Chase to the Cut

Democracy at Work

If you’re tired of the same old round brilliant diamond, and you want something special—something that will make the hard sell easy—it may be time to take a closer look at recent developments in diamond design. Although some new designs are variations on standard themes, others are instant cures for the brilliant blues.

The shape of diamonds past. The round, emerald cut, pear, oval, marquise, and heart are traditional shapes, the standard styles we expect to see in a jewelry store. But even standards change over time.

The rose cut, a flat-bottomed stone with triangular facets that meet at the top, was the first faceted diamond to claim the title “standard shape.” The cushion cut (called an “old miner”) wasn’t far behind. The rough crystal—the form nature had given the stone—dictated the cushion’s faceted shape. The rough octahedron was polished ever so slightly, just enough to give some life to the stone.

In due time, the cushion’s corners were polished away, giving rise to the most symmetrical of shapes, the round brilliant cut. The round brilliant has been a traditional shape for nearly 100 years. But today, with slight modifications, the round isn’t just brilliant— it’s scintillating.

New look or mere modification? Do a few extra facets and a fancy new name change the look of the stone, or is it just a “marketing thing”?

Gabi Tolkowsky, designer and master cutter of the new line of Gabrielle Diamonds, thinks his is a cut above. Composed of 105 facets—47 more than the traditional brilliant cut—the Gabrielle is one of Tolkowsky’s new design innovations (his latest is the brand-new Savannah cut; see p. 140). Said to have greater brilliance and fire than any other well-cut diamond, Gabrielles are featured by Suberi Brothers in New York.

The decision to facet a diamond differently from the standard shouldn’t be made lightly. You need to understand the art of diamond cutting, and Tolkowsky does. He learned his craft from his father, Jean Tolkowsky, a master cutter, and he comes from a well-known family of diamantaires that includes his great-uncle, Marcel Tolkowsky. Marcel, of course, is the man who set the parameters for cutting the “Ideal” round brilliant in 1919.

During his legendary 40-year career as a master cutter, Gabi Tolkowsky has cut some important gems. They include the 273.85-ct. “Centenary,” the largest colorless, flawless, modern-cut diamond, and the “Golden Jubilee,” a 545.65-ct. fancy yellow-brown diamond that’s the largest polished gem diamond in the world today.

These two large diamonds are Tolkowsky’s signature pieces—they show his artistic ability to do more for the gem than can be accomplished by a traditional cutter with a traditional style. The designs are modern yet not so contemporary that they’re bizarre. The common theme in all his designs is the greater number of facets. Does the Gabrielle have more brilliance and dispersion than a traditional round brilliant? That’s a matter of opinion. But one thing is certain. More facets create more scintillation—more flashes of light from within the diamond and from its surface. In other words, more sparkle.

To create the Gabrielle, Tolkowsky takes a standard round brilliant and horizontally splits the bezel facets on the crown. Then he places 40 smaller facets around the culet, creating more scintillation in the table area—the diamond’s “picture window.” Total number of facets: 105—64 on the pavilion, 41 on the crown. (There’s no culet facet.) Therefore, the Gabrielles are super scintillating without stretching the boundaries too far from the traditional facet arrangement.

It’s a New Century. Michael Parker of Michael’s Fine Jewelry in Aiea, Hawaii, also believes in “more is better.” He received a patent for his New Century cut, which he designed for his retail customers.

Parker’s research into the new cut included independent studies by optical engineers. Those studies suggest to him that his new design is more brilliant than other diamonds, even those cut to “Ideal” proportions. That’s a matter of opinion, but, once again, more facets mean more scintillation.

The New Century’s facet arrangement includes horizontally split bezel facets on the crown, adding eight facets to the top. But Parker adds one upper girdle facet between each of the standard eight pairs. This makes a total of 16 additional facets on the crown. On the New Century’s pavilion, Parker vertically double-splits six of the eight lower girdle facets, which adds 28 lower girdle-type facets.

