Old European-Cut Diamonds: A Definitive Guide With Buying Advice

The classic beauty of the old European-cut diamond...

As the popularity of the old mine cut began to wane, the newer, refined old European-cut diamond became a clear successor. The precursor to the modern brilliant cut, old European-cut stones carry that understated sparkle of vintage diamonds with a more relatable shape. They’re ideal for both antique pieces and custom rings that require a more subdued brilliance and produce a vintage feel.🤗

Here’s all you need to know about old European-cut diamonds:

  • The basics
  • Common characteristics and how they compare to modern round brilliant diamonds
  • Differences between old mine cut and old European-cut diamonds
  • Buying a “new” old European-cut diamond today
  • How to shop for old European cuts at antique shops
  • Setting inspiration for old European-cut diamonds
Antique Style Old European-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring (Platinum)
Image: 1stDibs

Basics: What is an old European-cut diamond?

So what exactly constitutes an old European cut? And where did this diamond cut come from?

The history of the old European cut

Crafted in the late-19th century, the old European cut continually rose in popularity until roughly the mid-20th century. It quickly replaced the old mine cut as the style of the time, and it became a staple in Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco jewelry.

Similar to their predecessor, old European-cut diamonds were originally crafted by hand, which means they lack the precision and sparkle of a modern diamond. However, this means each stone is unique, with its own imperfections, hand-cut charm, and organic brilliance.

These diamonds were typically mined in Brazil and India, similar to the old mine cut style. The term “old European” refers to the cut’s origins, as the style was first introduced in Europe—one of the largest diamond hubs at the time.

If you look for antique jewelry online, you may see the abbreviation “OEC”. This is sometimes used to denote an old European-cut diamond.

Old European-cut diamonds: Appearance and sparkle

The old European cut is the ancestor of today’s round brilliant diamond, and the two are rather similar. However, there are some marked characteristics that separate the two.

As mentioned, an old European cut diamond is round in shape, and the cut itself was designed to sparkle best in the dim, candlelit rooms of the time. As such, they have a natural glow in modern lighting, but they don’t have as much brilliance and scintillation as today’s diamonds.

This cut features the standard 58 facets you’d expect from a round diamond. However, it also has a small table, a large culet, and a rather high crown. These dimensions foster a brilliant “inner fire”, which consists of flashes of light and dark within the diamond that produce a “checkerboard” effect.⚖️

Old European-cut diamonds are the pinnacle of vintage appeal, and their inner fire is ideal for individuals who prefer more dramatic, erratic sparkle. Below, we’ll dive into the specifics of this antique cut that make it shine so differently!

Appearance of an Old European-Cut Diamond

Old European-cut diamonds vs. modern round brilliants: What’s the difference?

As previously stated, the modern round brilliant diamond is a direct result of several refinements to the old European cut. So, how similar are these two diamond cuts? Here’s a breakdown of how old European cut diamonds and round brilliants differ based on their common cut characteristics:👇🏻

Table

Old European cut diamonds have notoriously small tables that don’t always give a clear view of the stone’s inner sparkle. Typically, the table of an old European-cut diamond is 53% of its diameter, but this number can be as low as 38% for some gems!

In contrast, the modern round brilliant diamond has a broader table that acts as a window to the stone’s fire, brilliance, and scintillation. For an excellent or very good table on a round brilliant stone, you can expect measurements of 52-60%, with most high-quality gems sitting at 55-60%.

Culet

The old European cut boasts a large culet, which is a flat, faceted tip at the very bottom of the stone. In fact, the culet is often so large on an old European cut that it can sometimes be seen through the diamond’s table.

Over time, diamond cutters have mostly done away with the culet in favor of a pointed tip instead. This is the case with the round brilliant as well, which has little to no culet for optimum lightplay.

Girdle

Created during the era of hand-cut diamonds, an old European cut diamond has a rough, unpolished girdle. It’s usually bruted or “frosted”, and it tends to be thicker than those seen on modern diamonds.

Many high-quality round brilliant stones have thin, finished girdles that are faceted to reflect the sparkling beauty of the rest of the stone. However, because many round brilliant diamonds have the same finished girdle, they lack some of the individuality of old European-cut gems.

