What is an Old Mine Cut Diamond: The Complete Guide

What is an Old Mine Cut?

An old mine cut diamond evokes the romance and beauty of the past, making this antique cut a unique choice for those who appreciate its distinctive history and craftsmanship. These diamonds differ from modern cuts in their shape, facet pattern, facet size, proportions, and the way that they interact with light.

Often found in Georgian and Victorian period jewelry, these 18th and 19th century diamonds were measured by eye and cut and polished by hand, making each truly one-of-a-kind.

Cut by daylight or candlelight with only hand tools and none of the modern equipment we have today, each diamond reflected the nature inherent to the rough material as well as the artisan who cut it. What the old mine lacked in precision; it made up with character.

Image Showing Rose Cut, Modern Brilliant Cut, Old European Cut, Old Mine Cut


How Are Old Mine Cuts Different Than Today’s Modern Brilliant Cuts?

These stones can be distinguished by the following features:


These stones are instantly recognizable by their squarish or cushion shapes. It features 58 facets like some of today’s modern cuts. They are also the precursor to today’s cushion brilliant shapes.

Table Size and Overall Faceting

The facets tend to be larger and blockier with the pavilion much deeper. Today’s modern cuts generally have narrower and longer lower facets. They also have a smaller table (the largest facet in the top center of the diamond).


These cuts have deeper pavilions, the bottom portion of the diamond below the girdle. They also have higher crowns, the part of the diamond above the girdle. To qualify as an old mine, the diamonds should have a cushion-like shape with soft corners and sides that curve outwards.

Open Culet

They have large or very large culet sizes, and this facet is very evident when viewed from the top down and appear as a gray circle. Culets were cut as a preventative measure to chipping of the delicate point which can leave fractures that can give the diamond a cloudiness appearance.

Imperfect Symmetry

GIA does not include cut grades for old mine cuts because these cuts typically do not meet today’s stringent proportion guidelines. Using modern guidelines would unnecessarily and unfairly punish these stones. They feature 58 facets, but they tend to have less symmetry when it come to the arrangement of its facets.

Weight Distribution

Because of their proportions, sometimes old mines can look smaller than their stated carat weight because they carry a larger percentage of the weight on their pavilions and crowns.


The Historical Setting of the Georgian and Victorian Eras

The Georgian Era spanned the years from 1714 – 1837, a period encompassing the rule of the four Hanoverian kings (The House of Hanover), George I, George II, George III and George IV in Britain. It includes the late Georgian period often labeled the Regency Era.

The Victorian Era followed on the heels of the Georgian Era covering the years from 1837 – 1901 ending officially with the death of Queen Victoria.

This period saw massive cultural changes in Britain, with the empire’s hegemony expanding beyond its borders and its rise as a recognized international power. The rapidly industrializing nation brought affluence, wealth, and improved livelihoods to many citizens despite the high level of poverty and disproportionate distribution of wealth.

The increase in wages did, however, develop a middle class which translated to more leisure time and encouraged the building of cultural centers, auditoriums for plays, circuses, and ballets among others. Discretionary spending was suddenly possible, and this, no doubt, included fine jewelry.


The Advancement of Diamond Cutting

As the diamond industry further developed with technological advancements, the cutting and polishing process gradually brought about the cuts we know today as the old mine cut.

The improvement of the old mine cut came about from a few breakthroughs including the invention of the steam-powered bruting machine in 1874 and the motorized saw in 1900 which allowed for the mechanization of the first few but key steps of the diamond cutting process.

These stones were eventually labeled “old mine” in the mid-1800s because were originally mined in India and Brazil prior to the discovery of new diamonds in Africa in 1867. The new diamonds from Africa quickly flooded the market with rough material, eclipsing the shrinking supply from mines from Brazil and the even older mines in India.

Some in the industry use the term old mine cut to include other fancy shapes such as ovals and marquise cuts while others insist that a true old mine has a pillowy cushion shape. In fact, GIA includes additional fancy shapes under the category of “old mine” if it meets certain table, pavilion, and crown measurement criteria.

It’s not unusual for antique cuts to be lower in color as well as in clarity. This is because over the years, many of the antique old mines in the higher color ranges have been recut into modern brilliant cuts. This and the newer diamonds from the “new mines” of Africa were generally of better quality, both in terms of color and clarity. However, this doesn't always translate to the overall appearance.

Some find that old mine stones appear whiter face-up due to a combination of their larger facets and depth, with some J colored stones looking more like an H color.

Many describe the modern brilliant cut as having facets that have a pattern of light and dark that can look “splintery” versus the larger facets which might diffuse lights in a softer fashion. Modern brilliant cuts tend to have sharper facets because of the precision on their cuts but also due to the pattern and size of its facets.


Antique Diamonds in the Market Today

True old cuts, such as Old Miners and Old Europeans, have the distinction of being both more ethical and sustainable by dint of being a previously mined stone that have been around for decades, if not centuries.

Today, select diamond manufacturers are starting to recognize and appreciate these old cuts, and have even started cutting new rough material into old mine cuts as well as Old European cuts. This is because true antique cut diamonds are increasingly become rarer.

Before the resurgence of the old mine diamond's popularity in the last few decades, diamond manufacturers routinely purchased older diamonds both in antique ring as well as loose old cut diamonds and recut them into the better-selling modern brilliant cut diamonds.

As a result, we typically find fewer true old mine diamonds available. As a result, its rarity determines the pricing, especially on old mine diamonds with higher color and clarity.

Ultimately, a choice between a modern brilliant cut and an old mine cut or another antique cut comes down to personal preference.

For those looking for a unique diamond engagement ring, we recommend that you come visit us at the showroom to view these diamonds in person because it’s often difficult to capture the shine and sparkle of these stones when compared to the modern brilliant cut.

We work with antique dealers to purchase true old cuts. We also work with diamond cutters that can recut a modern cut in the style of an old cut. Our bespoke work includes resetting older, heirloom stones for those lucky enough to have a family gem but looking to create a setting that feels true to their own style.