Old European Cut vs. Old Mine Cut: A Guide to Choosing the Right Ring

Congratulations! If you have found yourself on this page, it means that you are looking for something extremely special. Maybe it’s time to propose to the love of your life with an engagement ring as beautiful and unique as they are? Or maybe you have come looking for something to mark a personal accomplishment - a promotion perhaps? Or perhaps it’s the impending holiday spirit that is moving you to look for something that screams love and adoration and perseverance? Either way, you’ve come to the right place and we’re so happy you’re here. 

Like everything else that is important in life and especially in love, shopping for the perfect antique diamond can sometimes seem extremely overwhelming. When shopping for a modern era diamond, you at least have modern era parameters to guide you. With antique diamonds, these parameters, what have become known as The 4Cs, are less relevant. If you are looking for modern day precision and perfection, an antique diamond may not be your best bet. With antique diamonds, you have to be ready to let your heart guide you. 

This is not to say that there aren’t specific characteristics and markers that you should be on the lookout for when seeking out an antique diamond. A diamond of any era is a special investment, emotionally and financially, and we want to make sure you have the resources you need to make the perfect decision for you and your beloved. We’ve written a little guide below to help you navigate two cuts you’ll notice often during your journey to find your perfect diamond,  “Old Mine Cut” and “Old European Cut.”  These are the most prevalent precursors to the modern day Brilliant Cut diamond made popular by DeBeers and Tiffany and Co. 

We can’t stress enough that a diamond of this sort has to speak to you, so choose wisely with your personal taste in mind, looking for what compels you more than what certifications or carats come with it.  You can always feel free to reach out to us at Jack Weir & Sons to discuss in more detail what you’re looking for. 

Old Mine Cut 

The Old Mine Cut (formerly known as the Miners Cut, Mine Cut, Old Miner Cut or Old Miners cut depending on your geography) diamond was popular during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras. So, if you are trying to find the vibe, think Jane Austen, think Emily Bronte, think Louisa May Alcott - women just starting to experiment with the way they dress, the way they express themselves and what it is that they want from life outside of the home. The tail end of this time period is when diamonds overtook pearls in the upper echelons of society, due in large part to King Edwards reign - a reign known for opulence of all kinds. Today, the Old Mine Cut is also sometimes used interchangeably with an Antique Cushion Cut, which is something to keep in mind as you shop. 

Close up of Mid Century 7.52 Carats Antique Cushion Cut Diamond Platinum Ring with Pave Band on White background.
The Old Mine Cut is the oldest recognized diamond cut of the modern era and is named after its initial key provenances - the old mines of Brazil and India. Prior to the discovery of mines in South Africa, the majority of diamonds came from Brazil and India. 

An Old Mine Cut is characterized by its hand cut - each stone unique to the hand who cut it and the candlelight they cut it by. That’s right - Old Mine Cuts were cut and polished by hand and by candlelight - a world of difference from the fluorescent bulbs and modern technology we rely on today. Because each rough diamond was cut to optimize its unique shape and beauty, not cut to a set of specifications like a modern brilliant diamond is today, an Old Mine Cut has an undeniable drama and livelihood to it. The diamonds themselves tell the stories not only of those who have worn them before, but those who compelled the beauty from under their rough exterior. 

Before the modern brilliant era as we know it today, the diamond cutter prioritized the unique traits and carat weight of each stone and focused on optimizing the light play within the stone in even the softest, candle-lit ambiances. The facets of an Old Mine Cut are much larger, in large part due to the type of tools and knowledge available to diamond cutters at time. These facets, in addition to much larger culets, are what are responsible for creating this extraordinary and colorful play of light. 

What is a culet you might ask? A culet is a facet, or really the lack of facet, at the base of the diamond. A culet refers to the removal of the sharp point of a base of a diamond, leaving a flat surface in its place. If you look down the middle of a stone, you can see the black or white base that is the culet. But by removing this point, the bottom facet, you lose the reflectivity the pointed base of a diamond provides and allow for light leakage. The aesthetic this creates is in direct conflict with the way we think about brilliance in a diamond today, splintered facets creating a snowflake effect. 

However, in the age of the Old Mine Cut, a culet played a functional role - it provided a sturdier base, something that is also valuable to a wearer today. By removing the point, the bottom facet, you also remove the potential for this particular facet, the most delicate on a stone, to chip. One little chip can lead to fractures throughout the stone diminishing its  brilliance and beauty. 

The majority of Old Mine Cuts have smaller tables, are much taller than the cuts we see today and tend to be found in warmer colors. Though these can be found in many different shapes, the most synonymous is what we might now call a cushion cut. A pillowy cut that feels both sturdy and sparkly at the same time. 

Close up of Edwardian 3.71 Carats Old Cut Diamond in a 14k yellow gold filigree bezel set ring on white background.A close-up of a Retro GIA Old Mine 3.01 carat old mine cut diamond engagement ring in a platinum setting on a white background. There is one large middle diamond surrounded by three smaller diamonds in the band on both sides.