Like the Gabrielle, the New Century focuses more attention on the reaction of light in the pavilion rather than on reflections from extra facets on the crown.

Eighty-two facets. As we reported in the August 1999 issue (“Diamonds and Diversions,” p. 60), Royal Brilliant Co. introduced its 82-facet diamond, the Royal Brilliant 82, at the 1999 JCK Show in Las Vegas. Instead of eight bezel facets, eight star facets, and 16 upper girdle facets on the crown, the Royal 82 has two rows of 10 bezel facets each (totaling 20), 10 star facets, and 20 upper girdle facets. This places 18 more facets on the crown than the standard 33 (including table). The pavilion has 10 pavilion main facets and 20 lower girdle facets, which totals 31 pavilion facets instead of the traditional 25 (culet included). If dispersion—fire—comes from light exiting the crown facets, the Royal Brilliant 82, with its 20 bezel facets, should have more than double the dispersion of other designer cuts.

Diamonds by Lili. In 1996, Lili Diamonds, part of Siman-Tov Bros. Manufacturing and Export in Ramat-Gan, Israel, patented the Criss Cut and Lily Cut diamond designs. The Criss Cut, a cut-corner rectangular mixed cut, applies the outline of a standard emerald cut but diagonally splits the pavilion step facets, creating four triangular facets for every step, for a total of 77 facets.

The Criss Cut works on the same principle as the Radiant Cut, which was the first to dramatically modify the emerald cut. But whereas the Radiant changed the number of steps and added more “brilliants” (triangular facets), the Criss Cut stays closer to the original emerald cut yet dramatically changes the gem’s scintillation.

The Lily Cut does not modify a standard shape, it defines a new one. It’s clover-shaped, with 65 facets. Lili compares it with the 43 facets of a standard princess cut, but the two have little in common.

“We like to offer clients something out of the ordinary,” says Lili’s Isaac Siman-Tov. “The way we do it is to always send to the market something different—big surprises all the time. That way, people know your name, and they recognize you are an innovative supplier.”

The rose and the Lion. Has the rose cut returned? Four new diamond styles are sporting the top point of the old rose, with innovative twists. One, the Lion Cut, comes from jeweler/cutter Paul De Maere of Antwerp. De Maere worked with the Scientific and Technical Diamond Research Center (WTOCD) and Antwerp’s Diamond High Council (HRD) to create a cut that makes a diamond look bigger but keeps the traditional 58 facets and doesn’t sacrifice beauty. By taking facets up to a central point, the crown acts as a magnifier, creating the illusion of a bigger stone.

The Lion Cut’s pavilion is standard; the action is on the crown, which is cut with what appear to be standard upper girdle facets, 16 in all. They are separated not by a kite-shaped bezel facet but by another triangular facet, eight in all. From these eight “half bezels” emanate eight wedge-shaped facets that meet, point-up, directly in the center.

The crown design looks like a combination of a standard rose cut and the less popular Swiss cut. The one telling difference between the Lion’s crown and the old rose is in the number of facets; the rose cut worked on a six-facet symmetry, the Lion Cut works with eight-facet symmetry. Theoretically, eight large triangular facets on top should produce big, broad flashes of fire.

The Lion Cut isn’t limited to the round shape. Many shapes lend themselves to the design.

The Spirit of Flanders. Another cousin of the rose, the 80-facet Spirit of Flanders, came out of Antwerp in 1999 and was specially designed for Independent Jewelers Organization members. The major redesign takes place on the crown. The upper girdle facets remain standard (shades of the Lion), and the bezel facets are cut horizontally in half, leaving just the lower triangle. From the eight remaining “half-bezels” comes a series of one trapezoidal facet and a second triangle at the apex of what would have been the table. There are 40 crown facets. On the pavilion, the lower girdle facets are split vertically, which adds 16 facets for a total of 41 (including culet). It’s a fun look that allows for more (but smaller) flashes of dispersion from the crown than does the Lion.

