By 1990, it looked as if the step-cut diamond had no future. Sure, the centuries-old cutting style’s identifying rows of wrap-around parallel facets along the pavilion and crown made stones look classy—but, unfortunately, at the cost of making them even more glassy. So the greatest diamond minds of the post-war era set about freeing every one of the fancy shapes held hostage to step cutting—including the emerald, rectangle, baguette, and triangle—so that they would, for the first time, trip the light fantastic rather than trap it.
How? They simply applied the principles of brilliant-style cutting to these shapes, replacing horizontal facets with vertical ones. The end-result was dazzle and dispersion that devotees of these cuts say equal and sometimes surpass that of rounds.
First, New York cutters Leon Finker and Milton Meyer crafted separately successful triangular brilliant cuts, today known respectively as the trillion and trilliant. Later, Henry Grossbard fashioned a rectangular brilliant cut now known as the radiant. Betz Ambar followed with his brilliant-cut squares which he sells as the Quadrillion but makers of variant versions sell as princess cuts. Finally, Steven Baker designed a brilliant-cut baguette which he patented as the Trapeze. Thus over a three decade span, the whole repertoire of step cuts was translated into brilliant cuts.
And with the emerald, square, triangle, and baguette given their fair share of brilliance, that was supposed to be the end of their evolution.
Then in the early 1990s some cutters in America and Israel discovered how to make these newborns take on even more life:
Turn them back into step cuts.
Well, sort of. These latter-day steps cuts are mutants rather than remakes. More than modifications, these modernized step cuts play all the old tricks a diamond plays with light and add some new ones.
Not surprisingly, these new varieties of the step cut have proven very popular here and abroad, especially with jewelers keen on niche-marketing and differentiation. Among the best known of the new step cuts are the Royalcrest, developed in 1993, from Merit Diamond Corp. and the Crisscut, developed in 1995, from Christopher Designs, both in New York. Although these designs are very dissimilar, they share the central characteristic of being what might be called retro-cuts.