The Old European Cut 

By the end of the 19th Century, the Old European Cut had taken over as the more popular cut of diamond.  Old European Cut diamonds were most popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and art deco periods - act as the bridge between the Old Mine Cut (pre 1890), The Transitional Cut (usually cut in the 1930s or 1940s) and the Modern Brilliant Cut (post 1930). Once again, trying to get in the vibe?  Think Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, Clara Bow. It was a time of liberation and excitement. It was the time of Cartier and Boucheron. The Old European Cut is the precursor to the modern Round Brilliant Cut.  

Close up of a 7.01 Carats Old European Cut Edwardian GIA Diamond Platinum Filigree Ring on white background.

 Like Old Mine Cuts, Old European Cuts were taken from their rough state, measured and cut exclusively by hand, but with new technology in diamond saws and jewelry lathes that resulted in a cut that maximized carat weight, but was a bit more refined than the Old Mine Cut. These stones were not only designed to sparkle in candlelight, but under a gas lamp as well and emit an undeniable romantic glow. Because of this, with an Old European cut diamond, you are guaranteed to have a totally one of a kind stone. 

Also similar to Old Mine Cuts, Old European Cuts have less brilliance, but more fire. Brilliance and Fire both refer to the light play within the diamond and the resulting sparkle. Brilliance is how we describe the small flashes of white light, scintillating and bright. Fire is the dispersion of white light into rainbow colors. So Brilliance really means white sparkle and Fire is much more about color sparkle. Both produce a dizzying dance of light and beauty, but it is up to the personal tastes of the gifter or the wearer to determine which they prefer. 

So you might be thinking to yourself - it sounds like the Old European Cut and the Old Mine Cut are pretty similar - and the truth is, they are. But there are some very specific differences to these two cuts. 

Side by Side close up of Old Mine Cut Diamond and Old European Cut Diamond comparing the two cuts. The Old Mine Cut Diamond originated in mid 17th century with a variety of shapes aside from round, has a smaller table, shorter lower half facets, a larger culet and larger patterns of light amd dark. The Old European Cut originated in the 19th century, is the precursor for the brilliant round that we know today, has a larger table, longer lower half facets, a smaller culet and smaller patterns of light and dark.

Let’s take shape for example - Old Mine Cuts have a more square shape and the Old European Cut is round. The Old European Cut is largely attributed to forming our societal taste for the modern brilliant of today. 

Line illustration of different diamond cuts. The first is square cut in two ways from above and one way from the side. The second is round cut brilliant with two from the top and one from the side.

 

When it comes to facet size, the Old Mine Cut has larger cut facets than the Old European Cut. As cutting techniques and tools became more refined, it became easier to refine the facets to create the desired effect. 

 How about fire, the dizzying dance of color and light mentioned up above? Because of the larger facets, the Old Mine Cut has more fire and intenser color. 

Black Line Illustrations of Old Mine Cut and European Cut from above on white background.

 Benefits of Old Mine & Old European Cuts 

Either of these cuts is a beautiful way to continue the history of the stone. With each wearer, comes new energy and significance. So much of our lives today are disposable, and there’s a real commitment to the past, the present and the future when you decide on an OMC or OEC. With an OMC or OEC, you also have the clarity of consciousness knowing that the diamonds were mined prior to the conflict diamond era. You are getting both a natural diamond, derived from the beauty of mother nature without the fear of it playing a part in any conflict. 

Another really beautiful thing about an Old Mine Cut or Old European Cut, as with all estate jewelry, is that it has a much smaller carbon footprint. You are choosing to use what is already available, instead of creating something completely new, you are recycling and upcycling. It’s a sustainable option that you can feel extremely good about. 

A very powerful reason to purchase either of these cuts is that no two diamonds are the same. Because of the hand cut and polish nature of these stones, there is beauty in the distinct asymmetry of each. You will never have to fear having the same ring as the person sitting next to you getting a manicure. In fact, if you’re up for it - there’s really no better conversation starter than the significance and history of either of these cuts. 

Sometimes these cuts are less expensive than more modern cuts. This is because the beautiful asymmetry and warm coloring is less economically valued today than the precision cut, colorless diamonds that are so prevalent today. This is not to say that the value of these cuts is insignificant - in fact, quite the opposite. Though I wouldn’t suggest purchasing one of these cuts if you are looking to quickly turn it over for a profit, there are a finite number of stones in these cuts available. There is not a bad investment to be made here. Plus you will truly have a one of a kind diamond that was cut by hand over 100 years ago. 

Here at Jack Weir & Sons we’ve spent the last 40 years traveling to Europe and all over the world, curating extraordinary estate jewels. JWS is where the old world meets the new world. Celebrate life, preserve history, discover your own priceless heirloom jewel. We are extremely grateful for our clients and the ability to help people to celebrate their special moments through one of a kind jewelry. To share that gratitude and our strong family values, we chose to partner with Baby2Baby. So far, from November 2021- November 2022 we've donated $50,107. A portion of every sale goes towards children living in poverty to provide them with diapers, clothing, and all the basic necessities that every child deserves. 

We offer in-person and Virtual Appointments and are happy to answer any questions about your favorite jewel. 

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