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Understanding Engagement Ring Cuts

Author: Lisa Jeeves
by Lisa Jeeves
Posted: Nov 21, 2014

When you gaze through the jeweller’s window or browse a designer’s webpages and look at the perfectly finished brilliance of the gemstones in engagement rings, it's hard to imagine them in their rough state. It is the gem cutters, or lapidaries, who, through a long and specialised process, produce the finished stone - producing the fire and brilliance we see in today's engagement ring cuts.

Long history of lapidary

Approximately 2,300 years BC, India was producing cut and simply faceted gemstones, and it is possible that gem cutting and faceting had its origins here. Great technological advances were then made in the Islamic Golden Age, in the 7th-13th centuries. Although faceting was being practised in Europe, it was Islamic technology that made many of the advances in the process and the oldest known cut diamonds come from this period. These advances spread to Europe in the 13th century, along with an increase in the supply of diamonds from the East. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was in 1477.

Development of cuts

The 1700s saw the first of the brilliant cuts, called the 'old mine cut' or the 'cushion cut'. The cushion cut is still one of the very popular engagement ring cuts and is used for diamonds and coloured gemstones, working very well for a vintage style ring. All cuts were originally done by hand, which meant that every stone was unique; nowadays, with precision technology, they are uniformly cut. Gemstone cutting was also revolutionised by the invention of a steam powered bruting machine, during the Industrial Revolution, to create a round shape, which led to the modern round cut that is so popular today.

The round cut was developed in 1919 by a Belgian diamond-cutter called Marcel Tolkowsky, and this cut maximises the brilliance and fire in a diamond. It can also be used for other gemstone engagement ring cuts, but for other stones, the cut is more about dramatizing the colour rather than for the brilliance desired for diamonds.


The continual quest to maximise the colour and brilliance of the gemstone leads to ongoing experimentation and innovation in the gem cutting business. Many jewellery designers want to have unusual cut stones to add to the uniqueness of their rings. The long history of lapidary, and how the cutting and faceting of gems has improved over the centuries does not mean that the artistic impetus for discovering new ways of creating new cuts has finished. Many lapidarists continue to experiment, producing unusual engagement ring cuts to tempt us in the search for the perfect ring.

Frederick Holm is staff writer for the F&L Designer Guides, compiled and written to help consumers choose a unique engagement ring design. From the best engagement ring cuts to precious metals and coloured stones, we have ideas and opinions covering all the options. Offering advice, tips and suggestions on how to choose that perfect ring, F&L will accompany you on every stage of your search to find the right designer.

About the Author

Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.

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Author: Lisa Jeeves

Lisa Jeeves

Member since: Oct 18, 2013
Published articles: 4791

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