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If you fall into the camp of brides-to-be who prioritize a vintage engagement ring, 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 between 1890 and the 1930s.
“These stones were taken from the rough and were measured, cleaved, and cut by hand,” says Ashley Zhang, jewelry designer and founder of Ashley Zhang Jewelry. "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 School of Design and launched her first collection in February 2018.
Old European–cut diamonds were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian, and art deco periods and predate the popular round brilliants of today. Often, you'll see art deco and vintage influence when shopping for this style of ring, and it makes for a stunning vintage engagement ring look.
Pros and Cons of the Old European Cut
If seeking out a lower-cost diamond is on your ring checklist, you're in luck. "Old European–cut diamonds are usually priced lower than a modern round brilliant," says Zhang.
Another benefit of old Europeans is that they 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.”
They have a shallower proportion that 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? "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," says Zhang. That's not to say that a more ornate setting won't work with this cut. In fact, you may run into more unique settings with old Europeans, as they were popular during the art deco period. If you are looking for a simpler look, consider a solitaire setting. But for a bolder look, opt for a filigree or vintage setting.
- 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 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
When cleaning your old European-cut diamond, stay away from any harsh cleaning chemicals or detergents. Instead, stick to a combination of lukewarm water and gentle dish soap for your cleaning solution. When not wearing, store inside a cloth-lined box.
Old European cuts can have a tendency to chip over time, depending on 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." The thinner the grade, the more likely the stone will chip.
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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.
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This bezel-set old European-cut diamond is held in an ornately crafted 18K yellow gold band.
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This Trumpet & Horn ring holds all the glamour that comes with its namesake, Fifth Avenue. The set sparkles with a 2.17ct. old European-cut 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-cut 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.
This circa-1930 ring is a still chic and modern look today. Two baguette-cut diamonds are on both sides of the shoulders, and there is a 2.26ct. old European-cut diamond in the center.
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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.