In the 1200s and before, there was a taboo against cutting diamonds. It is thought, however, that this taboo was associated more out of necessity than out of superstition. These taboos may have started in India and spread through Europe during the beginning stages of the diamond trade. Diamonds are the hardest mineral on earth so in those times it was a very difficult stone to cut. Diamonds were mostly used in their natural shape with only cosmetic cleanup and polishing to bring out the stone’s brilliance.
In the late 1300s, diamond cutting advancements were made. Diamond cutters and polishers formed a guild in Nuremburg, Germany. The point cut was a major advancement that was made in the last half of the 14th century. The point cut follows the natural octahedral shape of a diamond that is raw, or unprocessed. The point cut helped to eliminate some of the waste that normally came about during the cutting process.
During this time period, cutters used the natural cleavage that rough diamonds had. This gave a distinct advantage when cutting diamonds. The cutter cleaved the stone to make it close to the shape that he wanted to accomplish. Cleaving was the process of hitting the stone in a specific spot that would result in the stone breaking into smaller pieces. However, this process was risky because if the correct pressure point of the diamond was not struck, the stone would break into tiny fragments becoming useless.
If the stone’s cleaving process was successful and the stone was cleaved into the desired approximate shape, it was then subjected to bruting. During bruting, a rough diamond is struck against another diamond. This process was long and slow. In the middle of the 14th century, there was an improvement made to the point cut. This improvement was made by cutting off some of the octahedron’s top portion to create a table cut.
At the end of the 14th century, there was an addition to the table cut. There were four corner facets added and this new cut was called the old single cut or the old eight cut. These cuts were very primitive so they could hardly show off a diamond’s brilliance, the way that cuts in our day are able to. Diamond cuts of old were not able to take advantage of a diamond’s natural dispersion, so the stone would appear dark to the naked eye. This is the reason that coloured gemstones were more popular than diamonds during this time period.