Professional Jeweler Archive: Specialty Cuts Heat Up

March 2003


Specialty Cuts Heat Up

Hard-to-find antique cuts, antique re-creations and nature-inspired diamond shapes differentiate the gems and the jewelers who carry them

Trading in a market where rounds steadfastly remain the most-requested shape are a series of offbeat diamonds – specialty cut stones – that are making money for, and elevating the profile of, savvy independent jewelers.

Here’s a look at three categories of specialty cuts: antique diamonds, antique re-creations and diamond shapes from nature. Manufacturers and retailers are enthusiastic about these niche markets and say the demand for these cuts is healthy and growing.

Antiques and antique re-creations are hot among celebrities, and are getting some publicity, so you may get requests for them from customers. In Style’s popular “Celebrity Weddings” issue hit the newsstands in January showing a page of celebrity engagement rings, and three of the five shown featured antique or antique re-creation diamonds. The diamonds are also popular for anniversary rings – In Style highlighted antique diamonds given to celebrities.

Diamonds in nature shapes are made possible by better technology and can sell to dedicated groups of enthusiasts too. Whether nature-shaped, antique or antique re-creation, rarity makes these diamonds valuable. Because they aren’t available on a whim, specialty cuts become destination magnets for consumers – making those who carry them valuable.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

In Style features an antique 4.5-ct. Asscher-cut diamond from Neil Lane (top), a 4.5 -ct. cushion-cut antique re-creation diamond by William Goldberg (third from top) and a 5-ct. antique cushion-cut diamond by Neil Lane (bottom). The inset shows (from left) a Neil Lane anniversary ring with three old-European cut diamonds, a Neil Lane anniversary ring with an Asscher-cut diamond and a William Goldberg anniversary ring with an Ashoka antique cushion-cut diamond.

Authentic Antiques

‘There absolutely is a market for antique diamonds,” says diamond dealer Rick Shatz of Rick Shatz Inc., New York City. “Initially, the market was made up largely of customers looking for insurance-replacement stones for antique jewelry, but increasingly people have found beauty and romance in the look of older cuts.”

Shatz Inc. has been dealing in antique cuts for more than 30 years. It began by trading in estate jewels, which contained old-mine and old-European cuts. “We realized it was a business when other dealers came to us and cleaned us out,” he says. “So we made a decision to collect and hoard the antique cuts we came across. Today we pride ourselves in having one of the largest inventories of such stones.”

Jeweler John Ravenstein of Juniker Jewelry Co., Jackson, MI, considers antique-cut diamonds such as old-mine and old-European cuts an art form. “The cutters’ skills and talents are apparent in the older gems,” he says. “The contrast is that, today, diamond cutting is more of a science – an exact science.” Ravenstein puts that kind of romance into selling antique diamonds.

Jewelers say there’s growing demand for older cuts, even among younger people looking for engagement rings. “They’ve seen a revival,” says David Walker, owner of David & Co. Inc. in the Boston suburbs. “The typical customer wants something that no one else has, and we make it our business to collect fancy old cuts, preferably in fancy colors.” Walker advises those who want to do business in this niche to anticipate customers’ desires and be prepared to own the inventory. “Because of the rarity of these diamonds, they don’t work on the same memo basis as round brilliant cuts,” he says.

Shatz gets calls come from around the world to buy and sell antique diamonds. “We even got a request from Greenland once,” he says. “Europe and former colonies, particularly ones that produced diamonds, tend to be good sources of antique cuts.” And Brazil’s Sao Paulo is an example of a bustling market for these stones, says Shatz.

• Rick Shatz Inc., New York City; (888) 944-1800.

Old-European cuts like this are highly valued among collectors. Ring and photo are courtesy of Rick Shatz Inc., New York City.

Re-Created Antiques

The market is also bustling for modern re-creations of older cuts, including Asscher cuts, rose cuts, old European and old-mine cuts. In part, the revival is because of the scarcity of original stones and nostalgia among consumers.

“For us the market started out as a real specialty,” says diamond dealer Adam Levy of Adasco Designs Inc., New York City. While antique cut stones hardly ever matched, Adasco saw the need to develop lines of re-created cuts that match to meet modern jewelry manufacturing standards. “Our qualities in terms of color and clarity tend to be much higher,” says Levy. “In the old days, there was not such an emphasis when it came to diamonds.” Still, he says cuts such as cushion or Asscher cannot be achieved by “cookie-cutter types of operations” – as round brilliant cuts often can.

“I love Adasco’s selection,” says Russ Hollander of R. Hollander Master Goldsmith Ltd., Stamford, CT. “I can find perfectly matched stones in any color D-L and any clarity to fit a customer’s budget.” Revival stones such as Asscher cuts and cushions and other shapes such as half moon and kite give freedom to a designer, says Hollander.. He can match cuts with his customer’s personalities.

“I think the jewelry business has forgotten how to get to know customers,” he says. “I want to know: is the customer active in sports? Which sports? If it’s a couple looking for an engagement ring, I like to find out how they met. How long have known each other? What are their common interests? I want the jewelry I make for them to be a snapshot of that moment – captured in a precious metal and adorned with gems that mean something to them, even years later.” For example, Hollander says modern, technologically minded people love angular cuts like the Asscher cuts, trapezoids or kite shapes, while “warm fuzzy” couples like softer looks, such as rounds, ovals or cushions. “I listen to the couple to find out which of the voices speaks out emotionally.”

• Adasco Designs Inc., New York City; (212) 819-0288.

Revival diamonds such as these perfectly matched Asscher cuts (on sides) and cushion cut (center) are sought-after in jewelry designs requiring versatility, variety and consistency. Courtesy of Adasco Designs Inc., New York City. Photo by Robert Weldon.

Shapes from Nature

Cuts reflecting a passion for plants or animals are possible with technologies such as laser or laser combined with high-tech diamond-saw blades. While diamonds in the shape of a pony’s head are not for everyone, they do sell beautifully in horse country. They’ve done so well for designer Ralph Caggiano of Eqqus Entries, Huntington, NY, his whole jewelry inventory is dedicated to horse lovers. “Fancy-color diamond-cut horseheads are very popular,” he says. He no longer owns a storefront, instead traveling with horse shows that cater to customers in the “hunter-jumper” sport.

“It’s a dedicated niche market,” says Nilesh Sheth of Nice Diamonds Inc., New York City. “In a sense that’s good – as a manufacturer, you need to find dedicated rough suited to cut these shapes.” Sheth says specialty-cut diamonds such as bull heads, fish, butterflies, Christmas trees and dog heads are part of a collectors’ market and sometimes even make it into the auction market. “Occasionally, I get requests for a specific shape that has to be commissioned,” he says. “What people don’t understand is that a likely piece of rough also has to be found, which can take time.”

Flat rough, (including otherwise difficult-to-cut diamond macles) is usually a good candidate because the outline of the subject matter can be cut efficiently by laser or saw, retaining the best weight.

• Nice Diamonds Inc., New York City; (800) 538-NICE.

Specialty-cut diamonds include these cut by a combination of laser and blade into nature-inspired shapes, including butterflies, bull’s head, fish and Christmas tree. Courtesy of Nice Diamonds Inc., New York City. Photo by Robert Weldon.

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications