When imagining a beautiful, vintage engagement ring, you can’t get much more ‘old world charm’ than with an old mine cut diamond. They date back to the early years of diamond jewelry when diamonds were cut and polished by hand. They have a softer look with larger facets and a distinctive fire. With their utterly unique proportions leading to an unforgettable diamond look, if you’re considering an old mine diamond for your engagement ring, there’s some definite things you need to know to choose the perfect one.
The Guide to Old Mine Cut Diamonds
History of Old Mine Cut Diamonds
Old mine diamonds are known for the distinctive squarish shape with soft, curved edges. Most agree they were the precursor to the modern cushion cut diamond. But this cut exhibits some unique cutting features that make them undeniably old mine diamonds. These diamonds have a smaller table, high crown, and 58 large facets, which results in bulkier proportions. But back in the 18th century when this cut premiered, the bulky nature of the cut had a purpose – to sparkle under candlelight.
In the evening, when candlelight was most often used, was the prime time when diamonds and other spectacular jewels would make an appearance among the elite. During the 18th and 19th centuries of the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras, many stunning rings, necklaces, and brooches featured large, hand-crafted old mine diamonds. They were a standout of the era before any machinery was used to cut and polish diamonds.
The term itself comes from the diamond mines of the era. In the 1800s, diamond production from African mines began to eclipse the production from the “old mines” of Brazil and the even older mines of India. The term originally described the types of diamonds that would come from the Brazilian and Indian mines. Then it evolved as the African mines produced higher and higher quality diamonds, making it apply more to the style of cut that was popular beginning in the early 1700s.
When to Go Old Mine: Pros & Cons
If you love antique and vintage style jewelry, old mine diamonds will delight your imagination for an engagement ring. But as with any important choice of this magnitude, knowing what you should consider for the purchase is key. These are some pros and cons to consider about an old mine cut diamond:
- - Since old mine diamonds were cut by hand, each one will have its own unique charm, perhaps uneven facets or an asymmetrical shape.
- - They naturally exude a beautiful warmth and timeless appeal.
- - The old mine cut diamond is extremely versatile and looks great in a variety of settings and styles.
- - These stones are truly one-of-a-kind and can usually be easily reset into a different setting if desired.
- - Well-cut old mine diamonds are incredibly rare.
- - They will not exhibit the same level of sparkle, fire or brilliance as modern day diamonds.
- - It will require extra time and effort to find an old mine diamond to fit your personal preferences.
- - Outlining edges can be misaligned or uneven but not very noticeable except when viewing in person.
Evaluating an Old Mine Cut Diamond: the 4Cs
An easy way to identify an old mine diamond is by the look of its table. There will be a visible circle at the center of the table as a result of the cut’s large culet. The culet is located at the very bottom of a diamond’s pavilion and a diamond doesn’t always have one. When it does, the culet will affect the stone’s light performance letting light escape through the bottom of the stone instead of returning it through the top. The presence of a culet will create a dark-ish circle.
Cut quality is going to vary greatly for old mine cut diamonds. Because they are cut to sparkle under candlelight or dim lighting conditions, most antique diamond cuts had high crowns, deep pavilions and broad facets. Then since they were cut and polished by hand with artisans using only basic tools, old mine diamond cuts developed to lack uniformity and feature significant variations in symmetry.
It’s important to understand that grading organizations like GIA will assign some of the lowest ratings for polish and symmetry to old mine cut diamonds because it’s a modern system being applied to an antique process. A certain level of the appeal for old mine diamonds rests in their unrefined beauty.
Many antique diamonds have what is usually described as a warm color. Again, this was done on purpose to accentuate the characteristics of a diamond under dim lighting like candlelight. When shopping for old mine cut diamonds, you’ll likely notice that many of the available stones have colors in the K range and below.
A main reason why the color grade is so low is that many of the colorless antique old mine diamonds – in the D-H range – have been recut into modern brilliant diamonds over the years. It’s widely accepted that the warm color of an old mine diamond is part of its appeal and a diamond of this age shouldn’t be judged by modern standards.
An eye-clean diamond is always the standard when it comes to clarity, and that’s no different for old mine cut diamonds. The clarity grade of an old mine cut is going to be accurately described by the certification agency’s rating just as would be the case for modern brilliant diamonds.
The important thing to remember about old mine diamonds when it comes to clarity is the open table at the center of the stone when facing up. This area allows for a direct line of sight to the bottom of the ring and culet. So if any inclusions or blemishes are located in this area, they will be much more apparent.
Most old mine cut diamonds were cut, polished and worn a very long time before diamond engagement rings became a mainstay piece of jewelry. As such, they are often larger than the 1 carat range diamonds used in most modern engagement rings today.
Another feature of their antique history is that old mine cut diamonds were cut with a similar goal in mind as modern day princess cut diamonds – to limit rough wastage and retain carat weight. However, because they are hand-cut and polished, the way that the weight is distributed throughout the diamond will vary, so it’s always important to see an old mine diamond in person or at the very least, from many different angles.
Old mine cut diamond ring
Old mine cut diamond next to a round diamond
Choosing an Ideal Old Mine Cut Diamond
Shopping for an old mine cut diamond isn’t as straightforward as shopping for a modern diamond cut. These diamonds are antiques and no longer produced, so supply is extremely limited and only a handful of jewelers will offer or work with old mine diamonds. And because of the nature of how these diamonds are cut and produced, there is a different way to approach looking for your perfect one.
As always, focus on what you like and prefer in the look of a diamond. If you’re interested in old mine diamonds, then you’re already swayed toward a warm, romantic, sentimental engagement ring style, so embrace that fully. People seeking modern diamond cuts can rely heavily on the diamond’s GIA certificate and its gradings when making a decision. This isn’t the case for old mine diamonds, and therefore every stone must be inspected in person, and it’s imperative that you work with a jeweler to find the right stone. The modern grading system doesn’t account for the beauty and appeal that rests in the slight imperfections and eccentricities of each diamond.
Focus on what looks attractive to your eye when choosing an old mine diamond. Look for good symmetry with a length-to-width ratio below 1.1 for the most pleasing shape. And observe the diamond from different angles to make sure there are no noticeable bulges – this could be a sign that the cutter placed too much priority on maximizing weight instead of a quality cut.
Old Mine Cut Diamond or Old European Cut Diamond?
The old mine cut diamond is often compared to, and even confused with, the old European cut diamond. They both carry the same unique, antique appeal as they originate from roughly the same era. The old mine cut diamond is over 100 years older than the old European cut. The popularization of the old mine cut occurred in the early 18th century and the European cut became common fairly late in the 19th century.
While they’re of the same era, they have key differences to their cuts. The old European cut has a much rounder outline, very similar to the modern round brilliant cut diamond. The outline of the old mine cut diamond has more in common with the modern cushion cut. Their culets also vary in size and visibility. Both diamond cuts will have a visible culet, but the culet of the old mine diamond is much larger and you can easily see it through the table with the naked eye.
The proportions of each are slightly different as well due to the nature of their differing cut styles. The old mine cut is slightly shallower while the old European cut has a heavier crown and slightly smaller table. And even though each has 58 facets and showcases a soft brilliance and warmth, their fire – how they show color and contrast patterns – will display differently.
When compared to each other, old European cut diamonds often carry an additional level of appeal because they typically have better symmetry and strike a better balance between the old and new aesthetic. Excellent examples of either cut type are typically very hard to find, and any diamond should be viewed individually since the qualities vary greatly from stone to stone.
Two rings we’ve designed with old European cut diamonds are our Melinda and Hamma. For our Melinda, we’ve set a lovely 2 carat old European cut diamond as the centerpiece on a split shank diamond-accented, wave-like band to contour the finger in a sculptural way. And for our Hamma, a gorgeous 2.6 carat old European cut diamond sits in an adorned basket on a ring covered with intricate, hand-carved milgrain along rows of sparkly diamonds.
Melinda, old European cut diamond on split shank band
Hamma, old European cut diamond ring
Old Mine Cut Diamond Prices
As with all diamond shapes, the value and price of an old mine cut diamond will vary based on its defining characteristics of carat weight, color, clarity and the quality of the cut. In general, old mine cut diamonds will be similarly priced per carat to a modern cut diamond. But again, the cut quality varies so widely that the range of prices could also vary widely.
Much of this has to do with supply, demand, and what has happened to old mine diamonds over time. Until recent years, old mine cut diamonds and other antique diamonds sold for less than modern diamonds. This was because they were often recut into modern shapes and then they fared better when being evaluated on the 4Cs. Today, antique cut diamonds are in demand specifically due to their uniqueness and special histories, so they usually command similar or higher prices to modern cut diamonds.
Designing a Ring with an Old Mine Cut Diamond
Old mine diamonds exude a natural warmth and old world charm that speaks to the history carried around in a single stone. They are extremely versatile and look particularly stunning in yellow or rose gold settings. The color of these metals accentuates the warmth in the diamond creating a truly show stopping ring.
With an old mine diamond, any setting style will create a lovely engagement ring. And while yellow or rose gold will accentuate the warmth and color naturally in the old mine diamond, don’t feel that white gold or platinum aren’t options. The cooler metals will speak to the vintage appeal of the diamond, especially the icy white color of platinum that pairs so well with intricate metal work of the era.
Just consider the timelessness of the old mine cut diamond on full display in our Arielle. We placed an exceptional old mine cut diamond in a split shank band made of platinum then accented the band with pavé-set diamonds. And for a subtle surprise, we added a peek-a-boo halo around the center stone.
Wearing an antique diamond can feel like you’re handling an ancient treasure full of a life and history that you may never know, but get to add to as you move through life. If the idea of that makes your heart happy, then you just may have found your perfect match in an old mine cut diamond!