Antique Diamonds and Why We Love Them

The diamonds we select at Hancocks for use in our engagement ring collection and bespoke jewellery were cut during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  At this time, all stone cutting was done by hand and eye, unlike today when so many are cut using computer technology and lasers.  It would take years for a cutter to become skilled and experienced enough to cut the finest stones, to be able to ‘see’ into a rough crystal and know just how to facet it to realise the full potential beauty of the gem.  Like Michelangelo releasing David from the marble, these cutters worked to remove the unwanted parts of the rough material to reveal the inherent beauty of Mother Nature’s diamonds in all their glory. The stones we select are the best of the best and diamonds as lovely as these can only be the result of exceptional human skill coupled with the earth’s finest treasures.

A 3.76ct old pear-shaped diamond pendant by Hancocks set in platinum.

During this period, these master craftsmen worked to a different set of ideals and for them, realising the maximum potential of a rough crystal was about creating the most beautiful polished gem possible, maintaining weight whilst making something with character, beauty, life and charm.  There were no specific measurements or proportions that had to be adhered to, no tables of acceptable tolerances or set facet patterns, and none of them ever worried about what grade the stone would achieve on a laboratory certificate. They were afforded the time necessary to create something special, without the commercial pressures and diktats of modern day.

An 8.31ct antique moval shaped diamond ring by Hancocks set in platinum.

This means that our old cut diamonds are all individuals and still show the hand and skill of the cutter. They are each unique in character and in their exact combinations of shape, cut and proportions. We use old mine cuts with their beautiful, rounded cushion shapes, old pear shape brilliants and old European cuts, vintage carré and Asscher cuts and we’re also very fond of a French cut.

An 11.36ct Asscher cut diamond ring by Hancocks set in platinum.

Generally speaking, old cut diamonds tend to have a smaller table which is the flat facet at the top of the stone, a higher crown and an open or polished culet.  This often means they have a deeper profile than modern diamonds but this extra depth enables them to display a huge amount of coloured fire and life. This holds true even in dimly-lit environments where the higher crown and the larger pavilion facets mean that the old cut diamonds pick up on even very low levels of lighting; they were of course initially designed to look as magnificent by candlelight as they were in daylight.

A three-stone old mine cut diamond ring by Hancocks centred with a 3.06ct fancy intense yellow diamond. 

Of course, there is also a romance to antique and old cut stones, the knowledge that they have lived a life long before we came to know them.  What have they seen and heard, what lives have they touched and who loved them before we did?  The very fact that they have been pre-loved also makes them a sustainable and environmentally responsible choice.  There are many reasons to love old cut diamonds and as with people, it is precisely their lack of perfection and uniformity that makes them interesting and unique.  We appreciate and value antique cut diamonds for their individuality, their character, charm, history and romance.   To us they are perfectly imperfect.

A 5.76ct old European brilliant cut diamond gypsy ring by Hancocks in 22ct yellow gold.
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