Last updated on May 2, 2021
Old European cut diamonds combine the classic look of antique diamonds with several key characteristics. Popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods, this cut creates a bridge between classic cuts such as the old mine and modern diamond shapes.
History of Old European Cut Diamonds
The history of the old European cut diamonds traces back to the late 19th century when diamonds were cut by hand and cutters of the time used only their eyes to measure the precision of their work.
The old European cut (OEC), also known as European cut, round old mine and old Euro, was developed between 1890 and 1930 in Europe.
It is worth mentioning that rounded diamonds that were cut before 1890 are called old mine cuts (OMC), while round diamonds cut after 1935 are called either transitional or round brilliant cuts. The old European cut is the direct predecessor to the modern round brilliant cut, while the old mine cut is the ancestor to the cushion cut.
OEC was the standard round diamond cut of the time used in almost all ring designs made until the early twentieth century. Moreover, most antique jewellery from the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods featured old European cut, old mine cut, rose cut and single cut diamonds.
Today European cut diamonds are very popular among vintage jewellery collectors due to their unique charm, interest and warmth.
Characteristics of the Old European Cut
Like any other cut, old European cut diamonds feature several distinctive visual characteristics that set them apart from antique and modern diamond cuts.
- A very small table: OEC diamonds have a very small table (top surface). According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), an old European cut diamond should have a table less than or equal to 53% of its total diameter.
- A very large culet: OEC diamonds have a very large open culet which can easily be viewed from the table of the diamond with the naked eye.
- A rough girdle: European cut diamonds have a rough girdle, also known as an unpolished, frosted or bruted girdle that is a narrow portion of a diamond separating the top (crown) and bottom (pavilion) parts of the stone.
- A high crown and a deep pavilion: Old European cut diamonds are “taller” than most modern diamonds. They feature a crown angle of at least 40 degrees and long lower girdle facets that make at least 60% of the diamond’s depth.
- 58 facets: OEC diamonds feature 58 facets – the same number the modern round brilliant cut does; however, these facets are larger and chunkier.
- Imperfect symmetry: As a general rule, old European cut diamonds are not very symmetrical, meaning their facets are not shaped and aligned with the same precision as those of modern cut diamonds. The reason for this is that the cutting technique used to shape OEC diamonds was not that developed as it is today.
Old European Cut vs Round Brilliant Cut
The old European cut and the modern round brilliant cut have some common features that make them look very similar; however, these two cuts also have noticeable differences that help to distinguish between them.
- Table size: OEC diamonds have a smaller table compared with round brilliants. The table of an old European cut diamond tends to be 53% of the stone’s diameter or less, while an excellent table size of a round brilliant diamond should fall within the 53 – 58% range.
- Facet shape: Although both old European and round brilliant cut diamonds feature 58 facets, their facets have different shapes. OEC features larger and chunkier facets, while the round brilliant cut has thinner facets.
- Crown height and pavilion depth: OEC diamonds have a higher crown compared with round brilliants of the same carat weight. They also tend to have deeper pavilion than similar size round brilliant cut diamonds. The reason for this is that old European cut diamonds were cut to retain more weight, rather than optimizing appearance.
- Culet size: Old European cut diamonds always feature a large open culet that is visible from the table. The culet size of a round brilliant cut diamond can vary, although it is recommended to go with Very Small or Small grades as these fall within the “Excellent” range.
- Girdle type: Similar to other antique cut diamonds, OEC diamonds usually have a rough girdle, while the majority of modern round brilliant cut diamonds have a faceted girdle.
- Precision and symmetry: Although both old European and round brilliant cut diamonds have a round shape, OEC diamonds are not that symmetrical because they were hand-cut before the invention of modern laser cutting tools.
- Fire, brilliance and scintillation: The way round brilliant and OEC diamonds react to light is a bit different. The old European cut was primarily designed to showcase a diamond’s colour, while the round brilliant cut is designed to maximize a stone’s brilliance, meaning it exhibits more fire, brilliance and scintillation. However, diamond collectors around the world always mention the “inner fire” of OEC diamonds. They typically show larger face-up patterns of light and dark, while modern brilliant diamonds display a tighter mosaic of light and dark patches.