Old Mine Cut Diamonds – What They Are & What to Know

Old mine cut diamond

Holding a piece of jewelry that bags an aged diamond feels like you are carrying an ancient treasure – vintage, antique, and most of all classic. So much so that vintage jewelry pieces, like old mine cut diamonds, are sought after.

If you are one of the antique fans who at one point have shopped for antique diamond jewelry, you’re likely to have come across the term “Old Mine Cut.” They have been described as timeless and romantic. Their appeal doesn’t fade away that in recent years, the demand for them continues to grow.

What Is an Old Mine Cut Diamond?

old mine cut diamond

As the name suggests, an old mine cut diamond is ancient, timeworn, and vintage. It evokes the past—that part of diamond history when diamonds were measured by eye and cut by hand. Old mine cut diamond is so historical, making an excellent choice for an engagement ring with vintage feels.

This predecessor to the modern diamond has various elements that make them unique and different. Its most prominent features are the bulky, chunky, uneven shape, the eye-visible culet, and the tiny table. All of which comes from the out-dated way of measuring and cutting.


What is the History of Old Mind Cut Diamonds?

The old mine cut diamond is perhaps the oldest recognized type of cut that we know of today. Popular in the 18th century, they had something of a renaissance in Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian time that is still in demand today.

It was the most popular diamond cut from the mid-1800s until the last few decades of the 1900s. By the late 19th century, the old European cut became more popular. It was a transitional cut between the old mine cut and the modern brilliant cut.

Contrary to modern diamond cuts that tend to have names directly related to their shape, the term “old mine cut” feels like a bit of mystery to prospective diamond buyers. Rather than having the name pertain to a shape, “old mine cut” arises from the origin of rough diamonds common in the 18th and 19th centuries. A brief history lesson on the early diamond industry must be tackled to put it in plain words.

Before the late 19th century, most diamonds used in jewelry were sourced from India and Brazil. India was the first large-scale source of diamonds in the world. Mining focused in Indian cities like Golconda. Thus, they gained them the reputation as places of large, stunning diamonds and immense wealth.

Diamond mining in India

By 1724, diamonds started to appear at a spot close to the modern city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil. This discovery put Brazil on the map of the diamond industry and quickly became another major supplier of diamonds.

All through the 18th century, India and Brazil paved the way in the diamond industry. They were the two primary sources of diamonds used for jewelry.

In the 1860s, diamonds were discovered in South Africa. This discovery resulted in a massive boom in diamond mining throughout the African continent.

The tern “old mine” originally referred to diamonds sourced from mines in India and Brazil, which were, at the time, the “old” mines of the diamond industry. It became a term used to refer to diamonds from any country that uses old-style cut with time.

Old mine cut diamonds continued their popularity until the late 19th century. Then, the old European cut became the most popular diamond shape. By the early to mid 20th century, diamond measuring and cutting technology became more precise and advanced.

The technological advancement resulted in phasing out of antique diamonds, giving way to modern diamond shapes such as the round brilliant cut.


What are the Characteristics of Old Mine Cut Diamonds?

Old mine cut diamonds and some modern cut diamonds share a few features. But, there are quite several significant differences. Some of the visual characteristics unique to old mine cut include:

Table

Old mine cut diamonds have a relatively small table. A small table is typical in most antique diamond cuts. This characteristic is apparent when viewed from the top angle, especially when it is placed next to a modern round brilliant or cushion cut diamond.

Culet

Opposite to the size of the table, most old mine cut diamond’s culet is visibly large. When you see them from the top angle, the culet is clearly evident through the table. This characteristic gives the diamond quite a unique appearance.

Crown and Pavilion

Compared to most modern diamonds, old mine cut diamonds usually hold quite a high crown or the upper part of the diamond above the girdle and a deep pavilion or the lower part of the diamond just below the girdle.

Old Mine Cut Diamond Antique Engagement Ring from Eragem

Facets

Despite its deep pavilion, the old mine cut diamond shows shorter lower half facets than some antique diamonds, particularly the old European cut. This characteristic appears primarily because of its large culet.

As with most modern diamond shapes, it also has 58 facets, including the large culet.

Symmetry

Since old mine cut diamonds went through the traditional measuring by eyes and cutting by hands method, it is not surprising that they possess imperfect symmetry. The imperfect facets and asymmetrical features all contribute to how unique and fascinating old mine cut diamonds are.

