Professional Jeweler Archive: From the Vault

May 2000

From the Vault


From the Vault

Brilliance and scintillation are keys to this darling of Art Deco jewelry


The dawn of the 20th century saw many advances in science and technology and the exciting promise of more to come. The arts experienced a shift from traditional 19th century historical themes and ornament toward more modern expressions. In this climate of rapid and radical change, a new fascination with pure geometric forms evolved.

The diamond world felt the effect of this new focus as well. The market for diamonds was solid and the future looked bright. South Africa’s huge diamond deposits ensured a steady supply of rough, and prosperous Western society ensured a steady consumption of the finished product. At the same time, a better understanding of optics prompted refinements in diamond cutting and led to new cuts.

In 1902, Asscher Diamond Co. patented a rectilinear diamond cut. Developed by Joseph Asscher, the squarish step cut’s deeply cut corners give it an almost octagonal outline. It features a small table, high crown, broad step facets, deep pavilion and square culet.

Something New

The Asscher cut was inspired by the table cuts of the Renaissance, however, it was a big departure from the brilliant cuts that dominated the 1800s and was a forerunner of the standard emerald cut. Because of its high crown and small table, the Asscher cut has more light and fire than an emerald cut.

The Asscher cut, along with other step cuts, became popular in the streamlined geometric jewelry of the Art Deco period. Sometime in the 1930s, however, the popularity of the Asscher cut faded, probably because of the Great Depression’s effect on the economy and a greater use of the diamond saw.

Although diamond saws were reported by John Mawe as early as 1823, only a few cutting firms used them in the 1870s. These firms jealously guarded their diamond-saw technology and sawed diamonds for other cutters solely by special request.

The diamond saw was advantageous because it could cut across the grain of the crystal, using more of the original rough than cleaving or cutting on the wheel. Even with the diamond saw, however, the high crown and small table of the Asscher cut resulted in a greater loss from the original rough than the emerald cut. As a result, the Asscher cut wasn’t economically feasible during the Depression and the war years that followed.

Something Old

Today, everything old is new again. In the past decade, older cuts have become the hot must-have diamonds. Rose cuts, cushion cuts, briolettes, diamond beads and rondelles have found new life in contemporary jewelry. In a unique category gleams the elusive Asscher cut.

According to Richard Buonomo of Sima G. Ltd., New York City, the Asscher cut exhibits “an icy, prismatic brilliance and a balance of scintillation and dispersion not seen in contemporary emerald-cut diamonds.” The Asscher cut appeals to discriminating gem connoisseurs and is in strong demand by Hollywood stars.

Until now, Asscher cut diamonds have been scarce, found only in period jewelry from the 1920s and ’30s, and dealers have had to wait for individual stones to appear at auction or estate sales. Insiders say many diamonds sold with the name are not truly Asscher cuts. To satisfy this new demand and reclaim the heritage, the Royal Asscher Diamond Co. is resuming production of the original Asscher cut.

Polished from the rough, each new Asscher cut will be numbered and have the company logo lasered on the girdle. We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing there will be a steady supply of these cool beauties to satisfy every need.

– by Elise B. Misiorowski

This 9.46-ct. Asscher cut diamond is set in an Art Deco platinum and diamond ring by Cartier. Courtesy of Sima G. Ltd., New York City; (212) 664-1010.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications