Step-cut stones are those with a geometric shape and with either long or short straight and angular facets. Some familiar cuts such as Emerald cut and Asscher cut fall under this heading as well as some you may be less familiar with such as Carré cuts.
The Asscher cut diamond was designed by and named after Joseph Asscher, co-founder of the Asscher Diamond Company in Amsterdam. Created in 1902, the cut is almost square in shape with narrow straight facets and cut corners which both maximise the light passing into the stone and protect would-be vulnerable pointed corners from damage. A characteristic high crown and deep pavilion are further hallmarks of this cut and these help to create a wonderful brilliance in the stone. This was the first diamond cut to ever be officially patented and it became increasingly popular particularly during the Art Deco period where the aesthetic of the time lent itself beautifully to the straight lines and geometric form of the cut. Just a few years after creating his eponymous diamond cut, Jospeh Asscher would become internationally famous as the man to cut the Cullinan diamond, at that time, the largest diamond in the world. Popular rumour has it that after the first attempt to cleave the diamond in half, Asscher fainted but in fact his family state he simply collapsed with the effort it took to strike a blow hard enough to cleave a diamond that size.
As its name suggests, the emerald cut was originally developed for emerald gemstones. Emeralds are brittle stones which can easily chip and crack, especially during the cutting and polishing process but also when being set and worn. Therefore a style of fashioning was developed with cut-off corners rather than sharp pointed corners which helped to protect the most vulnerable points of the stone. Variations of this type of cut were used widely on coloured gems from around the 16th century onwards. The straight facets of an emerald cut are applied in a stepped pattern which means they sparkle less than the brilliant styles of faceting thereby allowing the colour of the gem to be seen and enjoyed to the fullest without any distraction.
It was several centuries before this cut was used on diamonds but during the first half of the 20th century, emerald cut diamonds began to appear and grow in popularity. Their sleek geometric appearance suited the aesthetic of the Art Deco period and the elegant feel of the stones which offered a cleaner more icy look than their brilliant-cut sisters were loved by women looking for something a little different. The emerald-cut diamond is however less forgiving than a brilliant cut one in terms of concealing inclusions and tints of colour. Because the style and shape of the facets does not create as much fire and brilliance to distract the viewer, the quality of these stones can be clearly seen and therefore needs to be as good as possible to ensure the most beautiful gem.
The earlier emerald cuts that we favour using in our jewellery are typically characterised by large wide open tables which act as a window into the stone, higher tables and often flat open keels. These stones are supremely elegant and have a quiet understated beauty that is very appealing.
Carré cut diamonds are typically perfectly square in shape and unlike the other cuts described above they have retained their sharply pointed 90 degree corners. They can also be off-square or rectangular and apart from their corners, their most defining characteristic is the internal X shape one sees when viewing the diamond head on. This is due to the fact that the corners are present meaning the carré cut has only four sides as opposed to the eight sides of an Asscher or emerald cut. These four sides with their straight step cut facets meet in a perfect point at the bottom of the stone creating a pronounced cross shape rather than the windmill sail pattern associated with other step cut stones that have had their corners removed.
As with other step cuts, the carré cut was popular during the Art Deco period but it is rarer to find. The pointed corners whilst beautiful are susceptible to damage particularly if care has not been taken in the choice of setting, storing and wear of these stones therefore many have been re-cut after accidently losing a point. This style of cut favours high quality diamonds because it is so clear and easy to see into. It is a sharp, clean, geometric design that looks striking and contemporary and works as a solitaire as well as shoulder stones or even accent stones calibre cut into a band ring.