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If you fall into the camp of brides-to-be who prioritize a vintage engagement ring above all else, the old European-cut diamond ought to be at the tip-top of your list. This style has a cult following among antique lovers and has come back into the spotlight thanks to celebrities like Mary-Kate Olsen, Miley Cyrus, Scarlett Johansson, and Olivia Wilde who have all endorsed the historic stone silhouette.
What Is an Old European-Cut Diamond?
An old European-cut diamond has a round shape featuring 58 large facets and a small circle in the center (the open culet). The majority of these stones were cut by hand from 1890 to the 1930s.
Old European-cut rings make for a stunning vintage engagement ring look, and they have so many unique qualities. Let's take a look at what really set's these stones apart.
Meet the Expert
Ashley Zhang is a jewelry designer whose eponymous label is composed of pieces that are made to order in New York City. Zhang studied at Parsons The New School of Design and launched her first collection in February of 2018.
Pros and Cons of the Old European-Cut
If seeking out a lower-cost diamond is on your ring checklist, you're in luck. Zhang says,“Old European cut diamonds are usually priced lower than a modern round brilliant." Another benefit of Old Europeans is that they also tend to appear whiter than their certified color grade. “When diamonds are graded by color they are turned upside down and looked at from the side,” Zhang says. “Since Old European cut diamonds were produced in a time period with lower lighting (candlelight) they were cut to maximize color over brilliance.”
Unfortunately, this cut is a bit harder to shop for online. Due to the artisanal techniques these diamonds were cut with, each stone can look slightly different. “I don’t recommend shopping for an Old European cut diamond by looking at the certificate alone,” Zhang explains. “You need to see how it looks in person.” Old European cuts that have a shallower proportion can make your diamond appear larger for its carat weight. “Any time you are looking at proportions of a diamond you need to make sure they are not too extreme to the point where you are losing sparkle,” she adds.
What to Look for in an Old European Cut
- What settings work best with an Old European-cut? Zhang argues Old Europeans work with just about everything. “My clients tend to choose a more simplified setting when working with an antique diamond because they don’t want any design elements to distract from the uniqueness of their stone."
- Are all Old European diamonds hand-cut? Yes, machine-cutting wasn't available during the time Old European diamonds were cut, which means that each diamond was to be handcrafted. That's why you will never see two Old European-cut diamonds that are exactly the same.
- Where can I purchase this type of cut? Since Old European-cut diamonds are considered antique, it can be a bit harder to find various options in this style. You will want to work with a seasoned jeweler who can help you seek out the Old European-cut ring that best fits you.
How to Care for Your Old European Cut
Another element to keep in mind when purchasing an Old European-cut diamond is the grade of the girdle. “This is the edge of the diamond between the crown (top of the diamond) and the pavilion (bottom of the diamond),” Zhang says. “This is the area most likely to get chipped. If the grade is extremely thin there may be a chance you can easily chip the stone during wear.”
Old European vs. Round Brilliant Diamonds
Though similar in appearance, there are some key differences between the two that are worth noting.
Old European diamonds were cut for color while round brilliants are cut for sparkle. As well, the crown is higher than on round brilliants and the pavilion depth is deeper, too. Because Old European cut diamonds were done by hand, it’s not uncommon to find slight irregularities in the shape or imperfect symmetry (which depending on who you ask, could add charm to the vintage stone). The pointed tip at the bottom of round brilliants is also missing from Old European diamond cuts because they end with an open culet.
History of the Old European Cut
“These stones were taken from the rough and were measured, cleaved, and cut by hand,” designer Ashley Zhang tells Brides. "During the majority of this time, candlelight was the main source of light in use so diamonds were cut to maximize their sparkle for this type of lighting.”
Old European diamonds were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco periods and predate the popular round brilliants of today.
And now, check out these beautiful engagement rings with Old European cut diamonds.
This traditional six-prong solitaire engagement ring is the perfect match for an old-meets-new aesthetic.
This 1940s ring features an Old European-cut stone accompanied by three smaller diamonds on each side for a sparkling effect.
For the bride looking for an Art Deco engagement ring with plenty of brilliance.
For those looking to incorporate an Old European-cut diamond into a three-stone ring, your search has come to a close.
This striking ring, hailing from the 1920s, is a unique choice for the vintage-obsessed bride.
An 18k gold band featuring a 1.05ct Old European-cut diamond mounted in a cushion frame setting. It’s as gorgeous as it sounds.
This bright white, old European-cut diamond shines with a weight of 1.37cts. The shank holds two equally white baguette-cut diamonds.
A hint of color makes this Art Deco ring all the more unique. Two calibre-cut natural sapphires flank the center old European-cut diamond, and the band is sprinkled with more old cut diamonds and filigree.
Cluster diamonds surround this old European cut diamond to create a floral-like design. The pavé band is crafted in Edwardian Platinum.
The 2.72ct. Old European-cut diamond on this ring is held in four split prongs. The band is a marvel in itself with alternating baguette-cut and rounded diamonds.
Three stones are better than one with this triple Old European-cut array of diamonds. The stones are set on a two-tone band.
While the Old European diamond on this ring is undoubtedly impressive, the real star is the intricately engraved band that makes for an antique look.
French Art Deco is the driving style of this ring. Its Old European-cut diamond is held in an eight-prong setting with a pavé band.
This Art Deco ring feels reminiscent of the Jazz Era with its milgrain details. Additional stacked rounded diamonds surround the center Old European-cut diamond.
This bezel set Old European cut diamond is held in an ornately crafted 18K yellow gold band.
This floral embellished band adds a feminine and precious touch to this Old European diamond engagement ring. The band is finished in 14K yellow gold.
You can't go wrong with a timeless look, and this retro-era ring shows how classic can still look modern. The Old European cut diamond is set in a flared 14K white gold band.
This Trumpet & Horn ring holds all the glamour that comes with its namesake, Fifth Avenue. This Engagement ring set sparkles with a 2.17ct Old European diamond. And the coolest part? It was designed by Tiffany & Co. in 1935.
Vintage from the 1970s, this Art Deco ring is a funky take on the classic engagement ring with its two-tone metal band. The Old European diamond is flanked with diamonds that lead into the start of the gold band.
This one-of-a-kind- engagement ring features several differently shaped diamonds. From baguette-cut to rounded, this Old European style ring has it all.
Circa 1930, this Art Deco ring is a still chic and modern look today. Two baguette-cut diamonds are on both sides of the shoulders of the ring, with a 2.26ct. center Old European-cut diamond.
The cinnamon-champagne color of this Old European cut brings a feeling of warmth to the diamond. With a solitaire setting, this ring is a simple and sweet choice.
This Old European-cut diamond is beautifully placed in a bezel setting. With an open back, this diamond glitters like no other when it hits the light. Two smaller rounded diamonds accompany the center diamond on either side.