When placed side by side with a modern diamond, an old mine cut diamond can appear excessively large and bulky at first sight. But, it is the diamond’s deliberate part of the design. Compared to modern diamonds cut to look beautiful in any setting, old mine cut diamonds were cut to be seen under the candlelight and offer a distinctive warm look with a soft and dreamy glow.


What is the Value of Old Mine Cut Diamonds?

old mine cut diamond chart

Like most diamond shapes, the value varies on its 4 Cs – carat, clarity, color, and cut. Old mine cut diamonds are mostly 10% to 15% less expensive than the old European cuts. You can get a low-grade 0.40 carat for only $300 or an elegant 2 carat for $5,500.

Until recently, old mine cut diamonds and other antique diamonds are being sold at a marginally lower price than modern cut diamonds. This effect on value is because old mine cut diamonds often get recut into modern shapes – a process that brought forth the original diamond cut going to waste.

At present, antique and vintage cut diamonds are in demand mainly for their old look and because they are unlike modern cuts. This means such diamonds tend to sell for similar prices to corresponding diamonds in modern cuts.

Most old mine cut diamonds were cut and sold long before the market became saturated with diamond engagement rings. By itself, old mine cut diamonds are often larger than most diamonds used in modern engagement rings – one of the many factors that affect their value.

Diamonds with historical or cultural significance may also charge a premium compared to other antiques or even modern diamonds.

Another factor is the cutting and polishing method used for old mine cut diamonds. Unlike the diamonds we have today that uses precision diamond cutting technology, old mine cut diamonds went through manual cutting and polishing that resulted in asymmetrical and imperfect features.

In today’s diamond market, if the diamond shows asymmetry, the value is seriously affected. But, it is less of a factor for antique diamonds, particularly old mine cut. For many diamond buyers, a diamond with a slightly imperfect cut looks more beautiful and possesses more character than stones cut perfectly.

Aside from these aspects, old mine cut diamonds, and other antique diamonds are valued almost the same as any other diamonds if assessed by their color and clarity grades. Here’s the price range per carat for old mine cut diamonds.

Carat Weight Range Price Per Carat
0.5 to 0.69 carat $1,800 to $2,000
1 to 1.4 carat $2,700 to $3,300
1.5 to 1.99 carat $3,300 to $4,100
2 to 2.99 carat $4,500 to $5,800

What is the Difference Between Old Mine Cut Diamonds and Old European Cut Diamonds?

European cut diamond is another antique diamond cut that is gaining more popularity in the last decade. It came from almost the same era from where old mine cut came from, thus being compared and likened.

While they both came from the past and share a few physical features, they have various vital differences.

Age

The old mine cut is 100 years older than the old European cut. The earliest old mine cut diamonds go back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries, while the old European cut wasn’t in the diamond market until relatively late in the 19th century.

Shape

The old European cut exhibits a round outline like the round brilliant cut typical in today’s diamond market. The old mine cut, contrarywise, has more similarities with the modern cushion cut.

Culet

Both old mine cut and old European cut diamonds let you see a culet if you look closely. The difference is, the old mine cut culet is more extensive and is mostly easy to see through the table with the naked eye.

Proportions

Compared to the old European cut, the old mine cut is a little shallower because of its larger culet and shorter pavilion facets. The crown on the old European cut is also heavier, with a slightly smaller table – about 38% to 45% diameter vs. 38% to 53% for the old European cut.

Fire

Because of the differences in their facet shapes and sizes, the two antique diamond cuts present different fire where they show color and contrast patterns differently.

While the list goes on for the differences between old mine cut diamonds, the two share some significant similarities. First, they both feature 58 facets even when they’re cut quite differently. They also have softer and less intense brilliance than modern brilliant-cut diamonds, giving them an elegant and classic appearance that is subtle and isn’t too attention-seeking.


What is the Difference Between Old Mine Cut Diamonds and Modern Round Brilliant Cut?

On some occasions, the old mine cut gets compared to the round brilliant cut. Granting that they share some likenesses, the old mine cut and modern round brilliant cut are far different from each other in many aspects.

Table Size

Old mine cut diamonds are likely to have a pretty small table that accounts for 38% to 45% of the diamond’s total diameter. The round brilliant cut holds a far more comprehensive table with the size somewhere in the 52% to 60% range.

