World’s Greatest Diamond Cutters: Joseph Asscher and the Asscher Cut Diamond

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.

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.


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.

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