People forget that before diamond cutter Henry Grossbard invented the radiant cut in 1977, most rectangular diamonds trapped, rather than tripped, the light fantastic. As a result, they looked more like pieces of glass than things of class. With their large tables, shallow crowns and, worst of all, their top and bottom rows of full-length step-cut facets running parallel to the table, they were perfect examples of what not to do when cutting diamonds—unless, of course, you wanted them with what one recalcitrant defender of step cuts then called “restrained brilliance.”
To Grossbard, such phrases were euphemisms for dead and dull. Grossbard salvaged the sullied reputation of the rectangular diamond by turning it from a step cut into a modified brilliant cut. Once he did so, the chronic light-leakage problem of this shape was solved and a spate of hybrids that mixed step and brilliant cutting followed. Indeed, the steady stream of renovated step cuts continues to this day.
When Grossbard began his step-cut modernization program, he was shooting for stones that paid handsome returns in terms of reflected light. His goal was to create a fancy shape that was as gleaming as it was graceful, as notable for its elan as its elegance. He succeeded.
What he didn’t know is that his design would pay extra dividends in terms of color, too. Some stones with desirable color which nonetheless might have graded in the lower depths of GIA’s D to Z colorless-to-cape scale if crafted as step cuts were suddenly able to attain the fancy color grades they deserved when crafted as radiants. And step-cut diamonds which managed to touch the bottom rungs of GIA’s fancy color diamond ratings scale began to get bumped up a notch—jumping in grade from light to fancy, fancy to intense, and even intense to vivid fancy.
Slowly but surely, the diamond world discovered that the same design factors Grossbard used to boost diamond brilliance also boosted color—enough to nudge stones across the great gemological divide between being tinged with color and drenched in it. Today and for at least a decade, the preferred shape for most fancy yellow diamonds is the radiant cut. Thankfully, this predominant style choice has been as easy on the checkbook as it has been on the eye.
Off Color Versus on Fire
With radiant cuts the cornerstone of the market in fancy yellow diamonds, it is not surprising to see several diamond houses in New York City now specializing in these beauties. Among the biggest of them is Cora Diamond Corp., the American arm of Antwerp-based Arslanian Freres, one of the first firms to introduce the legendary purplish-pink diamonds from Australia’s mammoth Argyle Mine in the mid 1980s. If you want to take the quickening pulse of the market for radiant cut fancy yellow diamonds, start here.
At present, according to Yves Ringler, Cora’s vice president, roughly 75 percent of the company’s sales of fancy color diamonds stem from pure yellows, of which at least 70 percent are radiant cuts rated anywhere from fancy light to fancy vivid yellow by GIA—the closest thing to a Moody’s for quality ratings of diamonds. With the difference in price between yellow diamonds rated fancy, fancy intense, and fancy vivid practically doubling from grade to grade, one can understand the appeal of the radiant cut.