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  • Writer's pictureDave Thomas

"Old European cut diamond", by any other name...

Updated: May 25, 2022

This is a post in progress. Please excuse spelling and grammatical errors, incomplete and/or mixed-up sentences and paragraphs, and anything else that seems awry.

GIA defines a round brilliant cut as having a "round girdle outline, symmetrically placed triangular and kite-shaped facets and a table, and has 57 or 58 facets depending on whether the diamond has a culet facet." An old European cut diamond has a round girdle outline, symmetrically placed triangular and kite-shape facets and a table, and has 57 or 58 facets depending on whether the diamond has a culet (see the diagram below). In short, an old European cut IS a round brilliant cut.

The term Old European cut or old European cut brilliant has been used for over a hundred years to refer to a round brilliant cut diamond with lower halves that are shorter than is considered standard for today's round brilliant cuts, but are typical of round brilliants of earlier periods. They also commonly have a larger culet than today’s round brilliants, but not always. They may also have other proportion variations from current "standards".

The term "old European cut" or "old European brilliant", and other like terms have always been used very broadly and have never had a strict narrow definition within the diamond industry or in common parlance. This is still the case today, though sometime around the year 2000, the GIA created its own narrow definition for use in its diamond reports. As such, it does not fit the previous use of the term.

The differences of the earlier round brilliant cuts/old European cuts are a matter of proportions, not a difference outline, the facet types, or the number of facets. Regardless of the proportion variations, an old European cut diamond still fits the GIA definition of a round brilliant cut. The range of possible proportions of a round brilliant cut is virtually limitless in theory, and very large in actuality. The possible proportion variations of a round brilliant cut diamonds, including old European cut diamonds, create an enormously wide range of possible appearances, and many variations of beauty and appeal.

Proportions are not part of the definition of the round brilliant cut. The range of proportions found in round brilliant cuts from earlier time periods is vastly wider than those of current round brilliant cuts. The range of the most popular proportions of current round brilliant cuts, what has in effect become the standard, is exceedingly slender.

The term old European cut originally began as a misnomer, originally used to disparage a competitor's merchandise and/or promote one's own diamonds; The implication being that we have the newest most up-to-date superior cuts, and they have the old, out-of-date, inferior cut diamonds. When people first started using the term, the diamonds they referred to may or may not have been old, and may or may not have been cut in Europe. The term never had a standard definition, or even any definition, and no commonly agreed upon meaning. It neither accurately describes the diamonds it is meant to refer to, nor does it fit any standard approach to diamond cut nomenclature. It has no historical or other factual basis. It does no justice to the actual cut of the diamond. But that’s what most people call them, and that’s why I also use the term when offering them for sale. I also call them early round brilliants or early style round brilliant, vintage or antique round brilliants. Because that’s what they are.

BTW, pretty much the same goes for the term “old mine cut”, except that an old mine has a cushion outline, not a round outline, aka antique cushion brilliant, early cushion brilliant, early style cushion brilliant etc.

The images below should give you a general idea of what these cuts look like, which is really all that matters. :)

Profile diagram with proportions of one particular old European cut diamond. Proportions of old European cut diamonds are by no means limited to those shown in this diagram. >>

Photo of old European cut diamond, top view:

Photo of a more current style round brilliant cut diamond:

Photo of an old Mine cut diamond, top view:

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