Last updated on April 19, 2023
Extremely popular during the 19th century, old mine cut diamonds were measured by eye and cut by hand. Notable for several key characteristics, such as unique fire and distinctive proportions, this diamond cut is an excellent choice if you are looking for a unique historic stone.
History of Old Mine Cut Diamonds
The history of the old mine cut diamonds traces back to the mid-17th 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 mine cut (OMC), also known as miners cut, mine cut, old miner cut and old miners cut, is an antique cutting style featuring 58 brilliant facets designed to accommodate the lighting environments of the time. Old mine diamonds were not highly symmetrical; however, they were cut to sparkle in low and warm lighting derived from candlelights. It is generally considered that the old mine cut had a square shape with rounded corners; however, old mine diamonds came in a variety of shapes such as pear, marquise and triangular, except for round.
It is worth mentioning that the term “old mine” has always been surrounded by confusion because historical literature used it to describe geographic regions and mines in Brazil and India famous for exceptional gem materials. In this context, the old mine was associated with rare gem quality. In terms of cutting style, the term “old mine” came into common use around the late 19th century and referred to a specific lapidary work using limited tools and techniques. It was the de facto cutting style of the time, and most gemstones were cut into old mines until the early 20th century. However, with time the term became primarily linked to diamonds.
Old Mine Cut Characteristics
Like any other cut, the old mine cut features several distinctive visual characteristics, setting it apart from other antique and modern diamond cuts.
- A very small table. Like any other antique diamond cut, the old mine cut has a small table. This is particularly obvious when comparing an old mine cut diamond to a round brilliant cut stone.
- A large polished culet. Most old mine cut diamonds feature a large polished culet which creates visible reflections throughout the crown and table. This characteristic gives old mine diamonds their unique appearance.
- A high crown. Old mine cut diamonds are prominent for having a high crown which allows additional light play and creates an effect as if the diamond is floating in its setting.
- Large pavilion facets. OMC diamonds possess larger pavilion facets which create large and slow flashes of light compared to the fast flash effect displayed in modern cuts.
- Imperfect symmetry. Similar to other antique cuts, the old mine is not very symmetrical, meaning its 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 old mine diamonds was not as developed as it is today. Moreover, symmetry was not what lapidaries had in mind when cutting old mine stones. These gems were cut to sparkle under the low and warm candlelight.
Old Mine Cut Diamond Buying Tips
Unlike modern cut diamonds, old mine cut diamonds are more flexible in terms of their shapes and proportions, as no two original old mine diamonds look alike. They are antique and no longer produced, meaning the supply is extremely limited, which only adds to their allure.
When searching for an old mine cut diamond, focus on what you like and not only on the stone’s grading report. To choose the perfect OMC diamond, you need to view it through different eyes, as grading reports cannot give much information on the stone’s fire which is the key feature of this cut. The classic 4Cs do not play a significant role in this case. At the time, cutters did not have any modern standards and would follow their tastes, knowledge and expertise. That is why to find the perfect diamond, concentrate on its unique play of light and overall appearance.
When choosing an old mine cut diamond, do not focus on its perfect colour, as most of them have what is described as tinted colour today. This is partly because many, if not most, antique colourless diamonds have been recut to brilliant stones over the years. Old mine cut diamonds display their colour differently, and this effect only enhances their unique fire.
It is worth mentioning that there are newly cut old mine cut diamonds on the market that are cut to imitate the original style. However, keep in mind that most diamonds today are cut in an assembly line production process, meaning such stones do not have the same charm that the original old mine cut is known for.
Old Mine Cut vs Old European Cut
The old mine cut diamonds are often compared to the old European cut diamonds. Both cuts have some common features that make them look very similar; however, they also have noticeable differences that help to distinguish between them.
Both old mine and old European cuts belong to the antique cut group. They were both measured by eye and cut by hand, but the old mine is more than 100 years older than the European cut. The history of the old mine traces back to the mid-17th century, while the old European cut was not somewhat popular until the 19th century.
The old European cut has a round outline, similar to the modern round brilliant cut. The old mine cut is commonly known for having a square shape with rounded corners but can come in a variety of forms except for round.
Both old mine and old European cut diamonds have small tables; however, the table of the old mine cut tends to be 38 – 45% of the stone’s diameter, while the table of the old European cut is 38 – 53% of the stone’s diameter. This means the old mine cut has a smaller table than the old European cut.
While both the old mine cut and the old European cut have high crowns, the old mine cut is slightly shallower in comparison due to its shorter lower half facets and larger culet. This also means that the old European has a heavier crown portion.
Both old mine and European cuts feature a large open culet that is easily visible when the diamond is viewed face-up. However, the culet of the old mine cut is often larger and easier to see with the naked eye.
The way OMC 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 old mine cut was designed to accommodate the lighting environments of the time. The difference in facet shapes and sizes makes old mine cut diamonds show larger face-up patterns of light and dark, compared to the slightly tighter fire of old European cut diamonds.
Featured image: Thomas Demarczyk / Canva. A derivative work by Diamond Buzz.