Also sometimes referred to as 'old European cuts', old cut diamonds are characterised by a symmetrical rounded outline, and a deep crown and pavilion (the top and bottom sections of a brilliant cut stone when viewed in profile). Though they existed as early as the seventeenth century, they did not reach the height of their popularity until the late nineteenth century.
This was largely due to two men in the United States, Henry D. Morse and Charles M. Field. In 1874 they patented a steam driven bruting machine--bruting being the term for the process by which the outline of a diamond is fashioned during the cutting process. Morse was a diamond cutter, and was the first to utilize this invention to create rounded symmetrical stones with newfound relative ease.
Not only did it allow diamonds to be cut more easily, the invention coincided with an influx of diamonds into the world market, with the discovery of the gems in South Africa in 1867. The downside to this cut, which is in part why it was avoided in the past, is the inevitable loss of weight, which would otherwise be retained when sticking more closely to the squared shape of a natural rough diamond, as in table and old mine cuts.
However, another machine--the power-driven circular saw--invented around the same time, made it possible to cut a diamond and retain the excess, which could then be cut into smaller diamonds, rather than grinding the excess into diamond dust, as was done in the past. As a result of these three converging factors, this cut soon became the new standard, largely replacing the cushion shaped old mine diamond. The cut remained popular well into the mid-twentieth century, and are today a much-loved feature of antique and vintage jewellery.