The term “marquise” isn’t one we hear a lot in today’s diamond world. We do hear terms like the football, boat, eye, and navette all of which, collectively make up the family of marquise cuts.
The Origins of the Marquise Cut
Despite its relative lack of use compared to more popular modern cuts, the marquise has been around a long time. Unusually, though, for diamond cut types, it isn’t named for any actual corresponding shape. Back in the 18th century, King Louis XV of France commissioned a jeweler to design a new cut. Louis wanted the cut to resemble the lips of his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Over time, the resulting cut evolved into what we now know as the marquise.
The name, itself, comes from the name of the hereditary rank between count and duke. Men would wear stones using the new cut, to display their rank in court. The name marquise soon became the accepted term for the hitherto nameless gemstone cut.
The Pros Of The Marquise Cut
The modern (post-1960) marquise cut is different from the original 18th version. Now, the cut is actually a version of the round brilliant cut. It has 58 facets in the same configuration as the round brilliant. This means that the standard of modern examples is usually excellent.
The elongated shape of the marquise lends itself well to making fingers look slimmer and longer. It also means the stone can look bigger than its stated carat weight, in comparison to different cuts of the same weight.
The Cons Of The Marquise Cut
We all know that diamond is the hardest natural mineral we know. What many find surprising is that it is also quite brittle. With any cut diamond, if you hit it just in the right/wrong spot, or at the right angle, there is a real risk of the stone chipping. Even worse, it may split or shatter altogether. The long nature of the marquise exposes the pointed ends far more than normal. Even just a sharp tap on the point risks serious damage.
Because of the 58 facet nature of the modern marquise, light is used differently by the diamond. If the cut isn’t done with enough care, what is called the bow-tie effect comes in. When viewed from above, almost all marquise diamonds display some darkening around the center point. This creates an effect similar to a bow-tie. A slightly deeper pavilion may reduce the effect, but few marquise cuts escape the phenomenon altogether.
Antique Marquise Diamonds
Although the absolute precision of modern cutting techniques makes buying modern diamonds much easier due to the consistency of the cut, they can sometimes lack a little personality. Marquise diamonds are classed as a fancy cut, part of which means there is no actual standard for the cut itself. The 4 Cs of cut, clarity, color and carat weight still apply, but any grading is much more subjective than with more controlled cut types.
As a result, the prices of antique marquise diamonds are prone to a greater level of inconsistency. The nature of antique diamonds has always been one where character and charm outflank precision. With marquise diamonds, the effect is amplified. Being able to create a marquise diamond using often hand tools only, and yet avoiding all the potential pitfalls is a remarkable thing. For a diamond that we have already discussed is more fragile than most to have survived one hundred years or more is almost miraculous.
Because diamond cutters of the time knew that there were limits to the precision they could achieve, they took a different view. Whilst keeping the integrity of the cut intact, they looked to make more use of the light available before electric lighting was common. This gives antique marquise diamonds a distinct advantage over modern examples. Although sometimes demonstrating slightly less sparkle than modern stones an antique marquise diamond often carries more fire and a more captivating appearance overall.
Buying A Marquise Diamond
Although we know that there is no defining standard for the cut, some things still matter. As an example, symmetry is a big deal when looking at marquise diamonds. The ideal ratio of length:width of any marquise cut is 2:1. Of course, antique diamonds may not be to quite the perfect ratio. Because of this, those which do have the perfect ratio, or close to it, can be expensive. This is especially true if the 4 Cs of the stone are significant.
For this reason, ask your jeweler to tell you the ratio, as well as everything else you want to know. Some stones will be some way from perfect. It may not be quite so obvious when viewed in isolation, but put a perfect ratio stone alongside a non-perfect, and the difference is dramatic.
Elegance is a key part of wearing a diamond. Marquise cuts have an elegance rarely matched by other types. Good marquise cut diamonds are truly something special. More importantly, good, antique marquise cut diamonds are absolute treasures.
We can’t recommend the beauty of the marquise cut enough. Whether as a solitaire or with other supporting diamonds, it is simply one of the best.
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