Facets

Both diamond cuts have the same number of facets (if we exclude the culet!), but their facets are shaped rather differently. Old European-cut diamonds also have triangular facets, and the lower-half facets alone are so long that they’re roughly 60% of the distance between the girdle edge and the culet. In comparison, round brilliant diamonds have thinner facets that are shaped to create a balance between the upper and lower parts of the gem.

Furthermore, old European-cut diamonds have higher crowns and steeper angles, creating a unique sparkle. Round brilliant stones are more balanced when it comes to proportions, which means their brilliance is more visible throughout the diamond.😝

Old European Cut Faceting

Symmetry and polish

Because they were cut by hand, old European diamonds may be asymmetrical. Their polish is less refined, and they may have imperfections, bulges, extra facets, or other small differences that make each stone completely unique to the wearer.

Thanks to scientific advancements, round brilliant stones are crafted with a high level of precision. Lasers and computer imaging make exact measurements a breeze, so you can expect more ideal optical symmetry with a round brilliant stone.

Light performance

We previously mentioned the “inner fire” of the old European cut, and this is thanks to the style’s chunky, “checkerboard” light display. Blocks of black and white light hit the naked eye, creating a dramatic effect that is a hallmark of this antique diamond cut.😊

However, round brilliant diamonds provide a seemingly random light display, producing bursts of fiery, colorful sparks. The regular scintillation of round brilliant diamonds is part of the evolution of gemstone cutting, as this particular style is meant to optimize a diamond’s light performance.

Color

As we just mentioned, round brilliant diamonds are cut for “lightplay” or the optimal pattern of sparkle that can mask imperfections. One of these imperfections is color, which can be easily hidden in a round brilliant diamond. In fact, a slightly yellow diamond can appear white with a round brilliant cut!

In contrast, the old European-cut diamond cannot easily hide any natural hue. The cut itself is actually designed to showcase a diamond’s color, so its chunky sparkle is less able to mask heavy patches of yellow. But, this is all part of the charm of a vintage diamond, and it’s often sought by shoppers who prefer the older look!

The relationship and difference between old European-cut and old mine cut diamonds

Before the old European cut became the “next big thing”, the old mine cut reigned supreme. This oddly shaped diamond cut was crucial to the development of the old European cut, and the two styles have many similarities and differences worth noting.

For starters, the old mine cut is at least 100 years older than the old European cut. The old mine cut also utilized a squarish shape with rounded corners, which became a widely desired style before the more circular shape of the old European cut took its place.

In fact, an old mine cut diamond is more akin to the modern cushion cut in shape, which is a rather far cry from the old European cut’s round style.

Next, both diamond cuts do have rather large culets. But, the old mine cut’s culet is a bit larger, and it can more easily be seen through the diamond’s table when compared to an old European-cut stone. Furthermore, old European-cut gems have more precise, polished facets, as old mine cuts predate the bruting machine of 1874 that made faceting much easier.

Finally, while the sparkle and fire of an old mine cut diamond may be even “chunkier” than that of an old European-cut stone, these styles still have the same vintage flair that makes them popular choices for engagement jewelry. Both produce an understated glow that is appealing to many who prefer a timeless, romantic look.😘

Buying a “new” old European-cut diamond

There are several retailers that craft old European-cut diamonds today, making it much easier to find modern versions of the style. If you’re in the market for a “new” old European cut diamond, you’ll want to make sure you find a stone that not only exudes vintage sparkle but also meets your expectations.😽

Take a look below to find out what to look for in a “new” old European-cut diamond as well as how to inspect your chosen stone:

What modern criteria are used to identify the old European cut style?

The old European cut predates contemporary diamond grading scales, so judging the cut quality of antique stones can be tricky. Old European-cut diamonds were never fashioned with grading in mind, so it’s unfair to hold this particular cut to the strict conditions a round brilliant diamond may require.⚠️

As a result, the GIA devised a set of criteria that grading experts use to identify modern diamonds that qualify as having an old European cut. These criteria do not lead to standard grades like “Excellent” or “Poor”, but rather meeting at least three of these requirements means the diamond can be designated as an old European cut on its diamond grading report.

