A stone is cut so as to maximize its beauty, showing off its color, creating luster by the play of light on its facets and eliminating its defects. Diamonds are cut by the diamond-cutter and other stones by the lapidary, both highly qualified and experienced craftsmen.
First they cleave the stone with a hammer, then cut it with a saw and finally sculpt its facets using a wheel.
Diamonds can be worn rough or uncut in their natural octahedral or dodecahedral form. No one can say exactly when they were first cut.
Although confederations of lapidaries are known to have existed in twelfth-century France, diamond cutting only became commonplace in major European cities such as Antwerp, Bruges and Paris during the Renaissance. In the early seventeenth century Mazarin encouraged French diamond cutters to adopt the rose cut, a style developed in around 1520 in which the stone is cut into a dome shape with a flat base and a variable number of facets.
The Great Mogul and the Orlov are both famous rose-cut diamonds. This cut has however fallen almost completely out of favor because of its feeble luster. Early incarnations of the modern round cut appeared throughout the nineteenth century, such as the “double brilliant” with 34 facets, and the “jubilee” with its 88 facets. The brilliant cut as we know it today (the so-called “modern brilliant cut”) was perfected by an Antwerp diamond cutter by the name of Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919, after years of in-depth research into physics and optical phenomena. It reveals the full extent of the diamond’s luster, brilliance and fire. The brilliant has 58 perfectly regular facets: 32 for the upper section or crown, 24 for the lower section or pavilion, plus the table (the uppermost facet) and the culet (the tip of the pavilion).Diamond cutters have also perfected a number of fancy brilliant cuts, inspired by the classic round brilliant cut but with greater freedom in the number and shape of the bezel facets (the lozenge- shaped facets between the table and the girdle) or, more frequently, the number and shape of the lower girdle facets.
The resulting fancy brilliant cuts are generally named after their shape: oval, pear, cushion, navette and heart. Another variant is the mixed cut, when the facets of the crown and those of the pavilion are of a different style. The history of diamond cutting took a new turn in the late 1980s when Gaby Tolkowsky (Marcel’s great-nephew) created five “flower cuts” known as Marigold, Dahlia, Zinnia, Sunflower and Fire Rose.They are intended for rough stones that lend themselves with difficulty to other cuts, and for diamonds with a weak color. All these flower cuts have more facets, in particular around the culet, and are used for diamonds weighing more than 0.20 carats. The cuts used for colored stones are extremely varied. The final choice depends to a large extent on what the final color should be and, in particular when cutting transparent stones, what inclusions must be removed. Sometimes colored stones borrow diamond cuts, in particular the oval cut, cushion cut, pear cut, heart cut and briolette cut. Both diamonds and colored stones can also be given a step cut like an emerald cut (rectangular or square with sloping corners) or/and a baguette cut for small stones (a long, narrow rectangle with a flat top). Louis Cartier adopted the baguette cut in the early twentieth century, long before the Art Deco style made it fashionable.