A Diamond Smorgasbord

New diamond polishing technology and an urgent need to offer something new and distinctive are bringing consumers an ever-widening choice of diamond shapes and styles. The manufacturers say these new cuts can differentiate jewelrymakers and retailers from their competition and subvert price lists by offering a product that can’t be shopped around easily.

Laser-cutting devices, more accurate polishing machines, precise measuring equipment and a better understanding of how light interacts with diamond have helped to make new diamond cuts possible.

Contributing to the explosion of new diamond cuts is the growing acceptance of them by retailers, jewelry designers and – ultimately – consumers.

In the past, new cuts were largely attempts to create sizable gems from misshapen or unaccommodating rough diamonds that would not produce a traditional cut (round, pear, heart, princess, triangle, emerald or marquise). Holding unusual cuts in inventory was a dice roll, says one dealer. “You could get stuck if they didn’t sell right away,” says the dealer. “That’s different now because consumers are more accepting of them and the cuts have gotten better – people are trying to make a more beautiful diamond, not just salvaging a bad piece of rough.”

THE GABRIELLE™

The latest entry is the Gabrielle™, created by master diamond cutter Gabi Tolkowsky. The Gabrielle™ isn’t actually a new shape – it follows basic Ideal Cut parameters – but presents a new facet arrangement designed to maximize the fire of a round diamond.

“The cut is the result of studying the effect of light in a diamond from cutting two of the largest diamonds in the world: De Beers’ Centenary and the Golden Jubilee,” says Tolkowsky. “I wanted to retain the basic proportions of a precise round brilliant but add facets in strategic places in the crown and culet.

“Looking through the table, one can see the center of the diamonds – the culet. Adding culet facets brings more light – fire – to the center. Then adding facets to the crown creates a circle of light through the crown which actually increases as the eye moves away from the stone.” The result is two separate plays of light, giving the stone its strong fire and brilliance.

Tolkowsky is now adapting the cut to create more life in ovals, pears and marquises and eliminate their “bow ties” (darkened facets where the light leaks out).

Glenn Markman of Suberi Bros., the New York City company that markets the Gabrielle™, says the diamonds are priced competitively with Ideal Cuts and are available in rounds, loose or in solitaire settings.

Tolkowsky’s first venture into creating new cuts was the “Flower” series introduced a decade ago under the sponsorship of De Beers. Originally designed to bring life to darker or shallow rough, one or two of the cuts – notably the Fire Rose™ – have become reasonably popular with jewelry designers because their straight edges allow the diamonds to be set together in an unbroken line or cluster.

Suberi Bros. markets Flower-cut jewelry lines in the U.S. but prefers to concentrate its efforts on cuts for which it has an exclusive distributorship, says Markman.

THE ROYAL CUTS

Suberi Bros. does have an exclusive agreement with Raphaeli-Stschik of Ramat Gan, Israel, to market the Royal Cuts – oval, marquise and pears with straightened edges – created by Gershon Stschik.

Markman says the patented Royals, the Baroness (65 facets, eight sides), the Empress (64 facets, seven sides) and the Duchess (63 facets, six sides) appeal to mass merchandisers because they offer a look 50% larger than their actual weight. “In short, a half-carat has the look of a three-quarter-carat for the half-carat price,” he says. The cuts also appeal to independent retailers because of their “life and beauty.”

THE CRISSCUT®

Diamond cutter Christopher Slowinski of Christopher Designs, New York City, has modified traditional emerald and baguette cuts into the Crisscut®, which derives added brilliance and fire from triangular facets applied to the steps in the pavilion.

“I found that many traditional baguettes start looking like glass after they become a little dirty at the bottom,” says Slowinski. “The Crisscut® adds the extra brillianceto keep the diamond from getting that look.” Crisscuts® are offered in finished jewelry or loose in carat-plus sizes.

Though the Crisscut® costs only 10% more than traditional emerald or baguette cuts, Slowinski aims his cuts at higher-end jewelers. He says Borsheim’s in Omaha, Neb., for example, has run several Crisscut® jewelry promotions.

DIAMOND STARS

Star-shaped diamonds have been around for as long as there have been lasers to cut them, but Diamond Stars by Pancis Gems, New York City, are the first to be fashioned from a proper piece of rough or, in some cases, existing round diamonds.

“What makes Diamond Stars different is that ours have 76 facets and the same depth as round diamonds,” says Jeff Pancis. “This is what gives them their brilliance.” Previous star-shaped cuts tended to be made from flat rough.

