Love Old Cut Diamonds? Here’s a Quick Guide

Jewellery editor NATASHA SHERLING shares a helpful guide to finding OLD CUT DIAMONDS and selects the TOP LOTS from O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms’ upcoming jewellery sale …

I’ve always had a soft spot for old cut diamonds – back when diamond cutting was guided by eye and hand, rather than computers and lasers, fashioning gems from their rough was a skill passed down through generations. The Asscher family (after whom the asscher cut is named) have been cutting for 157 years now; it was one of the founding brothers, Joseph, who was tasked with splitting and polishing the Cullinan diamond before it landed in the British Crown Jewels – and urban legend tells that he fainted after striking the first blow, so delicate yet immense the task. The hand-fashioned style of old cuts make them chunkier, and clunkier than their modern counterparts, and nowhere near ‘perfect’ – on paper at least. But they emit this twinkle and glitter that just (in my mind) can’t be matched by the outright flash of a modern brilliant stone. And while we can’t all lay claim to Cullinans of our own, it is still possible to own little pieces of sparkling history, particularly by hunting them down at auction.


Tell tale signs of older stones are an asymmetric outline, small table (that’s the flat facet at the top centre of the diamond) and deep cut. Perhaps the biggest giveaway is that there is no point at the base of the diamond – it is instead cut off as a large flat extra facet, known as the culet.

One great starting point is O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms; they hold jewellery sales every month with the June auction set for next Wednesday June 20 – but we got a sneak peek before viewings open to the public on Sunday and were pleased to discover lots of glittering old diamonds among the six hundred lots set to go under the hammer.


We particularly love their selection of rings – ideal for engagements or cocktail hour – as well as some incredible brooches; this Art Deco piece inlaid with onyx is superb. The old cut stones weave through bracelets and earrings too, from the Victorian and Edwardian eras – although really the 1940s is when older cuts disappeared from view, to make way for the modern round brilliant diamond as we know it today. See their full catalogue here or pencil Sunday into your diary for a browse in their Francis Street showroom. And the good news for those outside of Dublin is that they have just started accepting online bids, so no need to even be in the room – hunting those old stones from the comfort of our couches has never been so easy.

Natasha Sherling

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