The shape of the rough stone determines the ideal cut and number of facets to highlight its best attributes and to capture the most stunning choreography of light. Not only does the initial shape play a role in the art of cutting, but so does the presence of inclusions and color. The configuration and number of facets must allow the gem to exhibit its best attributes when viewed from the top. There are over 1o different classic cuts. Here are a few favorites.
The Round Brilliant Cut was a classic for diamonds for over two centuries. Today, it is also known as American Standard Cut. This 58-facet cut is designed to obtain the maximum scintillation as the gem moves along with the body. While this cut was originally developed for diamonds, it is used for other gems as well. The 58-facet standard was established in 2005. Heirloom diamonds prior to this generally feature 57 facets. When put side by side, modern and heirloom cuts reveal a distinctively different play of light.
Rose Cut. As the name suggests, this style is meant to resemble an opening rose bud. While the Round Brilliant Cut is characterized by a pointed bottom and flat top, the Rose Cut features a flat bottom and triangular facets that lead to a tipped crown with considerably fewer facets; generally 24 to be exact. It was developed in the early 1600’s and is used when the loss of a rough stone’s best attributes would be too significant with a Round Cut. The Rose Cut offers lower scintillation with greater focus on the harmony of its shape.
The Pear Cut is a melancholic cut, appeasing to behold. It seems to make us pensive. It is considered a hybrid cut, as it combines aspects of the Marquise Cut and the Oval Cut. The standard facet count for the Pear Cut is 71. Gems cut in this shape show exceptional color quality. The Pear Cut is especially suited to classic drop earrings. Its unique shape also offers versatility to rings, creating a different effect depending on whether the elongated end points toward the hand or the fingertip. Pointing it to the fingertip on short hands makes the finger appear longer.
The Marquise Cut recalls the weaving shuttle. This is the tool weavers use to carry and weave the thread back and forth across the loom. The image is appropriate, as it evokes a balancing of shape and movement. The Marquise Cut makes a powerful focal point when accompanied by smaller gems. The facet count for this cut is 57. Rumor has it that King Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) was so taken by the smile of the Marquise de Pompadour that he ordered a diamond cut to match it.
The Cabochon Cut is characterized by the absence of facets. It creates a polished gem with a domed top. In ancient times, faceted gems were most often the result of the natural structure of the raw stones. Instruments did not exist that could provide intricate and symmetrical facets (at least not generally). Today, the Cabochon Cut is not used for lack of instruments. It is used by choice, when the nature of a stone best lends itself to this style. For instance, the beauty of opaque gems and gems presenting inclusions, such as jade, is best enhanced in the Cabochon style. Consider the star sapphire, whose characteristic internal star effect would be lost to any other cut. The word Cabochon comes from Old French “caboche”, meaning head.
Finally, the Briolette Cut. Its facet count is the highest at 84. Notice that this count is not finite. Ultimate brilliance is the goal with this cut. Incidentally, the word Briolette is a derivation or and old French word for brilliance. This cut requires extreme cutting precision. The design consists in a combination of triangular and diamond-shaped facets all around a tear-shaped stone. This cut is preferred for colored gems. It is interesting to note that while precision cutting instruments that might allow the detail of the Briolette are a fairly recent addition to the jeweler’s workbench, there is evidence of this cut in ancient ornaments.
These, then, are a few classic cuts that endure the test of time. Jewelry, after all, is a matter of tradition. However, 21st century technology brings a new dimension to the jeweler’s arsenal and a new trend seems to be emerging with commercially, mass-produced gems, cut in specific, intricate shapes, such as spades and flowers with a stem. The artisan who works by the piece abides by one important rule: integrity. A well-rounded, well-balanced gem has unequaled strength and presence.