Guide to Old European Cut Diamonds

The old European cut diamond became very popular around the late 1800s and is the predecessor of today’s modern round brilliant cut. This antique cut has once again become a favorite due to the features of its cutting style and the fact that no two stones will ever be cut exactly alike. As one of the most popular antique diamond shapes, the old European cut diamond was the all-important step in diamond-cutting evolution to go from a classic like the old mine cut to today’s more modern shapes.

History of Old European Cut Diamonds

A well-cut round diamond is always going to be popular, and the old European cut diamond was the most well-cut round diamond of its time. Most popular from around 1890-1930, the old European cut evolved from the old mine cut, which appeared early in the 1700s. The old European cut is known as a transitional cut. It still had the large culet (the point at the bottom of the diamond that is sometimes flat, or large, when the facets don’t meet in a point), high crown, and small table of the old mine cut, but it was round instead of cushion and featured more precise cutting details.

As the name denotes, the old European cut was developed in Europe and widely adopted throughout the continent. The stones were taken from the rough, measured, cleaved and cut entirely by hand. Without the precision cutting technology that is used today, these cut-by-hand diamonds are all slightly different and always unique.

Like the modern round brilliant cut, the old European cut has 58 facets. However, the location of these facets and their proportions and size all vary. This is why each one is so incredibly unique and no two will ever look the same. However, just as with the old mine cut, these stones were cut by candlelight and meant to be worn at night, so diamonds were always cut to maximize their sparkle under this lighting.

While often confused with each other, there are some distinct differences between the old mine cut and old European cut diamond. The most obvious has to be their shapes: the old mine cut is like a rounded square, similar to the modern day cushion cut, while the old European cut has a round outline similar to the modern day round brilliant cut. Old mine diamonds also tend to have a larger culet while old European cut diamonds typically have better symmetry and fire.

When to Go Old European: Pros & Cons

Old European cut diamonds began to be popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, but were truly embraced on a massive scale in the Art Deco period. With so much history and varying styles attached to the old European cut, it’s good to consider some straightforward pros and cons:



  • - Each diamond is hand cut and thus handcrafted in shape and facets, so no two will ever be the same.
  • - Their shallower proportion will make the diamond appear larger for its carat weight.
  • - Old European cut diamonds are usually priced lower than their modern counterpart, the round brilliant cut.
  • - Larger facets mean there are broader and more intense flashes of fire than modern cuts.



  • - Since old European cut diamonds were cut to show off their color, they lack the brilliance of modern cuts.
  • - They should be viewed in person because pictures and certifications don’t present the full picture.
  • - It’s highly unlikely to find a balanced and symmetrical old European cut diamond.
  • - These diamonds are harder to find and so your search may take longer than if you were looking for a modern cut.

Old European Cut Diamond Halo Ring

Evaluating an Old European Cut Diamond: the 4Cs  


Old European cut diamonds are notorious for their small tables, the flat surface at the top of the stone. They tend to be around 53% of the diamond’s diameter or less with some as small as 38%. For contrast, modern day round brilliant cut diamonds usually have tables in the 55-60% range. This smaller table is a big reason for displaying less brilliance than the modern round brilliant.

Another reason for having less brilliance is the large, visible culet. Old European cut diamonds have a large culet in relation to the total size of the diamond meaning you can likely view the culet at the bottom of the stone through the table. The large culet allows light to escape through the bottom of the stone rather than returning it through the top to create sparkle.

High crowns and long bottom facets make old European cut diamonds appear taller than most modern diamonds. All of this was done for the reason of making them appear luminous when worn under candlelight. And since they were cut and polished before the use of modern diamond cutting technology, small imperfections in shape and symmetry will be the norm.


The color of antique diamonds is different from what you’d expect of modern diamonds. For their time, they were cut to specific standards that would accentuate their characteristics when worn under dim lighting. Because of this, old European cut diamonds are most likely to have color grades in the J-K range and below.

Cutting for a diamond’s color in this age relied entirely on the skill of the diamond cutter. Old European cut diamonds were cut using only the cutter to measure for accuracy, symmetry and color. They weren’t working in modern-day labs with high-tech equipment to verify the attributes of the diamond they were cutting. With it being such a subjective process, these stones really develop their own personalities and unique visual appearances.


When considering the clarity of a diamond, eye clean is the standard to set no matter whether you’re looking at an antique cut or a modern cut diamond. For old European cut diamonds specifically, the open table at the center of the stone allows for direct line of sight to the culet, so if any inclusions are present in this area, they will be much more visible to the naked eye.

The clarity grade is one grading you can give some weight to in the certification report. Since clarity is documenting the size, placement, and number of inclusions or blemishes, it’s a precise grading that can be directly compared to how any of the modern diamond cuts would also be graded.