But because the yield is only 15%, Pancis sells the stars by millimeter width, not carat weight. “If priced per carat, the cost would be prohibitive,” he says. However, he says the millimeter measurements correspond to Ideal Cut rounds – a 6.5mm Star, for example, would equal a 1-ct. Ideal Cut.

“We did fear resistance when we started five years ago, but people overcome that when they understand how they are made,” he says.

Some Diamond Stars are cut from existing round diamonds. “We try to look for highly included rounds where the problems are off to the side and can be cut out, but it doesn’t always work that way,” says Pancis.

Although his aim is at custom designers and upscale retailers, Pancis says he’s sold quite a few stones through Sterling, the chain giant, and does well with special orders. In fact, the company provided 150 stones for Super Bowl rings this year. “That was our first large order,” he says. “They wanted calibrated sizes, which we couldn’t quite do to precise measurements then. We lost our shirt on that one, but we’ve since learned how to do quantity orders like that.”

THE LILI®

Lili Diamonds of Israel, which has a branch office in Los Angeles, Cal., offers the Lili Cut®, a 77-facet cut with four ovals mounted from a center axis laser-cut from rough that is normally used for princess cuts. “It’s some of the most expensive rough there is,” says David Katz, who heads the Los Angeles office. “That’s why we are aiming at the high-market, quality retailer.”

The Lili® is available from 20 points up and “offers a very elegant look for jewelry designers” says Katz.

The Flanders Brilliant®

National Diamond, Chicago, Ill., markets the Flanders Brilliant®, a six-sided fancy cut to Ideal Cut proportions.

Though the cut represents only 5% of National’s business, it gives the company a unique identity, says Vice President Keith Zimmerman. “We’ve attracted a growing group of jewelers who are looking for a unique product that can’t be price-shopped so easily,” he says. He’s still taking a lower markup on his Flanders® cuts to develop a market for them.

THE 144® CUT

David Perelman, who heads 144 International of Elgin, Ill., agrees there’s a growing market for distinctive diamond cuts, particularly if they are quality-oriented. His typical customer is an independent jeweler or small retail chain with Gemological Institute of America-trained staff members.

The 144-facet stones are rounds of “nearly Ideal” proportions (tables can go up to 60%) which the company cuts in its Puerto Rico factory. The company also produces 144-facet pears, marquise, cushions and ovals.

THE RADIANT CUT

T he Radiant Cut – a modified emerald cut with additional faceting in the belly to add brilliance – has been I. Starck’s niche for 15 years. The key to the patented Radiant is that the make has to be excellent. I. Starck is based in Chicago, Ill.

THE QUEEN’S CUT

Henry Grossbard of New York City introduced the Queen’s Cut, a 60-facet modified oval, several years ago in carat-plus sizes to commemorate the birthday of Thailand’s ruler.

The patented cut gained popularity in the U.S., but was discontinued because of supply problems,” says Stan Grossbard. “We couldn’t even remotely find enough rough to produce a line of Queen’s Cuts,” he says. “We’ll do them again as soon as the rough situation improves.”

The cut takes the same rough as round diamonds. “Everyone knows what De Beers’ Central Selling Organisation has done with that type of rough,” he says, adding the CSO’s allocations have kept supplies of carat-plus rounds far below demand.

Popular or not, specialty cuts take more sales effort than traditional cuts, says Grossbard. “As soon as we finish round stones, they go off the wheel and out the door,” he says. “Queen’s don’t have that audience yet.”

THE MARKET, THE CHALLENGES

While diamond cutters continue to create new diamond cuts, they represent a tiny fraction

of the overall diamond jewelry market. According to De Beers research, only 1% of all diamond engagement rings sold in the U.S. during 1995 used a non-traditional shape. Outside the engagement ring market there are no official surveys from De Beers, but retailers and jewelry manufacturers say the percentage is somewhat higher in designer and solitaire pieces – as much as 3% to 4% of market share.

On the legal side, some diamond manufacturers have patented the diamond designs, but such patents apply only to exact facet arrangements. Manufacturers say their competitive protection lies largely in trademarking the name and creating a “branded” product through exclusive distribution networks, similar to the way jewelry designers work.

For example, Grossbard says anyone can copy the Queen’s Cut by changing a few facets around. “But we’ve got the name and the reputation for producing a quality cut,” he says.