Old Mine Cut diamonds are antique diamonds formed and cut from ancient times to the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th. century when more uniformed round brilliants came about.
More relevant Old Mine Cuts are antique diamonds that were cut en brilliant style (58 facets) from about the mid 17th century.
Old Mine Cuts were not highly symmetrical as today’s modern diamonds standards and were designed to mainly accommodate the lighting environments prior to the widespread use of electric power. They were cut to accommodate low/warm lighting derived from candle lights.
It’s quite easy to confuse their name classifications because every geographic area uses different names such as:
- Miners Cut
- Mine Cut
- Old Miner Cut
- Old Miners Cut
Eventually, it all translates to Old Mine Cut which has become a pretty standard nomenclature worldwide.
As mentioned above Old Mine Cut diamonds are very different in their appearance than today’s modern diamond cuts, They possess various proportions because they were designed and cut to different objectives of their respective periods. They come in a huge variety of shapes and forms but are generally better known for their cushion cut – like shapes.
Table of Contents
Old Mine Cut Diamonds – History and Background
For thousands of years, women and men have been known to wear rocks and stones as talismans. We can only imagine that Diamonds in their rough forms must have been used in this regard as well.
The earliest Diamond discoveries originated in India. Early testaments to these discoveries can be understood from Marco Polo’s works, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” around the 13th-century. Within these works, you’ll find at least two tales on the earliest alluvial Diamond mining methods.
Mughal Empress Nur Jahan (1577-1645)
Diamonds in their rough form were probably used as embellishments for jewelry adornments before evidence – from around the 14th-century – revealed Indian and European abilities to grind and cut diamonds.
Prior to this, and because Diamonds were discovered in India, cleaving was the only known method for shaping rough Diamonds, and thus we can assume with a high-degree of certainty that the method originated in India
I mention “assume” because this practice was kept religiously guarded for many centuries, so we have to fill in the blanks based on the facts available.
In the beginning, cleaving was mainly developed for the shaping of irregular rough Diamonds into point cuts that were popularized in the era.
A cleaver could shape almost any irregular rough form into an octahedron, which could then be adapted into a point cut.
Point cut Diamond
As cleaving continued to evolve it soon became possible to split and divide rough Diamonds along its plane directions.
This allowed the partition of a single rough crystal which cleavers took into account to avoid unwanted internal inclusions.
A Diamond cleaver has only four cleavage directions, which is extremely limiting and probably the main reason for the development of the flat rose cut Diamonds
Rose cut Diamond
Old Mine Material Origins – The Provenance Importance
The term “Old Mine” must be looked upon from two directions:
The first speaks to the geological mineral specimens themselves, such as Emerald (Beryl), Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby (Corundum), and plenty of others found around our planet.
Historical literature mostly describes the “Old Mine” term in this context. The books cover specific geographical regions and mines that became famous for discoveries of certain exceptional materials that, with time, earned them the name “Old Mine.”
Describing material in this way usually meant its provenance was from a famous (and probably depleted) mine associated with exceptional and rare gem quality.
Examples of these Old Mines would include examples like the historical Colombian Chivor and Muzo Emerald mines that were active from the early part of the 16th-century, and the storied and legendary Burmese Mogok Ruby mines that were famous for their pigeon, blood-red colors.
There are also the famous Golconda Diamond mines from Hyderabad, India, where materials were believed to have a unique water-like transparency that hasn’t been replicated in any other location in the world.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds – Cutting History
The second point of direction speaks to the actual lapidary works on the gems. The name “Old Mine Cuts” refers to the cutting forms and styles which were practiced historically using limited tooling, technologies, and knowledge.
Since cutters depended mostly on their own abilities and know-how to transform rough gems into beautiful, smoothed and/or polished gems; these gems needed to absorb and react to light in a way that allowed jewelers the freedom to create objects of visual desire.
Rough crystals came in many forms and surface textures and were often marked with plenty of irregularities (various inclusions). All these elements complicated the cutter’s decisions and plans. In essence, they dictated the early shapes and cutting designs.
