World’s Greatest Diamond Cutters: Joseph Asscher and the Asscher Cut Diamond
Posted April 23, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

At Brilliance.com, we like to recognize the pioneers in the diamond industry. Our latest series of feature articles, “World’s Greatest Diamond Cutters,” takes an in-depth look at the people who made diamond cutting a fine art. Today, we kick off the series with one of Amsterdam’s finest, the creator of the Asscher Cut diamond, Joseph Asscher.

Joseph Asscher

People crowded the streets, and jostled each other aside for the best view of one of the most breathtaking feats of their lifetime. Inside, the master prepared for the task at hand. He glanced over his tools, and took a mental inventory. He wiped sweat from his brow, and raised his gaze to the monstrous being before him–the “goliath” he planned to conquer that very night.

Alright, perhaps the night the famous diamond cutter, Joseph Asscher, first attempted to cleave (meaning “to cut the raw diamond into smaller pieces”) the giant Cullinan diamond wasn’t quite that dramatic. None the less, chopping into a diamond weighing 3,106.75 carats is no simple task. Found in the Premier No. 2 mine near Pretoria, South Africa in 1905, the Cullinan diamond was the largest gem-quality diamond ever found. Joseph Asscher was such a renowned diamond cutter, some tales even named him the “Greatest Cleaver in the World.” The King of England at the time, Edward the VII, commissioned Asscher to cleave the Cullinan into three parts, to later be included in the famous “Crown Jewels.”

Legend has it that Joseph Asscher first attempted to cleave the immense stone in front of a crowd, but broke his blade upon impact (the diamond, however, was not damaged). His second attempt took place a week later, with only the notary public accompanying him in the room. With a single blow, Asscher perfectly cleaved the diamond in accordance with his original calculations.

History

Born into a family of jewelers, the third-generation diamond experts, Joseph, and his brother Abraham Asscher, became two of the most profound diamond experts of the 20th century. Together they formed the Asscher Diamond Company, which still exists today under the more prestigious name “The Royal Asscher Diamond Company.” Prior to his experience with the Cullinan diamond, Joseph Asscher made a name for himself by designing the famous “Asscher Cut” diamond in 1902. The Asscher Cut was so unique, it quickly gained international fame and became one of the most desired diamond cuts. Due to its popularity, the Asscher Diamond Company quickly patented the design, ensuring all Asscher Cut diamonds came only from their store.

World War II brought great misfortune to the Asschers. In 1945, the family and their diamond polishers were deported from the Netherlands, forced into concentration camps, and all the company’s diamonds were seized. One year later, the 10 Asscher family members and 15 polishers who survived the camps returned to Amsterdam, only to find the country’s diamond industry destroyed. Two of the Asscher family survivors, Louis and Joseph, decided to rebuild the Asscher Diamond Company.

In 1980, the Asschers’ rebuilding efforts paid off when Her Majesty, Queen Juliana of Holland, gave the Asscher Diamond Company a royal title. The business maintains the “Royal Asscher Diamond Company” name today.

Still owned by the Asscher family, the Royal Asscher Diamond Company takes pride in its 158-year-old legacy of diamond innovation and craftsmanship. In 1999, Louis Asscher’s sons, Edward and Joop, began researching ways to enhance Joseph’s original Asscher Cut. Two years later, and nearly 100 years after Joseph patented the original Asscher Cut, Edward and Joop unveiled the newly-patented “Royal Asscher Cut.”

Asscher Cut vs. Royal Asscher Cut

Finding an original Asscher Cut diamond is rare. Many are family heirlooms, while others are in antique shops all over the world. The Asscher Cut was arguably one of the most beautiful and highly-coveted cuts ever created. Very few diamond cutters were able to create an Asscher Cut because its design had no set proportions or measurements by which to cut the stone. Instead, the cutter must craft each diamond individually to maximize its light reflection and display the unique beauty of each stone.

The traditional Asscher Cut is a step-cut stone featuring a greater number of narrower step cuts in the crown than a traditional Emerald Cut diamond. Two major features that set an Asscher Cut apart from an Emerald Cut is the Asscher’s greater total depth of the diamond and its increased number of facets. Both factors contribute to the increase in light reflection and resulting fire you see in an Asscher Cut stone.

Inscribed with the Royal Asscher Cut logo and an identification number, Royal Asscher Cut diamonds are individually registered with the Royal Asscher Diamond Company. Each diamond comes with a certificate of authenticity that includes its identification number as well as an additional certification from one or more of the following agencies: the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Belgium’s Diamond High Council (Hoge Raad voor Diamant) (HRD), and the American Gem Society (AGS). The Royal Asscher Diamond Company promises that all Royal Asscher Cut diamonds are all-natural, untreated, and conflict-free.

