The old European cut is an antique diamond cut that was popular from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. It succeeded the old mine-cut diamond, keeping the large culet and small table but having a rounder shape.
Understanding how the old European cut differs from most modern diamonds requires a quick history lesson, with a focus on how diamonds have been cut, measured and polished over the centuries.
Today, diamonds are cut using a complicated, technology-heavy process. First, they’re scanned using a laser scanner to work out how the rough diamond can be cut into a finished diamond as efficiently as possible.
Next, the rough diamonds are cleaved, girdled, polished and carefully inspected to ensure that they’re cut properly. The process is dependent both on the skill of the diamond cutter and on a range of modern, highly specialized diamond cutting and polishing machines.
Before modern technology made its way into the diamond cutting process, diamonds were cut and measured by hand. Old European cut diamonds were originally cut using the cutter’s eye, rather than modern technology, to measure for accuracy and symmetry.
This dependence on human skill and intuition rather than technology means that old European cut diamonds have a beautiful organic, hand-cut look to them, with all of the imperfections and character that only something made by hand can possess.
Aesthetically, the old European cut is quite similar to the round brilliant cut. Both diamond cuts are round and have 58 facets. In a certain way, an old European cut diamond looks almost like a softer version of the modern round brilliant cut.
However, the old European cut also has a variety of unique characteristics that aren’t typically found in modern diamond shapes. It also has a different appearance, with softness and “inner fire” that you don’t often see in modern brilliant cut diamonds.
To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.
Bottom Line Recommendation:
An old European cut diamond can look fantastic in any engagement ring, especially a vintage setting. As the predecessor to the modern round brilliant cut, the old European cut is quite brilliant for a vintage diamond cut, giving it an impressive, eye-catching appearance.
Most of the time, we recommend buying diamonds from trusted vendors such as James Allen or Blue Nile. However, for antique diamonds like the old European cut, we recommend purchasing both your diamond and its setting from a vendor that specializes in antique diamonds.
In our experience, Abe Mor Diamonds has the best selection of old European cut diamonds on the market, all with highly competitive pricing and excellent service. If you need help choosing a diamond, feel free to contact us for expert advice and assistance.
Old European cut diamonds have several unique visual characteristics that set them apart from other antique diamonds. These include:
A relatively small table. Old European cut diamonds have a small table — the top surface of the diamond. According to the GIA, an old European cut diamond’s table needs to be less than or equal to 53% of its total diameter.
A large, visible culet. Old European cuts have a very large culet in relation to the total size of the diamond. In larger old European cut diamonds, you can sometimes view the culet from the table of the diamond with the naked eye.
A bruted girdle. Old European cut diamonds have a bruted, or frosted, girdle — a small, circular rim that connects the diamond’s crown and pavilion. This gives the girdle of the diamond an opaque appearance, unlike the faceted girdles of many modern diamonds.
A high crown, with long bottom facets. Old European cut diamonds appear much “taller” than most modern diamonds (when viewing them from the side), with a crown angle of at least 40 degrees and long facets below the girdle that account for at least 60 percent of the diamond’s depth.
58 facets. Just like the modern round brilliant cut, old European cut diamonds have 58 facets. However, these facets are typically larger and chunkier than those on a modern round brilliant cut diamond.
Imperfect symmetry. Because many old European cut diamonds were cut before the use of modern diamond cutting technology, they may have small imperfections when it comes to shape and symmetry.
Old European Cut Diamond Prices
The prices of old European cut diamonds range from under $1,500 for a sub-0.70 carat, SI1 or SI2 stone in a relatively low color grade to $30,000 or more for a high-quality, nicely cut diamond in the 5+ carat range.
Just like with modern cut diamonds, old European cut diamond prices can vary based on each diamond’s carat weight and color and clarity grades.
As we’ve explained in our guide to diamond prices, the price you’ll pay for a diamond tends to increase exponentially with carat weight. Put simply, the higher the carat weight of a diamond, the more you can expect to pay per carat to purchase it.
Below, we’ve listed a typical price per carat for a VS2 clarity, K-L color Old European cut diamond (GIA and AGS certified only) at a range of common carat weights:
Carat Weight Range
Price Per Carat
0.5 to 0.69 ct
$2,000 to $2,300
1 to 1.4 ct
$3,000 to $3,750
1.5 to 1.99 ct
$3,700 to $4,600
2 to 2.99 ct
$5,000 to $6,500
Old euros are not as commoditized as modern round cut diamond, therefore there is more price variation.