Although Old Mine Cuts exist in all gem materials of the time, over time the term became primarily linked to Diamonds.
I believe the Old Mine designation begins at the antiquity age but dives mysteriously deeper into lapidary histories, which were a well-kept secret for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years.
Famous Old Mine Cut Diamonds
There have been many Old Mine Cut Diamonds that made headlines throughout the years. Here are just a few examples:
“The Grand Mazarin” Diamond was sold on November 14, 2017, by Christie’s Auction House.
“The Grand Mazarin, …takes its name from Cardinal Mazarin, who became France’s Chief Minister in 1642. Toward the end of his life, Mazarin assembled a collection of 18 exceptional gems. …Of the 18, eight were ‘square cut’ diamonds; the largest of these is known as the Grand Mazarin”.
The Grand Mazarin. Image by Christie's
The Wittelsbach Diamond (known presently as The Wittelsbach-Graff), is one of the earliest documented brilliant cuts. Its history originates around mid-17th-century.
After being purchased in December 2008 by Laurence Graff, a decision was made to re-cut this historical Diamond. This decision caused a lot of waves at the time with some people going as far as to call it an act of vandalism.
The Wittelsbach Diamond
A 10.14 carat Light Pink Golconda Diamond. Sold by Christie’s Magnificent Jewels, Geneva 2001.The interesting story of this Old Mine Cut Diamond is possible because of my direct involvement in the early stages of this specific and rare gem.
Sometimes in the early part of the year 2001, I received a call from a close colleague/friend who asked me to visit him as he wanted to show me an old Diamond which he thought might be of interest to me.
Towards the end of that day I paid him a visit on the trading floor of the Diamond Exchange (at that time that’s where he conducted his business from), he took out an old parcel paper and opened it in front of me, the sight mesmerized me on the spot.
What my eyes saw was a beautiful 10.14 carat slightly off-round Old Mine Cut Diamond which he just received from abroad. He was just about to re-cut this Diamond into a modern 6 carat Diamond and so offered me it for the potential recut outcome (6 carat) price.
I immediately accepted his generous offer and the next day shipped this Old Mine Cut to a distinct New York dealer specializing in Period Gems & Jewels without even informing him such a Diamond was coming his way.
The next day I received a call from the dealer who was surprised upon receiving this parcel and a quick sweet deal was struck.
A few months went by when I was pleasantly surprised to hear this Diamond got the recognition it deserved when it was sold for a high value at the Christie’s Magnificent Jewel auction in Geneva (circa 2001). I was happy I managed to save such an historic gem from being re-cut.
The 10.14 carat Light Pink Golconda Diamond
Old Mine Cut Diamonds: Main Characteristics and Buying Tips
Very small tables – appearing quite obvious when viewed from their face-up or crown section, particularly when comparing Old Mine Cut diamonds to most modern brilliant cut diamonds.
An open/polished culet – creating visible culet reflections spread throughout the whole crown & table, giving the diamond its unique and exclusive optical appearance we today call the Kozibe effect. A signature attribute for most Old Mine Cut diamonds
A significantly higher crown – another exclusive trait, Old Mine Cut diamonds were cut to very high crown heights which allows three dimensionality, higher crowns allow additional light play and when set in their jewels create the pop-up effect as if the diamonds are hovering above their settings.
Different pavilion facet configurations – mimicking the candle light environments throughout history, Old Mine Cut diamonds possess larger pavilion facet surfaces which create large and slow flash events vs. the splintery and fast flash effects modern cuts display.
Imperfect symmetry – because we are talking about diamonds crafted well over a century ago, diamonds were completely manually cut to no standards, each was cut with the knowledge and tools of their respected period.
Obviously when compared to their modern peers, Old Mine Cuts can look quite lopsided, but this is exactly their characteristic beauty, each diamond plays a different light orchestra with abilities to touch our human senses, each in their personal way.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds Shapes
Old Mine Cuts came in many shapes and cuts. It’s a mistake to solely designate the term to old “cushions shapes.” Old Mine Cuts can actually refer to any shapes such as Pear (pendeloque), Marquise, Hearts and any out-of-round shapes that were cut throughout antiquity.
