When I put a new piece of jewellery into stock I usually just describe the stone as ‘cabochon’ or ‘faceted’ but actually, I should get more technical when it comes to the facet cut stones we use because there are so many different types of cut. In fact, there are hundreds now because so many new and fancy shapes can be designed on the computer, but before CAD and other such programs there were fewer regularly used cuts and I think it’s time for me to be more precise in my descriptions.
I can’t possibly write about them all without boring you to tears, but I can find out and write about the ones we favour here at Polly Gasston, at least.
I’ll start with cabochon which is a cut we use a lot. Round, oval, square or even triangular, the stone has been polished with
a smooth domed surface, no facets, usually with a flat underside, and this is how stones were finished before faceting was perfected.
A variation of this is the ‘sugarloaf cabochon’ which is a stone with a polished surface but with four sides like a pyramid rather than just an oval or round. We do love these stones and have been able to find some really wonderful ones.
I’ve never seen a horrid cabochon stone or thought it would have looked better cut with facets, but some are especially suited to this cut – opal, moonstone, cats eye – in fact mostly opaque stones that have the play of light that needs to be enhanced. Having said that, our sugarloaf stones have all been clear gems and not opaque, which shows how important the right cut is for the best results in any gem.
Another cut I know about and which we really like is the rose cut. By far one of the oldest cuts known, a rose cut has a flat back and the front is cut with triangular facets, usually to a peak. In the 16th Century, gem cutters used the rose cut to maximize brilliance in the stone.
Since then the brilliant-cut has been perfected and this gives the stone much more life, but rose cuts are making a bit of a comeback just for their vintage appeal. I suppose we love them for that reason; classic and understated. The rose cut we love the most, though, is the free form rose cut which is, as its name suggests, a randomly shaped stone as opposed to a perfectly round/oval stone, with a rose-cut top.
The brilliant-cut mentioned above was developed in 1919, for diamonds. It consists of triangular and kite-shaped facet cuts and the stone is cone-shaped so that the light in the top of the stone is hugely enhanced and is full of dancing lights. Nowadays, of course, there are lots of variations on this theme, and always in pursuit of making the stone brighter and more, well, brilliant.
One of the oldest ways of cutting stones was what is now called a table cut. With practice and progress came the step cut which was when steps – literally – were added to a plain table cut. This enhanced the light and character of the stone. Then someone very clever decided that the sharp corners of the cut made the stone vulnerable to damage – particularly the relatively soft emerald – so they cut the corners off the steps and voila, the emerald cut.
This cut is also especially suited for emeralds, actually, because they are formed in long crystals, so this long cut worked well. The real point of an emerald cut is to showcase the colour of the stone rather than the light which is the job of the brilliant cuts. I don’t think we’ve ever made anything with an emerald cut stone, so I’ve included it here just because it’s such an excellent example of the evolution of stone cutting.
Writing this I’m interested in how closely we stick to what we like with only the occasional diversion – like this new emerald ring we’ve just finished and put on the website. It’s a very old stone, cut in an old fashioned way, not really a rose facet cut but almost. In every way, it’s clear that the stones we favour are the oldest and most classic cuts, and really, on the face of it, that makes perfect sense.