What is a Transitional Cut Diamond? | The Diamond Reserve

What is a Transitional Cut Diamond?

Transitional cut diamonds bridged the gap in the 1930’s and 1940’s between the handcut chunkier facets of old mine and European cut diamonds. Rather than being cut to sparkle in candlelight as their predecessors, the transitional cut’s focus was on symmetry and uniformity, and paved the way for the precision of today’s modern round brilliant, which is the result of decades of evolution in diamond cutting. 

What is a Transitional Cut Diamond?

The original round diamond cut was the old European, which was popular in the late 1800’s. These stones had small tables, steep crowns, fat pavilion faceting, giving them a chunky look, and large cutlets. In the 1920’s, cutters now guided by electrical light began to experiment with light performance. Using the newly invented steam-powered bruting machine, Henry D. Morse and his team sought to manufacture uniform cut diamonds, and the old European cut began to “transition” to what became known as the transitional cut diamond.

Transitional cut diamonds, also called early modern early American cuts, have a larger table, lower crown, and smaller culet than old Euros, bridging the old diamonds and the flashy cut stones of today. Transitional cut diamonds are round and typically have 58 facets, like modern round brilliants, but their facet arrangement is different, with a combination of larger and smaller facets that creates a unique pattern of light reflection.

Although the traditional cut has a similar design to modern brilliants, it has a lower crown and a deeper pavilion that creates a soft vintage look while exhibiting the brightness and fire of the modern cut. It’s worth noting that the GIA doesn’t have a specific categorization for this cut, so a “transitional cut” can refer to any diamond cut developed between two different styles or periods. The modern round brilliant was fully standardized in the early 1950’s, and it has continued to evolve with the emergence of new computerized programs.

Do Transitional Cut Diamonds Sparkle?

Transitional cut diamonds have a combination of large and small facets that create a unique pattern of light reflection. They appear softer, more romantic and sparkle differently than modern diamonds due to these larger facets. They also have a good level of brilliance due to their smaller table and faceting pattern that’s similar to modern diamonds. The sparkle of a transitional cut stone will not be as bright or fiery as a modern diamond, which are cut with more precision and symmetry.

When comparing old cut diamonds to round brilliants, it’s important to understand the differences in light performance. Modern round brilliants are cut in a way that light enters the diamond and bounces right back out, producing the brilliant white sparkle effect most people associate with diamonds. Old cut diamonds, designed to shimmer under candlelight, have a deep, warm glow that draws the eye into the stone instead of bouncing light back out. 

One of the things people love about old cut diamonds is that they were cut by hand. Some are drawn to the idea of a craftsman hand-cutting their stone over a century ago and that each stone has its own unique sparkle due to the shape, size and placement of its facets. Transitional cut stones are a rare cut used only for a few decades, and sought after due to their unique blend of historical significance, vintage beauty and charm, and modern characteristics.

If you’re looking for a vintage look for your engagement ring, a transitional cut might be perfect. We can help you design something modern with a nod to antiquity or fully embrace an old cut design. Give us a call at 303-385-8449 or click here to schedule an appointment!