In fact, the shape and contour of the rough were responsible for determining the end-shape of the polished Diamond. First came irregular shapes and faceting, and only then were naming conventions issued.
Old Mine Cuts were a very wide scope of different cuts, but they all shared one key attribute – their purpose was to bring forth a strong play-of-light
Old Mine Pear Cut Diamond
Old Mine Pear Cut Diamond
Triangular Old Mine Cut Diamond
Old Mine Marquise or Moval Cut Diamond
Old Mine Cut Diamonds Buying Tips
Unlike modern, more common diamond cuts, Old Mine Cut diamonds are quite versatile in terms of their shapes/forms and proportions. No two Old Mine diamonds will look alike and the closer you look at them the more diversities one can notice and appreciate.
When searching for the perfect Old Mine diamond (for you), you need to view them through different eyes as you would for a modern diamond, Laboratory grading reports don’t offer too much information in regards to their individual beauty or sparkle which are based more on their individual character and uniqueness that each one potentially offers.
Concentrate on overall look and appearance – part and parcel, the classic 4C’s dont play a similar role as with modern cuts, it is less about their cut grades and more about their unique play-of-light shows each can potentially offer.
Old Mine Cut diamonds are not the same Apples – Old Mine Cut diamonds can’t really be judged on specification & proportion numbers as commonly listed on grading reports, they were designed and crafted in times of lacking any modern standards. Throughout history, cutters would follow their personal knowledge, tastes, expertise and adapt them to their diamond works, the results were a very wide variety of looks and light plays.
Color is never inferior – Tinted diamond colors (yellow-brown-gray) should be judged based on beauty and not as a disadvantage – modern diamond modus operandi regarding such material color automatically categorizes them as substandard. Take advantage of such long erroneous practice, Old Mine Cut diamonds display their colors differently than modern diamonds, material colors can enhance their unique play-of-lights exclusively.
Where to buy an Old mine cut diamond
The majority of original Old Mine Cut Diamonds traded today are either set in their original antique jewelry or by specialty gem traders who specialize in this niche. Their availabilities are extremely limited, which only adds to their mysterious and storied allure.
Most Old Mine Cuts will be found in lower colors as, unfortunately, many if not most of the colorless Old Mine Cuts were re-cut to modern cuts throughout the last century. There is a common assumption that most Old Mine Cuts were cape/yellow colored but I don’t agree with this take and wrote an article supporting my position.
Another option is locating and purchasing “newly cut” Diamonds that are cut to the “Old Mine Cut” style, which basically attempts to imitate the style of yesteryears.
Today one might find perhaps a handful of Diamond manufacturers which offer such cuts but most will offer Old Mine Cut Diamonds cut to a similar cutting process as their modern counterparts, most Diamonds today are cut in an assembly line production process.
The production process includes at least three different hands that are involved in the process for each Diamond. These Diamonds might look like Old Mine Cut as far as their protocol proportions and faceting design, but they mostly lack the old look, character and feel that serve as distinct features.
To my eyes, they are cut too “modern-like” for them to bring out the natural charm that these cuts are known for.
A final avenue that has received a lot more public attention over the last few years are the public auction venues. Today, private clients who wish to find a more diversified range of Period Jewels and antique gems turn to specialist jewelry and gem auctions.
With technology today, you can even make a stunning purchase from the comfort of your couch at home. How times have changed..
Old Mine Cut Diamond Value
General points of value for Old Mine Cut diamonds: Let’s start with the fact that antique diamonds can’t be quantified as modern diamonds. There are just too many variants which all weigh in on the value of Old Mine Cut diamonds. But generally speaking, similar to modern diamonds, larger, lack of *color and inclusions will command a higher value than the opposite.
*color meaning D-Z color grades and about fancy colors.