Also, as always, the price can change based on a range of factors beyond a diamond’s color and clarity or carat weight. It’s also important to remember that you’ll need to factor in the cost of a setting for your diamond.
If you have a specific budget in mind and want expert help finding the perfect old European cut diamond, feel free to send us an email for personalized help.
Old European cut diamonds are often compared to another antique diamond cut – the old mine cut. Both of these diamond cuts have a soft, beautiful antique appearance, albeit with a few key differences:
Age. The old mine cut predates the old European cut by more than 100 years. You can often find old mine cut diamonds in Georgian and Victorian era jewelry, while diamonds in the old European cut were more common in the early 20th century.
Shape. Old mine cut diamonds have a squarish shape with curved edges that looks like a modern cushion cut diamond. The old European cut, on the other hand, is round and shares more in common with the modern round brilliant cut.
Culet. Both the old mine cut and the old European cut have a visible culet. However, the culet is typically larger on old mine cut diamonds. Many diamonds in this cut have an obvious culet that can be seen through the table without any magnification.
Proportions. The old mine and old European cuts have different proportions. The first old European cut diamonds were cut after the bruting machine was developed in 1874, allowing for this cut to have smaller, more precise facets.
Fire. Because of its large facets, an old mine cut diamond may display larger and more striking color than a diamond in an old European or modern cut. Old mine cut diamonds may also show a different contrast pattern than diamonds cut into other shapes.
Despite these differences, the old European cut and old mine cut both have a lot of features in common. Both are antique cut diamonds that often have imperfections, such as asymmetries in shape and facet pattern. Both also have a small table relative to the diamond’s diameter.
Finally, just like modern brilliant diamonds, old European and old mine cut diamonds also both have 58 facets.
As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) explains, the “old European cut was an early evolutionary stage in the progression toward the modern round brilliant. In general, trade professionals characterize old European cuts as having small table facets, heavy crowns and overall ‘deep’ or ‘steep’ proportions.”
Old European Cut vs. Round Brilliant Cut
At a glance, old European cut diamonds can look extremely similar to modern round brilliant cut diamonds. This isn’t a coincidence. After all, the modern brilliant cut evolved from older diamond cuts, including the old European cut.
However, there are a few major differences between the old European cut and the round brilliant cut that you’ll be able to notice after comparing the two side by side:
Table size. Old European cut diamonds are famous for their small tables, which tend to be 53% of the diamond’s diameter or less. Sometimes, you might see old European cut with tables as small as 38% of the diamond’s total diameter.
Facet shape. Although old European cut diamonds and round diamonds have a similar number of facets (58, or 57 if the culet isn’t counted), the facets of each diamond cut are a different shape.
An old European cut diamond will have triangular facets, while a round diamond’s facets are thinner. The old European cut also has very long lower-half facets, accounting for at least 60% of the diamond’s total depth.
Girdle finishing. Like other antique cut diamonds, old European cut diamonds usually have a bruted, or frosted, girdle. The majority of round brilliant cut diamonds and other modern diamonds have a faceted girdle.
Precision and symmetry. Compared to a round brilliant cut diamond, an old European cut diamond won’t be as symmetrical or precisely cut. This is because the diamond was cut by hand before the use of modern imaging and laser cutting tools.
Cut for color vs. brilliance. The modern round brilliant cut is cut, as you’d expect from its name, for optimal brilliance. In contrast, the old European cut is designed primarily to showcase a diamond’s color.
Are Old European Cut Diamonds Worth More?
In general, old European cut diamonds and other antique diamonds cost slightly less than new diamonds. This is because they’re already mined and cut, and as such doesn’t require all of the other costs that go into a newly cut, modern diamond.
Prices for old European cut diamonds can vary based on the diamond’s color, clarity and carat weight. In general, like with most antique cut diamonds, you can expect to pay about 20% less for an old European cut diamond than for a new modern cut of similar carat weight.
However, due to the increasing popularity of antique cut diamonds, this is changing, with some old European cut diamonds selling for the same price per carat as diamonds in modern cuts.
