November 16, 2014

In praise of the superior Old English Brilliant cut

Ever since Cecil Rhodes founded De Beers in 1888, London has been associated with diamond trading. But when we think of diamond cutting it's New York, Antwerp and Surat that come to mind. The recent resurgence of interest in older cut diamonds, with their unique charm and fire, has cast the spotlight back on a period of time before the ubiquitous modern Brilliant cut.

These days, 92% of the world's diamond are cut in Surat, India. And in an age of global knowledge, diamond cutters in India employ identical techniques to those used in Antwerp. One hundred years ago however, standardised cutting techniques had not yet evolved. A more artisan approach was in force, relying heavily on local knowledge.

London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was at the vanguard of new technology and skills. Financed and powered by the nascent Industrial Revolution, diamond cutters in London became renowned for the fineness of their cut stones. In spite of this, for many years after the development of the modern brilliant cut stone, no-one paid much interest in the older cut stones, preferring instead to have them re-cut.

But now, discerning buyers seeking out something truly special are re-visiting older cut diamonds and falling in love with their unique beauty. In addition to the extra fire associated with older cut stones, there is an additional parameter of provenance which owes itself to the highly localised skills of cutters.

Today, the term Old English Brilliant is now reserved for a particularly fine Old European Cut, presumed to be cut in London. It is the perfect homage to the skill set of London's cutters.

We can think of the Old English Brilliant as a superior Old European Cut diamond. Just like we have "ideal" or "hearts and arrows" to describe the finest cut modern brilliant diamonds, buyers now have a term which gains them access to the top tier of antique stones.