Jewelry Blog

Brilliant Cut Diamond Vs. Old Mine Cut Diamond

Brilliant cut diamond and old European old mine cut diamond

The difference between the Brilliant Cut Diamond and the Old Mine Cut Diamond is their respective ages. The Brilliant Cut is modern, and the Old Mine Cut is antique. Here’s the guide for Brilliant Cut Diamond vs Old Mine Cut Diamonds.

The explanation, however, is a lot more complicated than just age. The term ‘cut’ describes both the shape of a diamond and the symmetry, proportion, and polish of its facets. In this case, the brilliant-cut and old mine cut both refer to the symmetry and proportions cut into a diamond.

The History of the Old Mine Cut

Blow Torch on Jewelry

The old mine style of cutting diamonds has been in use since the end of the 17th century. The cuts were introduced in order to give an added “sparkle” to the diamonds instead of merely refracting the light.

Most of the old mine cut diamonds that exist today are set within antique jewelry from the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras.

As will be mentioned, the old mine cut is the direct predecessor of brilliant-cut diamonds, first created in 1919 by Marcel Tolkowsky. The Old European cut is the bridge between the old-mine diamond and the modern brilliant diamond.

The progression in technology (and the Industrial Revolution) was a direct cause of the rapid advancement of diamond-cutting techniques.

Physical Differences Between Old Mine and Brilliant Cut

Customer Looking at Ring in Hand Showroom

The old mine and brilliant cuts have many notable differences in every part of a diamond. The relevant parts of a diamond include the table, culet, crown, girdle, and pavilion.

The Table

The table is the top facet of a diamond. It is one of the best ways to differentiate between brilliant cuts and old mine cuts. In brilliant cut diamonds, the table is 53% – 64% percent of the girdle diameter. In old mine cuts, the table is 38% – 45% of the diameter.

Square vs round brilliant cut diamonds

The Culet

The culet is the diamond’s bottom facet and is the quickest way to identify antique vs modern diamond cuts.

When the old mine cut was created, technology wasn’t advanced enough to create an exact pointed tip at the bottom of the diamond. Instead, the culet was left as a wider platform, parallel to the table. In brilliant cut diamonds, the entire diamond is mapped in a specialized machine to determine its shape before cutting begins. The culet is shaped on a cutting wheel and looks invisible to the naked eye.

The Crown

The crown of the diamond is the angled portion between the table and the girdle. In old mine cut diamonds, the crown is traditionally angled at 40 degrees or greater. Modern diamonds have an ideal angle of 34 degrees. When examining the old mine cut diamond, it will appear to be a lot taller than the modern cut diamond.

The Girdle

Art Deco vintage engagement rings

The girdle is the narrow space that dividing the crown and the pavilion. In antique diamonds, the girdle is usually much thicker than what is common nowadays. It was common for diamond cutters to leave a single, continuous, unpolished surface around the stone. The bruting machine, invented in the 1890s allowed jewelers to facet and polish diamonds.

Even until the 1930s, though, most girdles were left bruted, unpolished and unfaceted.

Today, diamonds are either faceted or bruted, but they’re always polished. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t always help to differentiate modern from antique diamonds. Many owners of antique jewelry have had the girdles on their diamonds updated and polished.

The Pavilion

The pavilion is the slanted area that runs from the girdle to the bottom of the diamond. In brilliant cut stones, the ideal angle is 42 percent of the diamond’s height. This percentage creates a very short, squat stone and a lot more internal brilliance. In old mine diamonds, the pavilion is much deeper.

Other Differences

Loose diamond on black background

Diamond cutting has evolved from hand-operated tools to today’s convenient imaging and automated cutting tables. Still, diamond cutting relies on the talent and skill of the diamond cutter. It is still a very difficult and exacting craft.

No two cuts were identical in antique diamonds. Today, however, there are established standards to maximize the brilliance of each stone. Even though both old-mine cut diamonds and brilliant cut diamonds have the same amount of facets, modern jewelers and cutters have better tools. They are able to create precise lines and angles to maximize the brilliance of each stone.