In some cases, an old European cut diamond might be worth more than a new diamond of the same carat weight and quality. For example, beautifully cut diamonds or diamonds that have a special historical or cultural significance often sell at a significant premium.
Pros and Cons
Like other diamond shapes, the old European cut has its own variety of unique advantages and disadvantages. We’ve listed these below.
Pros of the Old European Cut
Unique and one-of-a-kind. Because old European cut diamonds are cut, measured and polished by hand, each one is completely unique. This gives old European cut diamonds a special quality that many people appreciate.
Impressive “inner fire.” Although old European cut diamonds aren’t as brilliant as more modern diamond shapes, they have something that antique diamond enthusiasts refer to as “inner fire.”
Inner fire is the bright and dark, checkerboard-like flashes of light that can occur when an old European cut diamond is viewed from above. Less intense than the fire seen in modern diamonds, it’s a unique feature that fans of antique diamonds appreciate.
Good value for money. Old European cut diamonds and other antique diamonds are often available at a lower price than modern cut diamonds, making them a good value option if you’re a fan of how antique diamonds look.
Environmentally friendly. Because antique diamonds have already been mined, their impact on the environment is usually lower than that of a new diamond.
Perfect for antique engagement rings. As an antique cut, the old European cut is an excellent match for antique engagement rings, which are experiencing something of a resurgence in recent years.
Increasingly rare. As an antique cut, old European cut diamonds are an increasingly rare type of diamond. Over the decades, many old European cut diamonds have been recut into modern shapes, limiting the number of stones left on the market.
This may add to their appeal if you’re a jewelry enthusiast or just want a diamond that’s unique and uncommon.
Cons of the Old European Cut
Limited options and availability. Because they’re significantly rarer than round brilliant cut diamonds and other modern diamond shapes, a limited selection of old European cut diamonds is available, affecting your choice of cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
Imperfect cut quality. As we’ve mentioned above, most old European cut diamonds are from an era prior to modern diamond cutting machinery. As such, these diamonds aren’t as precisely cut as a modern round brilliant or similar modern diamond.
This means you’ll often come across diamonds that have imperfect facets or aren’t quite perfectly round. Ultimately, these imperfections are part of the charm of a hand-cut stone that’s been around for longer than modern diamond cutting technology.
No GIA cut grades. Because the cut quality of old European cut diamonds can vary so dramatically, the GIA doesn’t list a cut grade for diamonds of this type.
This means you’ll need to focus more on how the diamond looks to your eye, rather than just relying on its certificate. However, the GIA certificate is still helpful for peace of mind regarding the diamond’s color and clarity.
If you need help choosing an old European cut diamond, feel free to contact us and we’ll assist in finding something that matches your tastes and budget.
Tips for Buying an Old European Cut Diamond
Focus on personal preference, not just the certificate. While we recommend paying close attention to a diamond’s GIA certificate for modern cuts, buying an old European cut diamond is much more about personal preference.
Focus on diamonds that look attractive to your eye, as a lot of the appeal of an antique diamond is its sense of character rather than optimal cut quality, color or clarity.
Pair it with a vintage setting. The best settings for old European cut diamonds tend to be custom made. To match their origins, many buyers of old European cut diamonds opt to mount them in Edwardian, Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco era settings.
Consider a yellow or rose gold setting. Many antique cut diamonds have fairly low color grades, such as J, K, L or M. This is because these diamonds were often taken from mines that produced warmer-colored diamonds.
It’s also because many colorless and near-colorless old European cut diamonds have been recut over the years into round brilliants and other modern diamond shapes.
As a result of this, they tend to look more attractive in colored metals such as yellow gold than in white gold or platinum. Colored metals are also a more period-appropriate choice for classic and vintage-inspired engagement rings.
Buy from the right vendor. As we mentioned earlier, vendors like Blue Nile and James Allen don’t offer antique diamonds. You’re also unlikely to find antique diamonds in local jewelry stores or well-known chains.
If you’re interested in buying an old European cut diamond, we recommend Abe Mor, a NYC-based specialized diamond vendor. They stock a diverse range of stunning antique diamonds and settings at great prices. To get in touch, it’s best to send them an email.
Need expert help finding the right diamond? Contact us and we’ll help you to choose the perfect diamond engagement ring or other jewelry for your tastes and budget.
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