The criteria for an old European cut designation are as follows:

Diamond AnatomyRequired Measurement
Table Size53% or less
Crown Angle40° or more
Lower Half Facet Length60% or less
Culet SizeSlightly large or large

Old European cut diamonds still receive grades for color and clarity, which should be clearly marked on the diamond grading report. Proportions are also not graded with an actual score, but rather measurements are listed for reference.

Modern techniques utilized to craft “new” old European-cut diamonds

The antique diamond supply is limited, and it can be difficult—not to mention expensive—to get your hands on a decent-quality vintage stone as they become increasingly popular. However, today’s gem cutters have way more tools at their disposal to craft “new” or “reformed” old European-cut diamonds instead!

Creating new diamonds with the old European cut keeps prices lower and allows more buyers to find the antique cut diamond of their dreams. These stones may not have the “history” of true antique diamonds, but they offer the same classic beauty and inner fire.

New technology also means improved light performance and symmetry for this traditionally dull cut! Here are just a few tools that have made the faceting of “reformed” old European-cut diamonds a much faster and more precise process in the modern age:

  • Laser machine cutting
  • Digital scanning
  • Computer analysis
  • ASET and Idealscope imaging

How to buy a “new” old European-cut diamond

So how can you make sure you find a quality diamond when searching for a “modern” old European cut? The most important factor is your personal preference, but here are a few suggestions for inspecting diamonds while shopping:

Check diamond quality ratings

As we mentioned, diamond labs do not give cut grades for old European cuts. But, they DO give you the measurements necessary to judge the gem’s proportions and symmetry!

Try to find a symmetrical diamond that does not have any bulges for the best sparkle. Check the stone’s length-to-width ratio: a ratio of 1.1 or below is a great stone to consider. But, a ratio of 1.05 or lower is ideal, so look for stones in this range!

For color and clarity, old European-cut diamonds receive more traditional grades. The distinct proportions and facet pattern of an old European-cut diamond can make color and clarity characteristics more noticeable to the naked eye. As such, try to choose a grade or two higher than you’d normally select for a round brilliant diamond of similar specs to avoid any noticeable color differences or inclusions.

You can always opt for a yellow or rose gold setting to mask inclusions and make yellowish diamonds appear whiter!

Evaluate light performance

ASET and Idealscope Imagery for an OEC Diamond (Victor Canera)
ASET and Idealscope imagery for an OEC diamond (Victor Canera)

Utilize ASET and Idealscope imagery for a clearer understanding of your diamond’s light performance. Lightplay is crucial for a diamond that exhibits ideal fire, brilliance, and scintillation, and ASET and Idealscope images can help you identify any light leakage or dark patches within a stone.

Victor Canera is an excellent retailer for “new” old European-cut diamonds, and they offer both ASET and Idealscope imagery for each diamond so you can make comparisons and choose the stone that best suits your needs.

Inspect with 360° high-resolution videos

You’ll probably shop for your modern old European-cut diamond online, which means a bigger selection of diamonds with less opportunity to view each gem in person. Avoid scams or low-quality diamonds by using 360° videos and images with high resolution to get a full view of your diamond before purchase.

Victor Canera and other major retailers who specialize in antique cuts offer extensive videos and imagery, so you can inspect each stone and compare their sparkle. These videos are great for finding any noticeable inclusions and color patches within diamonds, and they can protect your investment in a modern antique diamond.🔍

Shopping for an old European-cut diamond at antique shops

When researching “where to buy old European-cut diamonds”, you’ll find many antique shops carry this particular style. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, make sure your seller provides all of the diamond’s important details, including specs, history, setting information, etc. Here are a few reputable online sellers that we recommend visiting while shopping for old European-cut diamonds:

EraGem

EraGem carries a wide selection of old European-cut diamond rings as well as many other vintage styles you may enjoy. Each purchase is secured with a 60-day money-back guarantee, and the company promises only high-quality products.

