Beyond the 4Cs of Vintage Diamonds

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The Four C's:  Clarity, Color, Carat & Cut

If you’ve done your research, you probably know that when you’re looking for a diamond, you’ve got to pay attention to the “four C’s”—clarity, color, carat and cut. While these four can tell you A LOT about a diamond, with vintage diamonds they don’t tell the whole story! All of the antique and vintage diamonds in our classic diamond engagement rings are unique to their own time period, which makes wearing one even more special. Upon examination of the diamond(s) in your own T&H vintage engagement ring, you too can learn about its story in history and it doesn’t get any better than that! Here is our very own guide to the 4C's of diamonds, with a vintage twist.


In nature, there are very few things that are considered “perfect”. Diamonds are formed deep within the Earth under intense heat and pressure - due to these conditions, very few diamonds are actually “perfect” inside. Clarity refers to the amount and degree of inclusions that can be seen inside the diamond under 10x magnification with a microscope. In English? Clarity measures the overall flawlessness of a diamond. The closer to perfectly flawless, the more expensive and rare the diamond will be. Diamond clarity is graded on a scale with "Flawless" being the top grade given and "Included" being at the low end of the scale. Most diamonds fall somewhere in between and are graded accordingly:

diamond clarity scale guide


We are going to stand on our own soapbox here and sing our praises for the presence of color in vintage diamonds! The warm tones that antique diamonds sometimes exude are testimonies to their authenticity and history. The differences in color are so slight that most people unless they are trained to look for it, don't even notice any difference. The proportions of older diamonds often work to mask their color as well. When viewed from the top, vintage diamonds actually tend to look whiter than the color grade assigned to them. It's important to keep in mind that each diamond will strike each individual differently. Diamonds that look exactly the same on paper look completely different in person. The best part is that you'll know your diamond when you see it! How the color scale works: A truly colorless diamond is extremely rare. Most diamonds have some degree of yellow (or brown) in them, even if they look white to the eye. Color is graded on a scale that compares each diamond to a “Master Set” of pre-color graded diamonds. The scale begins at “D” (meaning the diamond is completely colorless) and ends with Z (meaning the diamond is quite yellow or brown). Most diamonds will fall somewhere in the middle of the scale with some hints of yellow, which are typically not noticeable to the untrained eye.  When a diamond is yellower than a “Z” rating, it is then considered a “fancy” colored diamond, and its value actually increases. Diamonds can also be found in other colors like pink, blue, red, and purple - any “fancy” color diamond with a bright, strong color is extremely rare and therefore very valuable, desirable, and expensive!

diamond color scale guide


Carat is the easiest of the 4 C’s to explain. In simple terms, carat refers to the weight of a diamond (and as a result, how big it is). A diamond is weighed on a very sensitive scale in order to obtain its exact weight. How much a diamond weighs directly relates to how valuable it is: a large diamond is rarer than a small diamond, and will therefore almost always be worth more.


Cut refers to two things when talking about diamonds: The overall shape of the diamond (round, oval, square, etc.) How well the diamond is physically cut A well-cut diamond will use the light that enters it to bounce around inside the diamond and return to the viewer’s eye in a dazzling combination of reflected rainbow colors and bright white brilliance, much like a prism. When you’re noticing how much a diamond appears to “sparkle”, this is referring to cut. It doesn’t matter if the diamond is a wonderfully old and hand-cut like our Old Mine Cut diamonds or a brand new laser precision-cut diamond - if it’s not cut well, it won’t have that beautiful sparkle that everyone who sees it will be inexplicably drawn to.

The Evolution of the Brilliant Cut Diamond:

rose cut diamond origin
Antique Rose Cut: Rose Cuts became fashionable in the 1600s and were very popular well into the 19th century during the Georgian Era. The jewelry designs were often created around the diamonds instead of the reverse. Rose Cut diamonds were always cut to the natural shape of the stone and fashioned with a flat bottom so they are all different. This made for a very romantic and unique look that we love about antique jewelry.
old mine cut diamond origin
Old Mine Cut: The Old Mine Cut was developed during the Industrial Revolution in Europe when diamonds were discovered in Brazil and major advances in diamond cutting were becoming prevalent. This is the earliest design of a Brilliant Cut stone with a soft cushion shape. Old Mine Cut diamonds have high crowns, small tables, deep pavilions, and 58 facets. They displayed more brilliance and fire than Rose Cuts and became wildly popular. Each diamond was uniquely fashioned and hand-cut. Owning one today is definitely like owning a one-of-a-kind treasure from the past! 
old european cut diamond history
Old European Cut: In the late 1800s, further advances in technology allowed diamonds to be shaped on a wheel, allowing the cutter to achieve a circular outline, and the birth of the Old European Cut diamond was born. Also hand-cut, this newer design had a larger table, 58 facets, and better pavilion proportions. When these new elements worked together they let more light into the diamond and more brilliance reflected back to the eye. When viewed in the soft candlelight of the times, these diamonds glowed with fire that was never seen before. Spectacular!
modern brilliant cut diamond
Modern Round Brilliant Cut: The Old European Cut diamond eventually became the model for the Modern Round Brilliant Cut diamond. Modern Round Brilliant Cut diamonds are laser precision-cut to release the maximum amount of fire and brilliance from the stone. The techniques used to cut brilliant diamonds were developed in the early 1900s and still continue today. New cuts are always being developed in the pursuit of enhancing diamonds’ extraordinary capability of reflecting light in mesmerizing ways.


Convinced that a classic diamond engagement ring featuring an antique diamond is right for you? You're in the right place! We're here to help you find the vintage engagement ring that's perfect for you. Let us know how we can help!

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