Crown Height

The crown is relatively high for old mine cut diamonds, especially when they are side by side with a modern round brilliant cut diamond. When viewed from the side, the old mine cut diamond will look taller than a round cut diamond with similar weight.

Moreover, old mine cut diamonds have a deeper pavilion that contributes to them looking tall compared to modern cut diamonds.

Culet Size

As we’ve hinted above, old mine cut diamonds are likely to have a large and clearly visible culet. The visible culet is due to the cutting technology that makes it impossible to cut a tiny culet like a modern diamond.

Some round brilliant cut and modern cut diamonds may have culet, but they are smaller and less visible than old mine cut diamonds.

Girdle Finishing

Antique cut diamonds have one thing in common – they usually have bruted or frosted girdle, and old mine cut features the same. On the contrary, most modern diamonds, particularly the round brilliant cut, use a faceted girdle.

Precision and Symmetry

The precision and symmetry that we see in modern diamonds are brought by the cutting technology that these gemstones go through. Old mine cut diamonds were measured and cut by hand, thus the imperfection and asymmetry.


Cut Quality in Old Mine Cut Diamonds – Why Are They Important?

In the age when old mine cut diamonds came about, candlelight was the form of lighting, and diamonds were purposely cut to sparkle under dim light conditions. This is why nearly all vintage diamond cuts had high crowns, profound pavilions, and broad facet reflections.

Unlike the advanced methods our modern-day diamonds have been put under, traditional hand cutting and polishing were done with old mine cut diamonds and with only the basic tools to work with. The old-fashioned way paved the way to diamonds with facets that showed no uniformity and with significant differences in symmetry.

To set your expectations, if you are looking for an old mine cut diamond for your engagement ring, the stone you will find will most likely look like the diamond below – with a culet badly off-centered and seriously distorted outline.

It shouldn’t be surprising that old mine cut diamond may get the lowest rating for Polish and Symmetry Grades. Their imperfection and asymmetry cause them to receive a “Fair” or “Poor” rating in such criteria.

It does appear like it isn’t fair to judge a vintage cut diamond using modern-day grading standards, but as the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Believe it or not, despite the low ratings in Polish and Symmetry, old mine cut diamonds still attract a good number of fans.


Old Mine Cut Diamond Buying Guide

Shopping for old mine cut diamond is not a walk in the park. Obviously, they are antique and are no longer produced. Therefore the supply is curbed. There are only a few diamond vendors that offer them globally.

Here are some tips you want to take note of when shopping for an old mine cut diamond:

  • Disregard the GIA certificate – because it will only show you low ratings for the old mine cut diamonds. Color and clarity matter, but in antique diamonds, finding the right one is so much more your personal preference than what the paper says. Remember that old mine cut is what we consider now as imperfect. They are not up to par with the current diamond standards. Better focus on what you like instead of stressing over the numbers.
  • The color appears warm and soft for old cut diamonds. Most of these antique stones have colors in the range of K and below. This is because most colorless vintage diamonds have been reworked over the years into modern brilliant diamonds. Again, focus on what is attractive for you.
  • Light affects the appearance, so make sure to observe the diamond under different lighting conditions. Expect various contrast patterns and differences in fire.The breaking of light into rainbow colors happens mostly in old mine cut diamonds because the facets are larger.
  • Work with a yellow or rose gold setting to complement the old mine cut diamond’s warm color.
  • Old mine cut diamonds have remarkably thin girdles. Make sure that the girdle is entirely confined around the diamond with no edge exposed.
  • Buy only from reputable vendors. Old mine cut diamonds are limited and are not widely available. They are so rare that vendors like the Blue Nile or James Allen don’t offer them. You may check with Abe Mor Diamonds or Old World Diamonds since they specialize in custom cuts and genuine antique diamonds.

Conclusion

For some old mine cut diamonds are imperfect and, well – old. However, others see it as a gift to the modern diamond world from the long-gone era. They are timeworn and archaic, but that’s what makes vintage enchanting.

Old mine cut diamonds, as old as they are, are the perfect diamond for anyone searching for a jewelry piece that is sophisticated yet traditional.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: How many old mine cut diamonds still exist?

A: It is fair to assume that a massive chunk of old mine cut diamonds has been lost to time—either loss to theft, damage, or modern reproduction. There may still be a few pieces around that are lucky to have survived centuries.


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