In fact, you can check each piece’s specifications for yourself! By clicking on any item, you can scroll down to “Item Specifics” to learn more about each vintage piece. Information gathered in this section ranges from diamond specs to setting history as well as details regarding whether a ring can be resized. Some listings include diamond reports, while others may include an independent appraisal, so you can get a better sense of how much the piece is worth.📝

EraGem is safe, transparent, and committed to providing top-notch inventory for shoppers interested in antique jewelry!

1stDibs

1stDibs also boasts a broad range of vintage jewelry, and their old European-cut diamond inventory is nothing to sneeze at. Similar to EraGem, 1stDibs’ goal is to connect buyers and sellers with a passion for antique pieces, and they do so in a secure way.

Many of the pieces on 1stDibs also include diamond and setting specs, so you’ll be able to track your piece’s history. You can also message sellers directly with any questions, meaning you get a more personalized shopping experience! Information regarding customer service offerings like ring resizing and diamond replacement are also listed under each item, which helps you better understand what’s covered by each seller’s customer service package.

For your inspiration: Setting styles for old European cuts

Certain settings amplify the vintage beauty of the old European cut better than others. We’ve listed our top three favorite settings for old European-cut diamond engagement rings (with style suggestions!) below:😍

Solitaire

Solitaire Prong Old European-Cut Diamond Ring
Image: EraGem

A solitaire setting is a secure way to make your antique diamond the center of attention! Solitaire styles allow plenty of light to reach your diamond, meaning more of that brilliant “inner fire” the old European cut is famous for.

For extra fire, add accent stones to your band and enhance your ring’s sparkle. Or, include milgrain, filigree, or other delicate metalwork to amp up the vintage appeal.

If you prefer a splash of color, try yellow or rose gold for your setting. These sunny metals make yellowish diamonds appear whiter and add to the antique look of your ring. You can even opt for white gold prongs to enhance the icy white shine of your diamond!

Halo

Mark Broumand OEC Diamond Engagement Ring
Sold on 1stDibs

Wearers with a flair for the dramatic will appreciate the Old Hollywood appeal of the halo setting for their old European-cut diamond. By surrounding your antique cut diamond in a halo of accent stones, you create an opulent piece that garners attention, protects your fragile center gem, and amps up the sparkle!

Diamond halos can be round, square, octagonal, or really any shape to suit your personal style. You can even try double or triple halos for added brilliance.

Adding colored gemstones to your halo engagement ring can heighten the personality of the piece, and several vintage rings incorporate sapphires into their elaborate halo designs.

Vintage

Art Deco, Victorian, and Edwardian ring settings are the old European-cut diamond’s bread and butter, and these antique diamonds look perfectly at home within these vintage settings. By utilizing an antique setting for your new or vintage old European-cut diamond, you’ll bring out the more stately aspects of this elegant cut.

Intricate metalwork and unique diamond placement are hallmarks of vintage ring settings, and they complement the one-of-a-kind nature of each old European-cut diamond. For those with a bold sense of style, cocktail rings are a rising trend that commands attention. Vintage settings are perfect for cocktail styles with colored gemstones, elaborate halos, and any other design element you can imagine!

The rising popularity of old European-cut diamonds

Vintage diamond cuts are here to stay, and shoppers with classic style and/or environmentally-friendly lifestyles are clamoring for old European-cut gems.😆 So now that you’re a pro when it comes to the old European cut, is this antique style right for you? Or, would you prefer a more modern diamond cut?

Let’s look at the pros of choosing an old European-cut stone:

  • Old European-cut diamonds offer a vintage appeal and an understated “inner fire”.
  • They’re affordable, but prices are increasing as demand for antique diamonds skyrockets!
  • Each diamond is unique to the wearer, especially antique stones that were cut by hand.
  • They make excellent center stones for engagement rings.
  • Antique old European-cut diamonds are environmentally friendly.

If the old European cut just doesn’t seem like the right choice for you despite wanting an antique look, consider searching for old mine cut diamonds instead. Their unique shape and equally intriguing natural glow may suit your needs! Or, read more about other styles available today as well as diamond cut grading criteria in our diamond cut guide.

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