Comparison: Old European Cut Diamonds vs. Round Brilliant

Buyers of vintage engagement rings are a unique group. Most are deeply romantic, and see the ring as an offering of timeless love. They believe that life, simplified, is the best life of all.  In their world, cell phones do not exist. A phone call should come from a phone attached to the wall, and only when it does not interrupt the deep and meaningful activities of the two wayward souls. These buyers don’t know the meaning of “HD” because they live every moment of life in person. Flashy advertisements can’t trap them. Because their life is simplified, they look at these ads for what they are, and wonder why others don’t do the same. They read the paper in the morning, they don’t stream the news from the internet, live (and usually incorrect) as it happens… Very importantly, they know how truly special an old European cut diamond is, especially sitting atop a rare and timeless vintage or antique engagement ring.

Image courtesy of Leigh Lay Nacht in NYC

The challenge is that even though these rings are so very special, most of today’s buyers are far more interested in modern designs and cuts. They want bigger diamonds, brilliant cuts and laddered side-stones. All quite beautiful of course. Who would blame them? It does come down to preference.

This means that a jeweler who specializes in Old European Cut Diamonds vs Round Brilliant stones, better have either very little competition or a very loyal following if they want to thrive.  The problem is exacerbated in the New York diamond district. Because Jewelers on 47th Street’s Jewelers Row are also very competitive. A couple walking onto 47th Street at Fifth Avenue looking for an Art Deco, Rose Gold Setting Engagement Ring could well very walk out on 6th Ave with a modern Platinum and Pave diamond setting with a round brilliant diamond center-stone.


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If you walk into any diamond store across the world and asked about round diamonds, 99% of the time, the conversation would be about round brilliant cuts. In fact, many salespeople in the diamond trade don’t even know that other round cuts exist. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the primary one is that jewelry salespeople are trained to position their offering well in the minds of buyers, not know the history of rare designs that are not available in mass production. Indeed, if you went to our #1 recommend online jeweler ( and clicked on the diamond selection tool, the only round diamond available is the round brilliant. Old European Cut Diamonds (circa 1900) and Old Mine Cut Diamonds (circa 1800) are just not available to the masses. You need a specialist who has access, because nearly all diamond cutters are not trained to cut the Old European diamond anymore…

This means that you’ll need to buy a pre-owned diamond, and very few of them exist. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that until about 25 years ago, Old European Cut Diamonds were considered inferior. Cut entirely by hand, they lacked the facet and shape precision of a round brilliant diamond. More importantly, their design was not to maximize scintillation, fire and brilliance, but to maximize color and clarity. As a consequence, over the years many were re-cut into round brilliant stones, destroying any possibility that if they came back in vogue the owner would have a true gem (pun intended!).

Old European Cut Diamond vs. Round Brilliant

One of the most common questions that comes up from vintage engagement ring buyers is: what’s the difference between an Old European Cut Diamond and a Round Brilliant Cut. To the lay-person they are very similar: they are both round, both have 57 facets (or 58 if we include a cutlet), from a distance they both have about the same proportions, and they both demonstrate a fascinating cut that causes the heart to skip a beat or two… That is where the similarity ends.

Any discussion between an Old European Cut diamond vs. Round Brilliant has to start with the diamond cutting technology available at the time. During the 1900’s, diamonds were cut entirely by hand. This meant that tables were much smaller, facets were less precisely placed (and shaped) and the end result was that the diamond cutter could not craft a diamond that has today’s bling. Instead the diamond possessed a warm, candle-like softer sparkle, but with incredible grace and beauty.

Old European Cut Diamonds were Designed to be Gazed into…

Unlike a modern-day Round Brilliant stone, which reflects light back at you, Old European Cut Diamonds have a smaller table on top and a steeper crown on the side. The smaller table reduces the light reflection back out and the steeper crown reduces the internal light “bounce” effect. As a consequence, the design optimizes color, and clarity not brilliance. People buy a European Cut because they want to study it intently and deeply, not marvel at the light show.

Art Deco Old European Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

Old European Cut diamonds date back to the early 1900’s and were (are) the center stone for many Art Deco, Edwardian and even some Victorian era rings. Today vintage and antique rings alike sport these diamonds.

Are Old European Cuts as Valuable as Today’s Round Brilliant Cut?

Sometimes, but not for the reasons that you think. A diamond’s value is directly related to rarity. Rarity is (normally) related to mother nature. A colorless, VVS1 diamond is worth more than a pale yellow, IS1 stone. The first is about one in a million, the second is one in 50. The rarity value of the Old European Cut diamond comes from the fact that cutters stopped making them that way almost 100 years ago, AND, those that were outstanding were often converted to round brilliant cut stones.

Where to get an Old European Cut Diamond

Old European Cut Diamonds are not SO rare that you will have to mortgage the house to get one; however one needs to know who the quality players are in order to get the best diamond at a price that does not break the bank.

We recommend speaking with Leigh Jay Nacht, our #1 rated Diamond District Jeweler for 2017/18. Leigh specializes in antique engagement rings and has access to some of the most wonderful products that Jewelers Row, NYC has to offer. Read Leigh’s profile here.

Thanks for taking the time to read our article on Old European Cut Diamonds vs Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds.