European cut diamonds are exquisite gems with a vintage appeal that many couples prefer in antique engagement rings and other heirloom designs. Couples interested in this unique cut, however, should fully understand how it differs from modern diamond cuts so they are not disappointed with its visual characteristics.
About the European Cut
The old European cut is an antique type of diamond cut that was fashioned long before modern technology allowed minute precision and geometrically perfect diamond shapes. A descendent of the old mine cut and a refinement of cushion cuts, European cut diamonds have a very small table and a heavy, bulky crown (see Anatomy of a Diamond for a diagram of diamond features). The body of the gem is very deep, and the culet at the base or point of the gem is generally larger and more open than in contemporary cuts. The overall shape of the stone is round, though some European cuts may be slight ovals due to the imprecise cutting methods used generations ago. This cut was most popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and today it can be found in many antique and vintage rings and diamond jewelry.
Old European Versus Modern Cuts
European cut diamonds are considered to be the precursor to the modern round brilliant design, which is essentially a streamlined refinement of the European cut that maximizes a diamond's brilliance with more precise geometry. European cut gems, then, sparkle less and may reflect more shadows than modern diamond cuts, though the immense depth of the stone makes older cuts very distinctive and desirable. European cuts and basic contemporary round brilliants both have a total of 58 facets, though many designer jewelers have created round diamond cuts with a greater number of facets to further enhance the stone's sparkle and fire.
Because the geometry of an old European cut creates a bulky diamond, these cuts generally have a much higher carat weight than modern stones that may look similarly sized. European cuts, however, focus much of that carat weight in the depth of the stone, which makes it difficult to see except when viewed from the side.
Finding European Cut Diamonds
Old European cut gems can be difficult to find today because many older stones have been recut in recent years to maximize their brilliance and sparkle. A couple interested in a European cut gem should investigate antique dealers and vintage jewelry collectors, though modern reproduction designs generally use modern diamond cuts instead of authentic stone shapes. Several reputable online dealers offer a range of European cut gems in gorgeous rings, pendants, and other diamond jewelry, including:
Because many of the pieces these retailers sell are antiques, collections can change quickly. Couples interested in old European cut gems for engagement rings or diamond wedding rings should check different retailers regularly to peruse new acquisitions.
Several factors affect the cost of European cut gems. The stones' generally higher carat weight when compared to modern stones makes them more valuable, as does their antique rarity. True antique gems may cost $2,000 or more depending on their condition, overall quality, and the jewelry piece they are set in.
Engagement Ring Styles
European cut diamonds are stunning choices for antique style rings, though a true European cut with its lower level of sparkle may appear dull in a simple solitaire or modern minimalist setting. The best settings for European cut rings are Edwardian, Victorian, and art deco engagement rings with their higher degree of detail and intricate designs that help highlight the center stone. Filigree designs are also popular, and European cuts are gorgeous in cathedral settings that add height to the ring's band to match the height of the diamond. Any open setting that helps maximize the light reflected in the diamond is also a wise choice.
European cut diamonds are vintage gems with great character and distinction. While they may not compare to modern diamond cuts in terms of raw beauty, the history and uniqueness of the shape is highly desirable for vintage, sophisticated pieces.