Compared to the Asscher Cut diamond’s 58 facets, the Royal Asscher Cut features 74, giving this cut greater brilliance and more fire than its traditional counterpart. Creating the Royal Asscher Cut is quite a feat. Three months of intense training is required before a polisher can fully learn the skills necessary to polish a diamond to the exact specifications. In fact, there are less than 75 people worldwide qualified to cut and polish a Royal Asscher Cut diamond! This cut can only be obtained from an octahedral-shaped rough diamond crystal, and must be cut above the girdle. Cutting the diamond this way gives the Royal Asscher Cut a higher crown than the traditional Asscher Cut, but it also sacrifices an additional 15% of the rough diamond. The higher crown allows for more color and light dispersion, giving the Royal Asscher Cut superior brilliance.

Due to the unique features of each Asscher Cut diamond, it is difficult to determine how the stone looks based solely on its paper report. Hand pick your stone to ensure you select one with the most fire and brilliance, rather than one with a more “glassy” appearance. To see our collection of Asscher cut diamonds, visit our diamond search.

Synthetic Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds
Posted April 10, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Lab Diamond and Lab Tech

At Brilliance, jewelry shoppers can expect the highest quality loose diamonds and diamond jewelry. Not only are all our diamonds conflict-free, but they are certified as 100-percent natural. Many jewelry retailers opt to sell synthetic diamonds, instead of natural diamonds, because they are less expensive. If you are purchasing a diamond on a budget, you should know the differences between a synthetic diamond and a natural diamond prior to making your purchase.

What is a “Synthetic” Diamond?

Technically, a synthetic diamond is one that is created by artificial, rather than geological, means. The term “synthetic” encompasses many other terms related to diamonds including “man-made,” “lab-created,” “laboratory-grown,” “cultured diamond,” and “cultivated diamond.” These diamonds, like natural diamonds, are made from carbon and have the same refractive index, density, hardness, dispersion, and crystalline structure as those diamonds mined from the Earth. Synthetic diamonds are often confused with another non-natural diamond called a “diamond simulant,” which we will discuss later in more detail. One of the most common methods of creating synthetic diamonds is Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).

Chemical Vapor Deposition

First produced about ten years ago, CVD diamonds are relatively new to the jewelry market. As the name suggests, carbon-based gases are heated to extremely high temperatures inside the CVD machine until the molecules break apart, releasing the carbon atoms. These atoms rain down onto a diamond substrate at the bottom of the machine, building up on one another like snowflakes to form the layers of the diamond. Many of the early CVD diamonds were black or brown, but scientists found that by changing the gases in the machine and treating the gases at high temperatures and high pressure, colorless diamonds could be created. Today, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a natural diamond and a CVD diamond.

Diamond Simulants

These stones may look like a diamond to the naked eye, but technically, they are very different. Far less expensive than both natural and synthetic diamonds, diamond simulants include such materials as Cubic Zirconia (CZ), high-leaded glass (rhinestones), white sapphire, moissanite, and Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG). None of the simulants are created solely from carbon, and only CZ and YAG have the same crystalline structure as a natural or synthetic diamond. The density, refractive index, and dispersion are all different compared to those of a diamond, and all the simulants earned a softer rating than the diamond’s “10” rating on the Mohs Scale.

Cubic Zirconia

One of the most popular diamond simulants is Cubic Zirconia. Available on the jewelry market since 1976, CZ is created from zirconium dioxide, making it heavier than a natural diamond. The added weight makes it more difficult for light to pass through the stone easily, giving the CZ a lower refractive index (and therefore less brilliance) than the natural diamond. While the affordable price of the CZ is enticing, many diamond aficionados agree that they look “too perfect,” making them unrealistic substitutes for diamonds.

Moissanite

First discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan, this diamond substitute is relatively new to the jewelry industry. Moissan initially thought the silicon carbide crystals he found in a meteor crater in Canyon Diablo, Arizona were diamonds; however, upon closer inspection he found this mineral to have a different chemical composition than a diamond. The mineral was named “Moissanite” later in Moissan’s life, after its discoverer.

Occurring naturally in meteorites, and as inclusions in diamonds, xenoliths, and ultramafic rocks, Moissanite is very rare in its natural form. Due to the scarcity of this mineral, today’s Moissanite is manufactured in laboratories for use in jewelry, making it one of the most available synthetic diamonds.

Moissanite rates between a 9.25 and 9.5 on the Mohs Scale, making it one of the hardest minerals on Earth and a good natural diamond substitute for industrial use as abrasives and cutting material. As a gemstone 120% stronger than CZ, Moissanite better resists abrasion and scratching. Its unique crystalline structure is different from a natural diamond because it does not exhibit a direction of cleavage–a trait, some argue, that makes it stronger than a diamond.

