Knowledge Centre > Gemmology > Cuts

Old Mine Cut Diamonds

Our history of diamond cuts

front view Antique diamond cluster ring by Birks of Canada, circa 1890. berganza hatton garden
Antique diamond cluster ring by Birks of Canada, Canadian, circa 1890.
Ref: 25918

In the history of diamond cutting, the cut considered to be the precursor to the modern round brilliant is today known as the ‘old mine’ cut.  This early brilliant cut is at its core a table cut to which additional facets have been added.  The result was most often a ‘cushion shaped’ outline, achieved by removing the corners of a table cut, and the addition of numerous kite shaped facets, fanning out like a star from the central table facet. 

Though its exact origins remain somewhat shrouded, the probable impetus for the invention of this design was the depletion of diamonds in India, which up until the early eighteenth century was the world’s only source of diamonds. Because of this, cutters were restrained by the lack of rough material, and therefore they were forced to adapt old table cut stones with new facet patterns.  And so it follows that table cuts with damaged corners, for example, would have been re-cut with rounded corners, resulting a more rounded outline.  The star facets were likely a result of improvements in diamond cutting technology, as well as an increased understanding of the way light is reflected back out of the stone, which can be increased via additional facets.

Despite these innovations, table and rose cuts dominated jewellery of the late seventeenth century, and the old mine cut remained largely non-standardized.  It was not until the 1730s, with the discovery of a new source of diamonds in Brazil, replenishing the world supply of rough diamonds, that brilliant cuts became more popular.  For the first time a large supply of well shaped rough coincided with the technology to cut numerous facets, and thus the brilliant began its progression toward the highly regular round brilliant of today.  The charm of these early brilliants, however, in comparison with modern stones is surely their history and their unique irregularities—each cut by hand, the stones derived from historical mines long since depleted, and cut to maximize the glittering candlelight of the era in which they were worn.

Old mine cushion shape diamond earrings berganza hatton garden
Old mine cushion shape diamond stud earrings, circa 1920.
Ref: 26216
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Updated 18/05/2024 at 3:51PM

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