You might think that shopping for a vintage diamond is the same process as those modern ones, but you will only find the best piece by being informed. Many of these pieces have a rich history, with most cut by hand. Antique diamonds are unique pieces to add to your collection. If you are ready to purchase an antique diamond, here are a few things to keep in mind.
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Remember the Four Cs of Diamonds
You already know your ABCs, but what about those four Cs of diamonds. Antique diamonds are filled with character and very distinct. You can use the same basis for grading them as you would with a modern diamond. The four Cs are cut, color, clarity, and carat. When purchasing an antique diamond, you need to be aware of the different traits in these categories.
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The Diamond Cut
The cut refers to how light interacts regarding the diamond's proportions, polish, and symmetry. The shape of the diamond is the outline of the stone. It comes in various styles, such as emerald, heart, and marquise. When a diamond needs to be cut, it is an intricate process requiring the cutter's skill and patience. That fact is evident with antique diamonds. Unlike using laser cutters for modern diamonds, these shapes were hand-cut by a master artisan. The diamond's shape says a lot about the wearer's style. Every shape has a tradition and character, ranging from elegant to dramatic. Many antique diamonds will have the following cuts:
This cut is the oldest shape of diamonds. They have been used since the 1600s. Since the technology was limited, many jewelers could only cut the rings into a rose cut. However, they still were able to create some stunning pieces. The cutter works with the natural shape of the diamond to bring out its charm and beauty. The rose cut often has a flat bottom and floral-like facets on the top. With this cut, the diamond provides an alluring yet demure appearance.
Old Mine Cut
Another diamond cut is the old mine cut. It is known for its deep pavilions, small tables, and high crowns. As technology progressed, jewelers could make more intricate shapes than a rose cut. The 58 facets are paired with a deep pavilion instead of a flat base. This cut gives a greater play of light with more brilliant sparkle. Over time, this cut became very popular.
Old European Cut
The old European cut is one of the newer cuts that have improved pavilion proportions, a larger table, and a perfect circular outline. This technique places the diamond on a wheel where the jewelers could "open up" the stone to a higher degree, giving it more light to showcase its beauty and unique patterns.
Since diamonds are a natural substance found in the Earth, they can develop blemishes and inclusions. These characteristics are known as the clarity of the diamond. With the help of magnification, the inclusions are assessed according to their size, position, relative visibility, and number. The diamond's clarity is graded on a scale:
- F- Flawless
- IF- Internally Flawless
- VVS1-2— Very, Very Slightly Included
- VS1-2— Very Slightly Included
- SI1-2— Slightly Included
- I1-2— Included
It is very rare to have an F or IF diamond. Those clarities are very expensive. As you go down the scale, the rarity and price will decrease. Many purchasers buy an "eye clean" diamond, meaning the stone has no inclusions or blemishes visible to the naked eye. Remember that if the diamond is in the SI range, those inclusions can only be seen with the power of 10x magnification.
Antique Diamond Color Guide
You might think that diamonds have only one color, but there are degrees of color. Antique diamonds are assigned a letter grade based on their color, starting from D and ending at Z. These scales are as follows:
- D through F – "colorless"
- G through J – "near colorless"
- K through M – "faint"
- N through R – "very light"
- S through Z – "light"
Like F or IF diamonds, D to F range diamonds are rare and expensive. Nearly colorless diamonds do look white to the untrained eye. With antique and vintage diamonds, you are more likely to find ones with a touch of color. These diamonds have more characters and are more beautiful than those bright white stones. Remember that the cutting techniques of the rocks often hide the actual color of the diamond. You want to look at the whole package of the diamond instead of focusing on one type of grade. While two stones can be graded the same, they may look completely different in real life. Choosing an antique diamond is a personal decision. Find one you love and not one you "should like" based on a scale.
Finally, all diamonds are measured in carats. That is the weight equal to 0.20 grams. Every carat is subdivided into 100 points to accommodate those fractional sizes. As you may have guessed, bigger diamonds are more rare and expensive than those smaller ones. Diamonds can look smaller or bigger than the actual weight. In some cases, you might see the term "faces up larger," which means the diamond has the appearance of a bigger stone.
Find Your Perfect Antique Diamond
When you want to purchase an antique diamond, you need to consider the look and style. Take time to enjoy the process. Remember those 4 Cs of diamonds. You can choose a diamond that speaks to your taste and style with these tips in mind. Antique diamonds have a rich history, and you need to find one that you can enjoy and admire in your collection.
Vintage Ring Settings
When you have an antique diamond, it is more than likely in a ring setting. Many of these settings can date back over 100 years. Some of the most popular antique diamond ring settings include:
If you have an antique diamond, these pieces could have a setting consisting of yellow or rose gold metal. While that might seem like a modern look, these settings can be tied back to the Victorian era (1837-1901) of settings. Many of these settings have ornate features but keep a low profile on the ring.
The dawn of the 20th century brought a new style to fashion and jewelry. The Edwardian era (1901-1915) significantly impacted antique diamond settings. These pieces often use platinum for the metal and still include those ornate styles in the settings.
The early years of the 20th century influenced many areas of the design world. The Art Deco period (1915-1935) helped to “modernize” the look of architecture, fashion, and jewelry. These rings have clean lines, bold diamond cuts, and geometric shapes.
After World War II (1945-1965), many jewelry pieces went for a simple look. These antique diamonds often have more feminine details and asymmetrical designs. Yellow and rose golds were popular options, adding to the glamor of the diamond.
After the Retro-era, there was still a focus on gold-plated pieces. When the 1980s took center stage in the jewelry design world, many of these antique diamond pieces had bevel cuts with brilliant gold bands.
Over the next few decades, these styles have centered more on platinum colors for the ring settings or even branched out to those unique hues, such as rose gold.
Famous Styles for Antique Diamonds
Now that you know the eras of these settings for antique diamonds, there are a few famous styles. The most sought-after setting is known as the Tiffany setting. The renowned jeweler created this setting in the late 1880s, featuring six platinum rings encasing a single diamond. The Tiffany setting was the first to display the diamond in all its glory. Since that time, many have preferred to set their antique diamonds with this style.
Another well-known antique diamond setting is the cluster. With this, the large diamond is surrounded by smaller stones. You can find these settings in both the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In many settings, the antique diamond may look like a flower and be complemented by other gemstones, such as sapphires or rubies.
The pavé setting has also been a popular type of style for many antique diamonds. This setting has small diamonds connected with metal rings or beads. In most cases, the big, bold diamond is surrounded by this setting. Finally, the filigree setting uses twisted metal threads to give an ornate look to these period pieces. You will often find the filigree on those Art Deco pieces, with the design stamped into the metal.
When you have an antique diamond, you want to choose a setting that will highlight the features of these fantastic pieces.
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