Until a few years ago, Old Mine Cut diamonds were considered inferior to their modern peers and were valued as such.
With the explosion of social media platforms such as Instagram etc’. Old Mine Cut diamonds enjoy a resurrection and due to their very limited supply and growing public appreciation values have started to rise continuously.
For any modern cut diamond, slight deviation from its cut-symmetry standard will severe the diamond’s value, with Old Mine Cut diamonds it might be the other way around, each cut miss-perfection can add character, mysteriousness and beauty and might easily command premiums based on individual preferences.
GemConcepts and Old Mine Cuts
I have been educating myself on the subject of Diamond cut history for over two decades. I have studied and observed countless antique and also a few famous Diamonds either loose or set in their original antique jewels.
About twenty years ago I started to work with an offer antique cuts to jewelers. They would ask me for specific shapes, looks and appearances. Some even requested fair/poor grades by the GIA in symmetry and/or polish because they were focused on the uniquely beautiful look and play-of-light that antique Diamonds possess.
To replicate Old Mine Cuts one has to add and/or leave countless little details that amount to the patinated look and feel. Thanks to my many years of education and practice, I am now able to offer Old Mine Cuts in a range of appearances; from the lopsided shapes which popularized the numerous periods of history to the ultra, three dimensional optical symmetry cuts that you find in the market today.
When choosing antique jewels (because of their Diamonds contents) or just loose antique Diamonds; one has the luxury to choose from a worldly palette of potential offerings. No cut standards are applied. Period.
The only standards that matter are your eyes and your personal taste. You should visually study the Diamond in different real-life lighting environments – preferably out of the dealer’s office, which is commonly set up with fluorescent lighting. Move and tilt the Diamond in the palm of your hand. Make the Diamond dance and reveal its unique play-of-light.
If you pick up on that magical sparkle created by the moving white and colored flashes, and those sparkles dance throughout the Diamond’s surface, chances are that you’ve found your winner.
Old mine cut Diamonds by GemConcepts
Papers (Gemological grading reports) don’t tell the tale of antique Diamonds except for its weight, color and clarity. Grading reports are important for value estimations of such Diamonds.
An excellent polish and/or symmetry tells you nothing about the Diamond’s beauty, appearance or play-of-light. It is just a testament to near perfect meet point/facet junction symmetry and near perfect polish that is usually in contradiction to real antique Old Mine Cut Diamonds.
Other facts like fluorescence and total depth percentages (which are considered critical in modern generics) play less of a role in antique Diamonds, we must remind ourselves that strong blue fluorescence (what used to be called blue-white [blau-weiß]) Antique Diamonds used to be sought after and commanded hefty premiums in those days (with good reason if I may add.)
Such phenomenons like various colored fluorescence just adds to its mysterious allure. Years of Gemological researches show that less than 2-3% of fluorescent Diamonds negatively affect their appearance.
Total Depth percentages might have fatal marketing obstacles when it comes to modern generic Diamond cuts because in antique cuts they are much less of an obstacle and usually an optical treat. Total depth “percentage” takes the distance between culet and table relative to the Diamond’s short diameter side.
In modern cuts, where crown heights are usually low or very low, total depth percentage points exclusively to excessive carat weight hidden on the pavilion side of the Diamond — away from the viewer’s pleasure.
Exaggerated total depth proportions will cause a lack of light return to its viewer while also making the Diamond appear smaller than its actual weight.
In Old Mine Cut Diamonds the proportion ratio between pavilion depth and crown height (pavilion depth + girdle thickness + crown height = total depth) is nowhere similar to modern cut proportions.
On the contrary, old cut proportions (e.g. high crown height vs pavilion depth) are a basic requirement for the old charm, look and feel of antique Diamonds. These proportions provide an enjoyable play-of-light both from the Diamond interior as well as its reflective exterior, due to the three-dimensional proportions of old cuts.
Most antique Diamonds will possess wear and tear marks. Don’t worry; these marks are considered the patina that authenticates the antiquity status of such Diamonds. My advice is always to try to live with them. These marks tell the unique story of the Diamond and should be appreciated.
It is advisable that when marks are significant (large chips, cracks or other breakages), then these Diamonds must be handled by an experienced cutter with cut-history knowledge and practice (a rare find these days).
It’s important that these Diamonds are repaired without altering their antique look. Unfortunately, regular cutters of modern Diamonds will often cause unwanted and irreversible results
The evolution of Antique Diamonds spans over centuries. They were ground, cleaved and cut in different locations and cultures over long periods. The results were dependent on the available tools and skills of the cutters as well as the optical goals for that period.
Diamonds were shaped, cut and faceted by hand alone and they worked with freedom due to no lack of strict rules about their facet designs and/or angle relations. Optical knowledge was in its early stages, and Antique Diamonds transport us back to this time.
The cutting away of material by the “feel of the eye” brought out light reflections of that moment or period in life. For instance, Diamonds cut to stand out during candlelight events in feudal times.
There is a general assumption that the sparkle of Antique Diamonds is inferior to those of modern cuts. I believe that the demand for these Diamonds over the past decade or more is proof enough to cancel that incorrect assumption.
This recent article by KATERINA PEREZ includes a quote that captures what makes Antique Diamonds so special:
“Old Mine Diamonds – the Beauty In Imperfection
January 2, 2017”
“The feel and nature of our contemporary creations is complemented with the use of old-mine diamonds. Such stones are one-of-a-kind, in effect, as for their cut, adding an extra layer of history, narrative and personality to a jewel. Beyond their recognizable rarity and collectible value, such stones are timeless, evoking a very distinct visual code to our present-day, unique jewellery designs,”
Christian Hemmerle, January 2018.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds – FAQ
What is the difference between diamond cleaving and diamond cutting?
Cleaving is the physical splitting between the natural planes. Cutting is a translation of forming (blocking) the diamond on the cutting wheel (scaife)
When diamonds cutting started?
It is estimated that first attempts at cutting diamonds started around the 12/13th. century but wasn’t optically effected until the 14th, century when table cuts started appearing in Europe.
Why old mine cut diamonds are called “Old mine Cut”?
The name “Old Mine Cuts” refers to the cutting forms and styles which were practiced historically using limited tooling, technologies, and knowledge.
In which era/years old mine cut diamonds were cut?
Old Mine cut diamonds evolved over a few centuries beginning around the 14th. century, further developing into the 58 facets standard brilliants (circa 17th century) and up until the development of the rounded Old European cuts towards the end of the 19th century.
What are the characteristics of old mine cut diamonds?
Old mine cut diamonds followed the natural form of the rough diamond, meaning a lot of them were cut to of balanced shapes usually consisting of misaligned facets, very high crown height and small tables, on their pavilion side a large open culet would be a classic trademark of the Old Mine Cut diamond.
Which shapes old mine cut diamonds have (cut to)?
Like mentioned above, Old Mine Cuts diamonds could have been formed to numerous shapes and proportions, standards were not in place yet so one could have found them in shapes such as squares, pillowy (cushion), elongated (movals) and then some.
What is the difference between old mine cut and old European cut?
The Old Mine Cut is a predecessor to the Old European Cut which is considered the first full rounded brilliant. Developed by Henry Morse (Boston) as the American Ideal towards the end of the 19thcentury or by mathematician and engineer Marcel Tolkowsky as the Tolkowsky cut (London 1919).
Which are the most famous old mine cut diamonds?
There are many famous Old Mine Cut diamonds but a few of the important once are The Wittlesbach Blue (mid17th century), one of the earliest recorded brilliant cuts, The Blue Hope, history tracing back to Jean B. Tavernier (17th. Century) when it was named as The Tavernier Blue), The Koh I Noor which also dates back to the famous Golconda mines in India and with its long history until finding its current resting place on the British Crown. The Tiffany Yellow, cut from African rough diamond under the supervision of Tiffany’s gemologist George Frederick Kunz (late 19thcentury).