Aside from the technical differences listed above, there are many subjective differences people consider when purchasing a diamond. Old-mine enthusiasts will usually describe the old mine cut diamond as fiery and warm. Some explain that because the modern diamond is designed for optimum brilliance, the old mine retains a livelier inner light.

Another very important element is age and rarity. There are countless modern, brilliant diamonds in circulation, but only a handful of old mine diamonds are available.

Old European Cut VS Old Mine Cut

Unbeknownst to most consumers, there is technically no official diamond that is named as an “old mine cut”. The term “Old Mine” is used to describe all antique diamond cuts that were cut by hand. It applies especially to those cuts which fail to be described more specifically.

The Old Mine Cut

Old Mine Cut Diamond Victorian Ring

Rose, cushion, old European, and more are all cuts that are often promoted collectively under the old mine umbrella.

Also, a diamond must be antique – that is, more than 100 years old – to qualify as a genuine old mine cut. You will see vintage diamonds described as old mine, but this isn’t strictly correct. The reason age matters is that diamond-cutting techniques improved considerably at the beginning of the 20th century. Cuts that came after were usually done with machines rather than by hand. The precision involved warranted far more individual descriptions and classifications. As an example, the modern round brilliant cut has its origins firmly in the old mine era, but would never be described as such.

Click here to learn more about Old Mine Cut Diamonds.

Old European Cut Diamond

Old European Cut Diamond Engagement Ring 11559 45000

The old European cut is an old mine cut, but not old mine cuts are old European. As an example: All Ferrari’s are cars, but not every car is a Ferrari.

The old European cut is the first diamond that uses a more precise method of cutting. It is a more defined shape than the typical old mine cut.

The old European cut is a transition from the old to the new. It is based on earlier cuts but, in turn, a basis itself for the round brilliant cut we see today. Old European cuts were used during the Art Deco period. They are also suited to the earlier Art Nouveau Era due to the roundness and the relative softness of the cut.

Click here to learn about Old European Cut Diamonds.

Tips for Diamond Buying

Customer using a Loupe on a Diamond Engagement Ring in Showroom

The biggest difference between Brilliant Cut Diamond vs Old Mine Cut Diamonds is that old stones are much shallower, with usually only about 50% of the height of the overall stone being taken up by the pavilion, compared to around 85% today. This gives old European and similar cuts much less brilliance than is typical now. Instead, they have an added depth and fire that is still very much sought after.

Although we mention true roundness being achieved when old European diamonds were cut, it’s fair to say that they probably wouldn’t pass a moderately close inspection if they were to be measured for actual roundness. However, they were a significant step forward at the time and, when side by side with a modern round brilliant would look pretty much the same to the untrained eye.

A bigger issue with old European cut diamonds than whether they are perfectly round or not is the cutting of the facets. Because of the fact that hand-cutting was still the predominant method used, facets are often irregularly shaped and quite a way removed from the perfect symmetry we see in diamond cutting today.

For all the “faults” of an old European cut diamond that we’ve mentioned, it is these differences that make each stone unique and which all add to the appeal of antique diamonds. Many antique diamonds, and old Europeans, in particular, have since been recut to bring them up to date and to tidy up their appearance. This adds further to the uniqueness of the stones and adds a certain charm that the mass-produced cuts of the day will never equal.

Talk to a Diamond Expert

Customer looking at antique cushion cut diamond wedding band

Do you have any questions about Brilliant Cut Diamonds vs Old Mine Cut Diamonds? Feel free to reach out to one of our diamond experts.

Also, if you’re looking for a particular diamond, feel free to reach out, and we can help you search.


About Benjamin Khordipour

Benjamin Khordipour is one of the jewelry researchers and gemologists at Estate Diamond Jewelry. He received his official gemological degrees from both the GIA and GUBELIN. He also regularly contributes to Business Insider, Forbes, Rapaport, CNBC, and Brides Magazine. Benjamin was born in New York and joined Estate Diamond Jewelry in 2014. He is passionate about vintage jewelry and diamonds. This blog was built on his strong belief that jewelers have a responsibility to properly educate their customers. In 2019, Benjamin co-authored the book The Engagement Ring Guide for Men. His favorite vintage jewelry era is the Art Deco Era and his favorite type of stone is the Kashmir Sapphire. He also collects rare antique pins.