Old European cut diamonds reached such a height of popularity that they were used often in jewelry and at a variety of carat weights. It’s possible to find carat weights as low as 0.5 carats all the way up to 5 or more carats. The difference with these diamonds will be the lack of consistency across all these carat weights.

Because all old European cut diamonds were hand-cut and polished, it’s highly likely there will be small imperfections to every single diamond, especially with shape and symmetry. For these stones that have longer facets, it may be more noticeable that the weight of the stone is not distributed evenly.

Choosing an Ideal Old European Cut Diamond  

Shopping for an old European cut diamond means that you are looking for a fully produced piece of jewelry. These diamonds are antiques and no longer produced, so the only way to find them is to source jewelry with them in it from the era. While you will be able to reset any of these diamonds into a setting of your choosing, it may be harder to determine their natural characteristics when already existing in a setting.

The best way to approach it is to fully embrace the fact that you’re buying a completely unique stone unlike any other. There will be special nuances and features in each stone that you see. As you observe each stone, it’s best to focus on what your personal preferences are telling you. Look for a diamond that is attractive to your eye, as most of the appeal of an antique diamond cut is its sense of character and history rather than color, clarity, and cut quality.

Whenever possible, view the diamond out of its setting. This is going to give you a much better idea of how the diamond looks and interacts with light. Pay particular attention to the evenness of the shape – the more even and balanced, the easier it will be to set the stone in the setting you choose. If there are any bulky or bulging areas, it’s likely a sign of a cutter maximizing carat weight instead of the cut quality.

Old Mine Cut Diamond or Old European Cut Diamond?

At a glance, old European cut diamonds look incredibly similar to modern round brilliant cut diamonds. This is intentional as the modern round brilliant cut evolved from the old European cut. However, there are some major differences that when you view these two cuts side-by-side become easily noticeable.

- Table Size – Old European cut diamonds are famous for their small tables, anywhere from 53% to 38% of the diamond’s total diameter. Round brilliant cut diamonds tend to have larger tables, usually between 55-60%.

- Facet Shape – Although they each have 58 facets, they are executed differently. Old European cut diamonds have triangular facets and long lower-half facets. Round brilliant cuts have thinner facets overall and shorter lower-half facets.

- Culet Size – Old European cut diamonds typically have a large culet visible from the table of the diamond. While the round brilliant cut diamond’s culet can vary in size, the most desirable stones have no culet.

- Dark & Light Contrast – Old European cut diamonds have a larger and more squarish contrast of light and dark across the surface of the stone due to the larger facets. Modern round brilliant cuts display a less broad contrast.

- Precision & Symmetry – When comparing the two, the old European cut diamond will clearly appear less symmetrical and lacking precision. This is the difference between hand-cut and using modern imaging and laser cutting tools.

Cut for Color vs. Brilliance – The modern round brilliant cut diamond is cut to maximize brilliance while the old European cut diamond was cut for optimal color in dim lighting. Side-by-side, the old European cut may appear dull looking.

Old mine cut diamond ring

Old European cut diamond ring

Old European Cut Diamond Prices

Just like with modern cut diamonds, old European cut diamond prices will vary based on the specifics of each diamond’s carat weight, color, cut, and clarity. Since the cut quality is likely never going to compare to a modern diamond cut, the other three categories are relied on more often to determine the price.

While old European cut diamonds are generally about 20% less expensive than round cut brilliant diamonds, there are of course exceptions. Excellent cut, high-quality old European cut diamonds can cost in the same realm as round brilliant cut diamonds or a little more. But most of these diamonds are not proportional enough nor do they exhibit enough brilliance to be priced higher.

Designing a Ring with an Old European Cut Diamond

Old European cut diamonds exude an intrinsic warmth from their color to the way that shadows and light play across their surface. They are extremely versatile but do tend to look the best when paired with warmer metals of yellow or rose gold. This will also keep a lower color grade diamond from having too stark of a contrast with a whiter, brighter metal.

Choosing a vintage-inspired setting for an old European cut diamond will help elevate its special features. The Victorian and Edwardian eras loved influences of nature in their ring designs, a perfect mood to fit the natural uniqueness of each stone. And looking to 1920s engagement rings would provide options to accentuate the geometric look of the diamond’s larger facets.

We’ve designed two rings to feature old European cut diamonds. For our Melinda, a gorgeous 2 carat old European cut diamond centers on a split shank diamond-accented, wave-like band, contouring the finger. And for our Hamma, a stunning 2.6 carat old European cut diamond sits atop a scrolling basket on a ring covered with hand-carved milgrain beside rows of sparkly diamonds.

An old European cut diamond comes with a history and a life all its own, something incredibly unique that simply can’t be said about any modern cuts. If you embrace this sentimentality and wait for the right feeling about one of the diamonds, you will absolutely find one, and together, write a new chapter for that stone’s life.

Have questions? We're happy to help.