New Old Miners

Michael Goldstein, Manhattan estate diamond dealer and expert in old-cut-style diamonds, has encountered a new trend: new “old cut” stones, which are causing confusion in the market. “For the past year, we’ve noticed more reproductions of antique-cut diamonds and, unfortunately, in many instances, they’re being sold as genuine old-mine, old European, antique cushions and briolette-cut diamonds, without disclosure,” says Goldstein. With the proliferation of better-quality antique reproduction jewelry in the market, jewelers should be on the lookout for those that are being sold as originals.

The problem isn’t confined to the East Coast. Ari Madilian of Single Stone in Los Angeles says the “new old” stones are finding their way into the West Coast market. But he says the West Coast situation isn’t exactly like New York’s: “The new old cuts when traded between dealers are not as well accepted here as they might be in New York. I think it’s because the romance is missing.” Madilian, who has been in the estate diamond business in Los Angeles for the past decade, adds, “The stone doesn’t look the same. The new stones I find are far more shallow than the original stones. They may have the face-up look, but they don’t have the depth.”

It’s not that reproductions of old-cut diamonds are bad. On the contrary, the market accepts them. They just shouldn’t be sold as very old pieces, says Goldstein.

Repro diamonds typically come from India and other cutting centers with low-cost labor. Usually they’re sold in mixed parcels of crudely fashioned old Europeans, ovals, cushions, and emerald cuts weighing between .01 ct. and .75 ct. “They’re cut for maximum weight retention, not beauty or attractive symmetry,” says Goldstein. This “lumpiness” gives them the classic look of old-cut diamonds, which is fairly crude by today’s ideal standard. By the time they reach the typical retail store, they’re all calibrated.

“Just about every cutter is making cushions,” says Goldstein. “One reason is the demand, and second is the higher weight retention from the rough.”

One key to distinguishing new antique-cut diamonds from old originals, according to Goldstein, lies in the girdle. “The reproduction diamonds possess a thick, faceted girdle, whereas the original usually has a thin, often knife-edged frosted girdle,” he says. Thin girdles can result in chipped edges, so wear and tear is one way to identify an older stone. The thick girdles of new reproductions not only protect the girdle edge but also add more weight to an already weighty stone. The faceting of “new old” stones also can be a key to identification, especially at the culet. Smaller culets indicate a newer-cut stone. However, repro cutting of the old styles is getting better, according to Goldstein, which is making some of the stones hard to differentiate.

Chip off the old stone. Recutting old stones to remove unwanted chips and bruises also can lead to confusion. “Yes, many old stones are repaired,” says Goldstein. “If you send me an old stone that has serious chips and abrasions, the easiest way to fix it is to polish and facet the girdle. At the same time, why not polish out the abrasions? So [then] you have an old stone that’s been fixed up.”

Janet Levy of J. & S.S. DeYoung in New York agrees that it can be difficult—if not impossible—to tell whether a stone is old or new. “It’s like anything else: Sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t. When you buy old stones, most need to be recut. So you facet the girdle. A lot of old stones are refashioned. It’s very rare to find a 100-year-old stone without some wear that hasn’t been repolished. If you think a diamond isn’t going to get worn, just come in and take a look.”

Stones with serious problems can be repaired and still keep the look of an old stone, says Madilian. “In fact, there are some very good cutters who will make the repairs, leave the open culet, and then go back and brute the girdle,” he says. “Polishing or faceting the girdles doesn’t look pretty on an old mine cut.”

Asscher cuts. Another old cut that’s back in the market is the Asscher cut. Original Asscher-cut diamonds are rare, but you can find reproductions almost anywhere, says Goldstein. “They’re not true Asschers, although they’re getting better.” The Asscher cut, manufactured by I.J. Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam in 1902, was the first emerald cut. It is typically squarish, with a small table—52% or smaller—fat corners, fat facets, with high crown and deep pavilion. “The true Asscher cuts are so few and far between that it’s almost impossible to find one. Now, all of the sudden, they’re everywhere.”

Most jewelers would probably classify them as square emerald cuts, says Goldstein, adding, “What was really indicative of the Asscher cut was its incredible brilliance. They’re amazingly beautiful. And they had a lot of depth.” Cutters are cutting more pseudo-Asscher cuts today because they’re more economical in weight retention, and they’re in strong demand.

While there are no definitive measurements for an Asscher cut, Madilian says that when you see one, “you just know it. Usually the facets are larger and not as symmetrically perfect as you would see on a new stone. There will probably be some abrasions, and it doesn’t come with a GIA cert.”

Know your supplier. “Most of us deal in some combination of new and old pieces,” says Levy. “Some people want what I would call the ‘personality’ of the old stone. There are very good reproductions around, so you want to deal with someone who is reputable. We tell them, ‘this is new, this is old.’ And just be honest about what you’re selling—it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ “

Repro diamonds and jewelry are acceptable substitutes for the original antique articles, says Goldstein, but jewelers should be aware that reproductions exist. Seeing an old mine cut on a diamond doesn’t prove its age. “Diamonds aren’t the best way to date a piece of jewelry,” he warns. “You can take very old stones and put them into a new piece.” And there’s old jewelry with newly cut diamonds: “Old diamonds are replaced all the time as they fall out.”

Be sure to ask your supplier if what you are buying is a reproduction, and learn how to recognize the differences. “Most importantly, jewelers who choose to sell reproduction antique diamonds and jewelry should be sure to disclose [the] facts to their customers, who may otherwise believe they are buying the old original,” says Goldstein.

Goldstein publishes a pricing guide for antique cut diamonds. The price guide also contains information on the purchase, replacement, and appraisal of older cut diamonds. For a free copy of the Antique-Cut Diamond Price Guide, contact Goldstein at 580 Fifth Ave., Suite 903, New York, NY 10036; (212) 764-3430, (800) 235-6581, or visit www.antiquediamond.com. You can call Ari Madilian at Single Stone in Los Angeles at (213) 892-0947, and Janet Levy at J. & S.S. DeYoung in New York at (800) 525-3250.