A Guide to Vintage, Antique and Old Diamond Cuts
Our Deluxe Vintage Ring Collection is perfect for those who love the look of vintage Art Deco rings, but worry about antiques being too fragile or delicate to enjoy wearing every day. In keeping with tradition, our elegant new collection is inspired by antique and vintage aesthetics, is crafted using only Victorian cut, French cut and carré cut diamonds. These old fashioned diamond cuts, including the old mine cut, are rarely seen in modern diamond jewellery and require specialist skill to cut using heritage practises. Each diamond has been custom sourced and selected to fit the setting and ring style. To celebrate the launch of our new vintage collection, here’s everything you need to know about vintage diamonds, from old diamond cuts to how each era inspired the many changing trends in jewellery. What’s the difference between antique and vintage jewellery? It’s important to differentiate between the two terms. Antique rings are those made more than 100 years ago, whereas vintage pieces are any that are not modern, but not old enough to qualify as antique. Both, however, are notable for their striking and often more elaborate designs than their contemporary counterparts.
Which diamond cuts feature heavily in antique and vintage rings? Old mine cut, so named for the old diamond mines of India, harks back to a time when these precious gems were measured by eye and cut by hand, a skill most rare. Bearing close similarity to the modern cushion cut, it features a high crown and small, squarish table with rounded corners comprising 58 facets. Exuding more sparkle than that of many previous cuts, it would become a hallmark of the Victorian Era. Old European cut features a rounded table and larger, triangular facets, akin to those of the modern brilliant cut. Its popularity peaked from the mid-1870s to the 1930s.
Victorian cut has a classical shape, reminiscent of a bygone age. It features a unique, multifaceted top crown with a small table and step-cut bottom pavilion comprising 73 facets, which contributes to the diamond’s reflective brilliance. Because of its perfect proportions, it appears even larger when set. The shift from shaping diamonds into old cuts to modern round brilliant diamonds was spread gradually over many decades. Terms such as ‘Victorian cut’ and ‘Edwardian cut’ describe the round brilliant styles created during different periods of this change. Carré cut, originally developed to make maximum use of the rough stone, is a square-shaped stone with 90֯ corners and a large upper facet. As with baguette or emerald cuts, its step-cut facets emphasize any flaws in the stone so only high-quality gems are suitable for this style. What it lacks in the sparkle of a brilliant cut, it makes up for in refined elegance. A popular choice in the Art Deco Era. French cut stones, a natural evolution of the table cut, are square or rectangular multifaceted gems, recognisable by the typical cross the crown facets depict. Dating back to the 1400s, they became fashionable in the 18th century and then again during the Art Deco Era. Rose cut, notable for its simplistic faceting, flat back and domed tops covered in triangular facets that mimic the inner spiral of a rose. The rose cut dates back to the 1500s and is considered one of the original core diamond cuts.
How do styles differ from era to era? Throughout history, trends have changed, influencing everything from fashion to furniture, and jewellery is no exception. Here’s our guide to the different eras and the indelible mark they left on jewellery designs. (From left to right) Our Art Deco Flower ring with old cut diamond centre and French cut channel-set diamonds either side, our Art Deco style ring, centred with a large Victorian cut diamond and surrounded by graduating rows of smaller Victorian and French cut diamonds and our Art Deco trilogy ring featuring a triple vertical row of Victorian cut diamonds surround with an swirl of round Victorian cut diamonds. All rings are mounted in hardy platinum.
Victorian Era (1837-1901):
This period was marked by old mine cuts, heavy use of yellow gold and snake motifs, with generous helpings of rubies and emeralds. Designs were heady with symbolism and romantic expression. Victorians loved anything bestowed with meaning and this was particularly true for jewellery. It was believed at the time that snakes symbolised love so the reptiles appeared in many designs. Even Queen Victoria’s engagement ring, given to her by Prince Albert in 1840, featured a snake with an emerald-set head. In the same vein, the ‘toi et moi’, or ‘you and me’, ring was much-loved by romantic Victorians. It featured a band joined at the top by two stones, often a diamond and a ruby, sitting side by side. The diamond symbolised love and prosperity, while the ruby represented passion and devotion. A sentiment that still rings true today.
Art Nouveau and Edwardian Eras (1890-1910):
The Art Nouveau period, though brief, had a lasting impact on jewellery. In a break from the decorative designs of the 19th century, pieces became more ethereal and exotic, characterised by elaborate swirling lines, muted colours and focused heavily on nature and the female form. Semi- and even non-precious materials, such as moonstone, peridot, opal, amethyst and citrine, as well as moulded glass and enamel, featured in the creations of the great artist-jewellers of the time. The Edwardian Era, spanning the first decade of the 20th century, coincided with the introduction of platinum into jewellery. Its strength made it possible to create jewels that resembled embroidery and fine lace. Designs were classic, with a return to more ostentatious and aristocratic settings suited to the Old European cut. Diamonds were king, though emeralds and rubies were also popular.
Art Deco Era (1920s-1930s):
Art Deco jewellery, like all other aspects of the movement, was synonymous with contrasting colours, geometric shapes and strong patterns, a complete rejection of the soft, curvy forms that defined the previous era. Taking its influences from places like India and Egypt, Art Deco jewellery was characterised by sharp edges and clean lines (French, carré and emerald cuts ruled), often featuring unorthodox combinations of natural materials, such as onyx, emeralds, rubies, jade, silver, ivory and lapis, with manufactured plastic or glass. With the First World War over, those with money to spend splashed out on jewellery. Bold cocktail rings were made of high-quality precious metals like platinum, gold and silver and covered in emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds.
Retro Era (1940s-1950s):
Spanning the post-war years, the Retro Era was a unique fusion of the past and present, taking its influences from both. Designs were varied and striking, from geometric and modern to romantic interpretations of Victorian Era styles. Pieces were oversized in palettes of rose, green and gold. Massive gemstones, such as emeralds, amethyst and citrines, were often accented with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. The period also saw a notable shift away from the cool platinum of the Art Deco Era to warmer yellow and rose golds. So, whether you’re after something that’s big and bold or delicate and demur, antique and vintage-inspired rings have something for everyone.
At Diamond Rocks, both our Vintage and Deluxe Vintage Collections are crafted in the present, but designed with the finest features of the past. Each British Hallmarked ring is made exclusively in house at our workshop, combining old-style elegance with the unmistakable sparkle of a brand-new ring. Ready to step back in time?