Spirit Sun and Context Cuts. Instead of taking an older style of cutting and modifying it to a modern design, diamond cutter Dr. Ulrich Freiesleben of Münster, Germany, bases his approach on a diamond’s ability to return light. “The ideal-typical crystal of the natural diamond is the octahedron,” notes Freiesleben. “This rough diamond is at the beginning of the unique Context Cut. The eight facets of the natural diamond-octahedron are carefully cut to facets in such a way that total reflection of the incident light is created—not more and not less. Thus, the cut gives prominence to its natural counterpart rather than elaborately ‘transforming’ the stone. Context Cut means ennoblement by clarity and by simplicity.”

That’s it. Just eight facets, four on the pavilion, four on the crown. The look is outstanding—bright and very nontraditional.

According to lore and tradition, the diamond is the stone of the sun. The Spirit Sun rises from a Context Cut that’s been shaped into a round and faceted with 16 crown facets and 16 pavilion facets. The result is extraordinary. Huge, broad flashes of dispersion come glinting out of the long crown facets. It looks like a fiery spinning top.

Freiesleben’s diamond designs are attracting attention, but promotion of such unusual cuts for such a traditional gem is a challenge. The banner that Freiesleben carries for his cause is his second annual hardbound book on Spirit Sun and Context Cut diamonds. The book not only gives a history of the designs but also features European jewelry designers who are using the diamonds in their work.

One such award-winning designer, Kurt Neukomm of Burgdorf, Switzerland, is using both specialty cuts, mainly in rings. “I learned of these cuts first in 1976 by colored stones master cutter Bernd Munsteiner, and I still own a few of them—stones like citrines, amethysts, and aquamarines,” says Neukomm. “However, I had to be patient until I could see the first Context and Spirit Sun diamond cuts.”

Freiesleben has had scientific studies performed on his new designs. “The findings show that Context and Spirit Sun cut diamonds have higher light reflectivity than Ideal cut brilliants like ‘Hearts and Arrows,’ etc.,” he says. “The Spirit Sun cut gives the diamond a special brilliance. The arrangement of the facets around the center of the stone gathers the light and gives it an unmistakable radiance, the fundamental characteristics of the natural mineral.” The Fraunhofer Institute of Physical Measurement states that “the degree of light reflection achieved is significantly higher than previously measured in traditionally cut diamonds.”

Notions about which diamond cut displays the best brilliance and dispersion stir no end of controversy. Some day, Freiesleben’s designs may finally put an end to the debate.

To order Ulrich Freiesleben’s book, contact him directly by mail at Postfach 47 02 41, D-48076 Münster, Germany; phone (49-2506) 93030, or fax (49-2506) 9303-30,


Two Really New Cuts

Tycoon Jewelry of Los Angeles has created and patented a new 29-facet square and rectangular design called the Tycoon Cut. Each stone has eight triangular brilliant-shaped facets on the crown, which lead to a diamond-shaped table. “It’s like having a diamond on a diamond,” says Toros Kejejian, founder and CEO of Tycoon. The pavilion has been given five rows of rectangular step facets, for a total of 20 pavilion facets.

The “J.C. Millennium cut,” a 16-sided “round” brilliant, was developed by Antwerp master cutter John Cuelemans (J.C.) of J&D Diamonds B.V.B.A. His new design modifies both the crown and the pavilion. The crown includes bezel facets that have been vertically split in two. There are 16 standard upper girdle facets and eight star facets, for a total of 41 facets on the crown. The pavilion is redesigned in the culet area to include 16 small triangles placed at the base of each shortened pavilion main, with eight additional small mains that point to the culet, for a total of 48 pavilion facets. Looking through the table, as with the new Gabrielles, one will see a flower-shaped form, which enhances the diamond’s scintillation.