Introduced to the jewelry market in 1998, Moissanite’s optical qualities, lower price, and ethical production method quickly made it popular as a synthetic option to natural diamonds. In comparison, Moissanite’s color often falls in the I-J-K range of the diamond grading scale, and is comparable in clarity to a diamond with a VS rating. With a higher refractive index than a natural diamond, and 50% greater luster than CZ, Moissanite is a very shiny, convincing synthetic. Between its sparkle and its similar thermal conductivity to that of a natural diamond, Moissanite is often used by scammers to sell a synthetic diamond under the guise of the real thing. Unlike CZ, Moissanite and natural diamond have similar thermal conductivity, making it difficult to differentiate the two using traditional thermal conductivity testing. Instead, opt for an electrical conductivity test if you encounter an unscrupulous individual trying to sell you a Moissanite for the cost of a natural diamond.

Identifying Synthetic Diamonds

When you decide to purchase a diamond, it is important to know exactly what you are getting. Natural diamonds should come with a graded certificate from a nationally-recognized gemological institute. If your stone does not have a certificate, you should ask your jeweler to provide one to ensure the authenticity of the diamond. Most brightly-colored diamonds are synthetic, although color is not always the best determining factor. Used to view the structure or growth pattern of the diamond, a spectrometer is a good tool to use to identify synthetic diamonds, which grow in a pattern different from that of a natural diamond. Conductivity is a useful method to tell the difference between a natural diamond and a simulant. Diamonds conduct heat, while most simulants do not; likewise, the simulant moissanite will conduct electricity but a natural diamond will not.

The jewelers at Brilliance only use natural diamonds. All our diamonds are mined in an eco-friendly and socially conscious manner, and the metals used for our jewelry are comprised of 100-percent recycled precious metals. When you purchase a loose stone or piece of diamond jewelry from Brilliance, have confidence that your superior gem will last for many generations.

Is a Princess Cut Diamond and a Square Modified Brilliant the Same Thing?
Posted April 2, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Princess Cut Diamond

Purchasing a diamond for that special someone can be a daunting task. There are so many aspects to consider–size, shape, color, clarity–that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. The shape of a diamond is a good place to start, since many people usually have a strong preference for a certain shape.

Since its creation in the 1960’s, the Princess Cut diamond continues to grow in popularity, making it the most popular “fancy” (not round) shape. If you are not familiar with the shape of the Princess, it is a square, brilliant cut that features sharp, 90 degree corners. Most jewelry stores refer to these square-shaped gems as “Princess cut,” however, diamonds of this same shape are often called “Square Modified Brilliant Cut” on grading certificates by the GIA or AGS. As if selecting a stone wasn’t already complicated enough, now I’m telling you there are two names for the same shape of stone! Don’t worry–”Square Modified Brilliant” is merely a technically descriptive term since this shape of diamond combines the brilliance of a round cut with a square or rectangular overall shape.

GIA Report

Let me clarify, the term “square” describes the actual shape of the diamond, while the term “modified” lets you know the diamond is not in a traditional “round” shape. The term “brilliant” tells you how the diamond was cut. A “brilliant” cut means the stone was cut using triangular, or brilliant, facets rather than using step-cut facets like those observed in an “Emerald” cut diamond. Basically, the term “Princess” is like the “y’all” of the diamond world–it’s a slang term for the shape of the diamond, while the more proper, scientific term, “Square Modified Brilliant,” is similar to saying “all of you”.

The “Princess Cut” name was first used in 1961 by Arpad Nagy, a diamond cutter in London. However, this term overlapped with a similar shape cut during that time period called the “Profile Cut”. The actual “Princess” cut we think of today wasn’t created until 1980 by its inventors, Betzalel Ambar and Israel Itzkowitz.

Second in popularity to the Round Brilliant Cut, the Princess is perfect for someone who loves the fire of the traditional round cut but wants a more modern look. The square shape of the Princess accentuates the “fire” of the diamond, but some brilliance is sacrificed in order to achieve this unique shape. If you’re looking for a stone that will give you the best “bang for your buck,” the Princess is usually slightly cheaper than the round cut because it retains about 65-80% of the rough diamond, while the round retains only about 30-40%. This makes creating a Princess cut more lucrative to produce because a smaller amount of the rough stone needs to be cut away; therefore, two of the same-sized Princess cut diamonds can be cut from the same rough diamond that would be required to create a single round cut diamond.

If you decide the Princess cut (or, if you want to be technical, the Square Modified Brilliant cut) is the best shape for you, it is recommended you choose a stone with a minimum color of H-I, clarity of SI1 and a Very Good cut.

To shop our collection of princess cut diamonds, visit our online Diamond Search.

