Professional Jeweler Archive: Everything's Coming Up Rose Cuts

May 2001

From the Vault


Everything's Coming Up Rose Cuts

Early style that looks like the flower for which it's named is back in vogue


Everything old is new again. That’s true nowhere more than in the jewelry world, where various gems, metals and styles of antique jewelry regain their appeal after being out of the picture for decades. This cyclic popularity certainly applies to rose-cut diamonds, one of several old cuts currently in vogue. Our contemporary style of diamond pavé-set in blackened gold or silver has thrust rose cuts back into the limelight, where they spark and wink as deliciously as they did in the past.

From the earliest days of cutting until the introduction of the diamond saw in the mid-1800s, diamonds were fashioned by cleaving and polishing. To conserve such a rare and precious commodity, diamond rough was faceted and polished without altering its general outline, which accounts for the irregularly shaped diamonds in antique jewelry. The rose cut, developed in the 16th century, has a flat bottom and domed top covered with triangular facets. The outline varies considerably, but rose cuts are most typically round, oval, triangular or pear-shaped. The earliest and most basic rose cut, known as the Gothic rose, had only three facets, probably derived by polishing the faces on a cleaved corner from a dodecahedral rough diamond. Rose cuts were made also from other shallow diamond rough, such as macles or hexoctahedral cleavages. The height of the dome and number of facets was determined by the size and thickness of each cleavage piece.

The Rose Blooms

In the 17th century, as style shifted from the Renaissance to the Baroque period, rose-cut diamonds gained greater acceptance and their facet arrangement became less random. Variations were always in multiples of six facets, including the six-facet rose, the 18-facet rose and the full rose with a high dome and 24 facets. The full rose, with its lower tier of 18 facets and upper tier of six facets coming to a point at the apex, looked like a rosebud just starting to open.

During the 18th century, pavé settings were introduced and diamonds were set in polished silver for the first time to augment the “white” look. The royal courts were ablaze with diamonds, as candlelit evening parties became the new mode of entertainment. To keep up with demand, cutters busily faceted new rough from Brazil and also refashioned old diamonds. Any diamond with enough depth to accommodate a pavilion was converted into a brilliant cut – many high-domed full rose cuts met this fate. In general, however, the rose cut remained popular and was used to great advantage in the new baroque style of jewelry.

Falling Out of Vogue

In the first half of the 19th century, the brilliant-cut diamond gained supremacy. Noble metals and diamonds were scarce, however, and it was typical for new generations to break up inherited jewels and have them remade to suit the prevailing taste. Once unmounted, larger rose-cut diamonds were recut as brilliants while those deemed too small were used as accent stones or to fill in areas of a design.

At the turn of the 20th century, when jewelry fashion drew inspiration from 18th century Baroque ornament, rose-cut diamonds had another flurry of interest, often used in the delicate designs of the garland style, though smaller than before. They went out of favor after 1910 when jewelry fashion become more geometric and stylized as it moved toward Art Deco. For almost an entire century, the rose cut stayed out of sight. It’s only in the past eclectic decade the rose cut has reappeared like a phoenix from the ashes of its past to delight and fascinate us once again.

Small rose-cut diamonds are set sparingly in this 19th century style cross pendant of silver backed with gold. Courtesy of Bracken Jewelers, Santa Monica, CA; (310) 394-2846.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications