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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.
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.”
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.
Old European diamonds were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco periods and predate the popular round brilliants of today.
Old European vs. Round Brilliant Diamonds
Though similar in appearance, there are some key differences between the two that are worth noting.
Firstly, 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. “Old European cut diamonds are usually priced lower than a modern round brilliant,” Zhang adds.
What to Look for in an Old European Cut
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.
In addition to the unique quality of these diamond cuts, 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.”
As for settings, 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.”
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.”
And now, check out these beautiful engagement rings with Old European cut diamonds.
Ashley Zhang Victoria Old European-Cut Engagement Ring
This traditional six-prong solitaire engagement ring is the perfect match for an old-meets-new aesthetic.
SHOP NOW: Ashley Zhang, price upon request
Eragem Old European-Cut Diamond Crown Solitaire Ring
Engraved wheat motifs on the band of this stunning engagement ring complement the .91ct center stone.
SHOP NOW: Eragem, $10,000
Isadoras Old European-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
This 1940s ring features an Old European-cut stone accompanied by three smaller diamonds on each side for a sparkling effect.
SHOP NOW: Isadoras, $7,900
Mark Broumand Old European-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
For the bride looking for an Art Deco engagement ring with plenty of brilliance.
SHOP NOW: Mark Broumand, $9,950
Natalie Marie Octavia Diamond Shield Ring
An Art Deco ring that would strongly suit the non-traditional bride.
SHOP NOW: Natalie Marie Jewelry, $2,577
Brilliant Earth The Florenza Ring
Marquise diamond accents on this engagement ring add a dazzling effect that works well with other jewelry pieces.
SHOP NOW: Brilliant Earth, $9,900
Filigree Antique Diamond Engagement Ring
A micro prong crimped bezel setting gives this Old European-cut diamond antique flare for a truly unique aesthetic.
SHOP NOW: Filigree Jewelers, $7,100
Rosey West Old European-Cut Antique Diamond Three Stone Ring
For those looking to incorporate an Old European-cut diamond into a three-stone ring, your search has come to a close.
SHOP NOW: Rosey West, $6,285
Market Square Jewelers Old European-Cut Engagement Ring
A glistening ring that offers a radiant center diamond and six side stones, all with retro era design.
SHOP NOW: Market Square Jewelers, $2,385
Maeby Vintage Old Euro Diamond Ring
This striking ring, hailing from the 1920s, is a unique choice for the vintage-obsessed bride.
SHOP NOW: Yates Jewelers, $995
Poor Mouchette Classic Edwardian Diamond Ring
An Edwardian ring featuring a half-carat center stone and 14k yellow gold band.
SHOP NOW: Poor Mouchette, $1,650
Sofia Kaman Chloe Ring
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.
SHOP NOW: Sofia Kaman, $7,500
Claude Morady Vintage Old European-Cut Diamond 1940 Ring
The kind of ring that looks like there’s a story behind it, this 1940s ring is emblematic of all the special qualities an Old European-cut diamond has to offer.
SHOP NOW: Claude Morady, $8,950