Platinum Vs Palladium
Posted March 25, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

platinum vs palladium header

Due to a rise in the price of gold over the last year, jewelers have turned to two alternative precious metals to use for their pieces. Though they look similar to the untrained eye, platinum and palladium have distinct characteristics. If you are considering either platinum or palladium as material for your next jewelry purchase, here are some points to consider for both.

How much does it cost?

Platinum: Very rare and costly, platinum has desirable properties which affect its price tag. It is roughly $47 per gram (based on current market prices) in its purest form. When used in jewelry, platinum usually ranks among the more expensive items in a catalog.

Palladium: At just a third the price tag of platinum, palladium can be had for $26 per gram (based on current market prices) because it fills both precious metal and industrial metal demands.

Is it durable?

Platinum: Platinum is extremely durable and has a higher density than gold, palladium, and silver. It is resistant to rust and corrosive materials, and will not show wear and tear like other precious metals might.

Palladium: Palladium is durable, but to a lesser degree than platinum. Because palladium is somewhat malleable, when you scratch the surface it does not lose any metal, but simply displaces it.

Is it hypoallergenic?

Platinum: Definitely. Platinum contains very little alloy and is 90-95% pure, with no nickel in it. It is widely considered to be the best choice for those with sensitive skin that might normally have an allergic reaction to certain metals.

Palladium: Also a very pure metal, palladium shares similar hypoallergenic properties with platinum. Its initial role in the jewelry industry was to act as an alloy to white gold, replacing nickel, which is known to cause skin irritation.

Does it look good?

Platinum: This precious metal is fast becoming known as a true “heirloom” material because of its naturally-occurring white properties that are enhanced by age. Platinum looks especially good when paired with colored gemstones because it highlights their color. Platinum is usually preferred by many grooms because of its understated elegance.

Palladium: Slightly darker upon closer inspection when compared to platinum, palladium is an ideal band for diamonds since it will enhance their brilliance. Its natural greyish and silvery color won’t tarnish over time. Fashion-forward celebrities like Kelly Osbourne and Sarah Jessica Parker have recently been spotted wearing palladium jewelry.

How available is it?

Platinum: There is a growing interest in platinum for jewelry pieces, and more jewelry makers are stocking up on it because of its coveted traits. However, since it is a very costly precious metal, it may not be as readily available as silver and gold.

Palladium: Surprisingly, palladium is even rarer than gold. Although, not all jewelers carry palladium because it takes someone familiar with its properties to successfully fashion it into a stunning piece of jewelry.

Cushion Vs. Old-Mine Cut
Posted March 18, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Favored by those who like their diamonds shaped and faceted in an antique style, both the Cushion and the Old-Mine are considered turn of the century diamond cuts. Though they may share similar traits, these cuts have differences that antique cut diamond lovers may want to know about.


How long have these diamond cuts existed?

The Old-Mine cut has been around since the 1830s and was popular up until the turn of the century. It is widely considered to be the forerunner of the modern day brilliant cut.

The Cushion cut, also referred to as the “pillow cut” because of its shape, has been around for almost two centuries. It was the de facto diamond shape until the 20th century, before the round cut replaced it as the most widely used cut.


How similar are they?

Both the Old-Mine and the Cushion cuts are considered “Old-World Diamonds”. These are the diamond shapes that precede the brilliant cuts, and also include the Rose and the European. Generally favored by antique collectors, they have a squarish or cushion shaped girdle outline. In comparison to more modern cuts, both the Old-Mine and Cushion are cut deeper and may have enlarged culets (if any).

Technically speaking, the Old-Mine cut is actually a Cushion cut because of its rectangular outline and rounded corners. However, the Cushion cut has been refined over the years, giving it more distinct qualities.


What are their basic differences?

Old-Mine diamonds were not cut under electrical lighting, which resulted in less scintillation and fire compared to modern-day cuts. They were also cut by hand so they had larger facets and more weight. With the invention of electricity and new cutting tools such as the diamond saw, the faceting process was improved, and the diamond’s cut reflected light much better.

The antique Cushion cut went through subtle changes over the centuries, such as the shrinking of its culet and the widening of its table. Unlike the Old-Mine cut, there doesn’t appear to be a hole in the middle of this cut, which indicates that the culet has been reduced to increase its ability to shine.


Who prefers these cuts?

The Cushion cut is suited for those who love a vintage flair in their diamond jewelry. Its subtle refinements over the past decades have resulted in many vintage jewelry aficionados demanding this cut. Lovers of antique jewelry looking to capture a bygone era are likely to find Old-Mine cut diamonds in old estate auctions and through antique dealers. Otherwise, if you are one of them, be careful about approaching a gemologist for a custom made diamond. This is because not all diamond cutters have the skills and knowledge involved in Old World diamond cutting.