The sudden resurgence of the rose cut diamond in America is as hard to fathom as it is to ignore. It comes at a time when consumers want cuts such as the ideal and princess that are paragons of the diamondís two chief modern-day virtues: brilliance and fire. This being the case, how can an antiquated style which epitomizes the diamondís chief contemporary vice, light leakage, have returned to the starting lineup of diamond cuts with so many designers?
Viewed in a mounting, these classy but glassy diamonds look like pieces of crystal that have been cut with large, triangular facets in honeycomb-like patterns. While these patterns have an appealing geometry, they impart no fire and little life to stones. To the contrary, the faceting seems an end in itself, as if its purpose is to soften light so that its distinctive arrangement canít be obscured and the stone is to be appreciated more as a sculpted ornament than a glittering object. How could it be otherwise with a pointy-domed, cabochon-like diamond that is all crown and no pavilion?
If there is any brilliance to a rose cut, itís the jeweler not the cutter who almost always deserves the credit. To add dazzle, explains Herbert Tillander in Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry 1381-1910, chances are great that a setter backed the rose cut with a thin layer of high-finish foil made of gold, silver, or tin which acts as a reflector to throw some light through the crown. Often, in fact, foils were used to perform tricks with color as well as light.
Nevertheless, rose cuts have their charm, enough charm to have made them the preeminent diamond style in Europe from the 16th well into the 18th century. Indeed, London jeweler David Jeffries, writing in 1750, thought this venerable cut would survive the baleful threat to its popularity from the cushion-shaped brilliant cut (precursor of the round-brilliant) when this styleóperfectly suited to much of the newly-discovered Brazilian diamond rough that had just started flooding into Europeócame into vogue.
Boy, was he wrong. For the next two centuries, cutters bought every rose cut they could find in order to convert them to brilliants, despite enormous losses of weight in the process. The carnage might have claimed every last rose cut diamond fashioned during the nearly 300-year heyday of this style if post-modernism hadnít recently found as much of a home in the jewelry industry as it has in every other art and craft. Instead of urging rebellion against the past, this philosophy says to revere it. Instead of seeking to improve on antiquity, it says to honor it. Thus artists and artisans are discovering and embracing older styles and outlooks, then adapting them to the present. Now, with droves of designers using vintage diamonds in their retro-look and neo-classical pieces, it is nearly as chic to save rose cuts from extinction as it is whales.
From Lost Cause to Cause Celebre
The new love for rose cuts comes almost too late. The remaining population of vintage rose cuts has so dwindled that it is silly to hope that this style of cutting will ever come off the endangered species list. Vintage rose cuts are such rarities, especially clean ones in good shape, that designers hoard the few they can find until they have enough stones for pieces featuring them.
Nevertheless, the situation with rose cuts isnít as bad as it seems. Since demand outraces supply, some cutters in India, believed to be the origin of the rose cut in the late 14th or early 15th century, have revived the art of the rose cut. As they are discovering, the term ďrose cutĒ covers a wide variety of shapes and styles, allowing cutters to offer a much greater number of choices with regard to this cut.