuring a moval-cut diamond

An Art Deco diamond necklace featuring a moval-cut diamond at the center, from Sindur’s private collection.

4. Portrait Cut (Ancient!)

The Portrait Cut, also called a lasque, is a true antique gem. It is among the oldest forms of diamond cutting, originating in ancient India and getting its name from the practice of placing portraits underneath the gems to enhance and protect them. Designed to maximize spread, these cuts are minimally faceted—almost resembling a miniature pane of glass.

While not as brilliant or sparkly as modern cuts, a portrait cut diamond possesses a distinctive charm and is often well suited to sophisticated, modern designs. This cut’s larger table facet makes it an excellent platform to showcase a diamond’s inherent color or unique inclusions. Also worth noting: A portrait cut is a great stone to consider if you work with your hands, as its low profile will be less likely to catch on clothing or equipment.

An 18k white gold portrait cut salt and pepper Diamond crossover ring with pave set Diamond accents.

5. Peruzzi Cut (17th Century)

The Peruzzi Cut, named after a Florentine banking family that financed much of early diamond exploration, is the rarest of our featured cuts.

The first brilliant cut diamonds, known as Mazarins, were introduced in the 17th century. These stones featured 17 facets on the crown and were sometimes known as double-cut brilliants as (a step up from old single cuts).  Vincent Peruzzi, a Venetian polisher, later increased the number of crown facets from 17 to 33—significantly increasing the fire and brilliance of the cut gem.

While not as sparkly as modern cuts, Peruzzi diamonds are rare, historically significant, and possess a certain allure. Collectors covet these stones for their unique faceting and their connection to a bygone era of diamond discovery.

Why Choose Old Cut Diamonds?

Old cut diamonds offer a unique blend of history, beauty, and value. Here are a few of the reasons we ask clients to consider if they’re open to an antique or vintage stone:

  • Rich History and Character: Each hand-cut stone is one-of-a-kind and tells a story, potentially passed down through generations!
  • Unique Brilliance: Old cuts offer a distinctly romantic fire and play of light that contrasts sharply from the crisp, “splintery” brilliance of many modern cuts.
  • Potential Value: Antique diamonds can be a valuable investment, particularly rare cuts like the Peruzzi. Not only that, but we consider these diamonds to be “automatic heirlooms” that can easily be passed down through your family.
  • Eco-Conscious Choice: Choosing an antique diamond gives new life to existing stones and doesn’t support potentially destructive mining practices. 

Finding the Perfect Antique Diamond

When considering old cut diamonds, it’s essential to work with reputable jewelers specializing in antique stones. These experts can guide you through the selection process, considering factors like cut, clarity, color, and presence of inclusions (which may be viewed as unique features rather than flaws in older stones).

With their alluring beauty and rich history, old cut diamonds offer a fascinating and uniquely romantic alternative to their modern counterparts. If you’re considering a diamond purchase, we’d love to help you explore the world of old cuts and discover the magic of a jewel that has its own story to tell!