Vintage vs. Modern Cut Diamonds

While it can be difficult to put the difference between vintage and modern stones into words, the visual contrast between the two is clear if one has an opportunity to see them side by side.  

Vintage stones were cut with broader facets, smaller tables, larger culets and higher crowns and were cut by hand by skilled artisans rather than by machine as they are today.  These cut differences can especially be seen in the brilliance of vintage and modern stones.  The facets in a vintage stone appear larger and more open while the facets in a modern stone may appear smaller, tighter and busier.  Due to their added depth, vintage stones are often smaller in diameter than a modern stone of the same weight - this is especially true with Old Mine and Cushion cuts. Because of the differences in cut, older stones also tend to appear whiter than a modern stone of equal color. 

It is very rare to find vintage stones of colors D through G.  First of all, there were far fewer diamond mines during the late 1800's and early 1900's, limiting the type of rough material available. Secondly, sadly, many of the vintage stones with high colors were re-cut into modern diamonds for higher profits in the late 70's and 80's, which was incredibly shortsighted. Lastly, many high colored vintage stones are held in private collections.

For the reasons stated above, most antique diamonds will most commonly be seen in the range of J to N colors and in the VVS1 to SI1 clarity grades.  That being said, a vintage stone of J color still appears white to most people.

There is a taboo of colors below H in the modern diamond market. This taboo does not exist within the vintage diamond world. We have many clients who like the light hue of color or warmth that stones in the lower color scale (such as L or M) possess.

There are several different types of vintage cut diamonds. Here are the most sought after cuts:

Old Mine Cuts

These are stones that were cut in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. They have a slightly off-round appearance with a small table, broad facets, high crown and a large culet.  They were cut during the same period as vintage Cushion cuts.

Cushion Cuts

These are stones that were cut in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Vintage Cushion cuts have a pillowish shape and can either be rectangular or squarish. They are characterized by a small table, large culet, high crown and large facets. There are stones that are cut today being sold as “vintage” Cushion cuts, but they are completely a different cut than true vintage Cushion cut diamonds. These modern cut stones are more like a modern round cut with a rectangular shape.

European Cuts

Old European cuts were cut from the early 1900's to the late 1920's and are the predecessors to the modern Round Brilliant cut we see today. Although they were cut without the precise technical knowledge we have now, they are very similar to the “ideal” Round Brilliant cut. The old European cut diamond has large, distinct facets which give it a very unique brilliance and its culet will vary from small to medium in size.

Rose Cuts

The Rose cut is characterized by a dome shaped crown with triangular facets arranged in a symmetrical radiating pattern with the bottom of the stone left flat.  Named for its resemblance to the bud of a rose, the Rose cut is one of the oldest styles of stone cutting and came into vogue around the mid-16th century.

Asscher Cuts

Asscher cut diamonds are distinctive and dramatic, even when viewed alongside other vintage cuts. Square terraces give an appearance of depth and encourage the eye to focus on the longer angles than those found in many of the brilliant-faceted stones. This style was developed by Joseph Asscher in the late 1800s and popularized in 1902, when he was commissioned by the Royal Family to finish the world's largest known diamond, which was over 3,000 carats.

Price Differences Between Vintage and Modern stones

Vintage stones are priced very similarly to modern stones although higher quality vintage stones tend to command a premium which may be higher than a modern stone of equal quality. When someone is looking for a G/VS diamond it will be very easy to find many modern stones in this category. However, to find this quality in a vintage diamond will be a more difficult task and a long search may yield only a couple of options, at best. Because antique diamonds tend to hide their warmth, many people soon realize that a vintage stone of I or J color is still very white in appearance. 

Custom Design

We take pride in our knowledge of vintage pieces and therefore can reproduce or restore any piece. We have an extensive library of images that we can use for inspiration. We offer either vintage or modern diamonds in all of our custom work. Our pieces are offered in Platinum or Gold. We offer gold in different colors (pink, yellow) and karats (14-18-22).

Diamond Certification

In order for a diamond to be certified, it needs to be loose and out of a jewelry mounting. Most of our original vintage jewelry comes to us as a finished piece rather than as separate loose stones and mountings so we would need to disturb the originality of the piece to certify the stone. Therefore, we rarely disassemble jewelry for certification purposes. However, if a piece needs restoration which requires the center stone to be removed, then we may choose to certify the stone and re-set it upon the completion of restoration. However, most of our clients do not want us to disturb original pieces for certification.

If certification is important to you, we do have a variety of loose certified vintage stones available in many sizes and qualities as well as a large selection of certified, original vintage jewelry.

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