One of the most common questions we get asked is to describe the difference between antique stones and their modern counterparts.
Diamond cutting became significantly less crude in the late 19th century, which led to the creation of the old European cut diamond popularized during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods. As technology advanced, diamond cutting techniques changed the placement and proportion of a diamond’s facets. Tables became larger, culets became smaller, and facets became longer and leaner. These changes led to the creation of what is now the world’s most popular diamond shape, the modern round brilliant.
Vintage diamonds, such as old Europeans and old mine cushion cuts, were hand cut to increase their color and clarity. Unlike today, the quantity of available diamonds was much more limited in the 18th and 19th centuries. The diamond mines of Southern Africa, which are responsible for many of the whitest stones currently on the market, were not yet discovered. As such, diamond cutters used inventive faceting techniques to bring out the best in each stone.
All of these characteristics interplay to give old cut stones their unique charm and recognizable sparkle. The modern round brilliant diamond and the old European cut both have either 57 or 58 facets, but the shape and placement of those facets gives each cut its distinctive personality. Whereas vintage diamonds were cut for color, modern round brilliant diamonds, as their name suggests, are cut for brilliance. Light is intended to go into the diamond and bounce right back out into the eye of the beholder. This creates the bling that has become ubiquitous in modern jewelry. Antique stones capture light differently, drawing the eye in rather than immediately radiating sparkle out.
At Erstwhile, we are partial to the latter. The sparkle and fire within old stones gives jewelry its charm, interest, and warmth, which is why we also use antique stones in our by Erstwhile collection. The contrast between our modern aesthetic and the vintage diamonds’ unique glow makes by Erstwhile rings contemporary heirlooms that will continue to shine for generations to come.