I was recently shown an interesting diamond brooch that was custom made for a family whose eldest daughter had just graduated from university. The young girl’s father had a diamond made into the shape of her school’s logo. While many consumers are aware of a few different diamond shapes, diamond manufacturers have been experimenting with many others outside of the traditional and most popular round brilliant and princess shapes.
The De Beers Supplier of Choice initiative, launched in the early 2000s, rewarded diamond manufacturers who ventured downstream into jewelry and retail branding efforts. As a result, we witnessed an explosion in proprietary diamond cuts that continues today, albeit to a lesser extent. A Google search can lead to hundreds of unique diamond shapes, but even within this long list of unusual diamonds there are still a few that really stand out for their creativity and uniqueness.
When we talk about unusual diamond cuts, the Horse Head is one that a surprising number of people are familiar with. The shape was invented by Henri Daussi Loots, an Antwerp master diamond cutter, founder of the New York based jewelry company that still bears his name. The Horse Head is more common than one might expect and GIA even has a ‘Horse Brilliant’ shape definition for grading Horse Head diamonds. While there are many examples of poorly cut Horse Heads that only superficially resemble a horse, a well-cut stone is unmistakable. Some more adventurous cutters even claim to be able to create stones that distinguish between a mare and a stallion.
George Saltzman, a talented inventor and diamond professional, first developed the Christmas Tree cut over 20 years ago. Most Christmas Trees were developed from broken or irregular triangular rough stones, allowing cutters to achieve higher yields than might otherwise be possible.
The finished stone might start off as a triangle, and then have grooves cut into the sides to resemble the familiar angles of a Christmas Tree. The cut was more commonly used in green and blue gems like topaz and emerald, keeping with the traditional colors associated with Christmas and winter. There were also stones supposedly produced from irradiated green diamonds. The Christmas Tree is reportedly still being cut in extremely limited quantities in Israel, but is mostly extinct and dismissed as a novelty of sorts.
The Buddha cut was co-designed in 1995 by a Buddhist member of the Japanese Soto Zen Federation and Oliver Korn for J. Korn & Partners in Antwerp. It is made into the shape of a meditating Buddha. The shape is often the centerpiece of much more elaborate jewelry designs that are often customized for individual consumers’ personal tastes and religious principles.
The patented Buddha cut has a very exacting definition, including 33 crown facets, 21 pavilion facets and a culet. For religious reasons, Buddha’s head must be free of any inclusions, however no such restrictions apply to the body . This makes it a more challenging cut to manufacture and also leads to higher weight losses than traditional fancy cuts, in the range of 65-70% loss. The International Gemological Institute (IGI) officially recognizes the cut as ‘fancy shape Buddha’ in its grading certificates. Unsurprisingly, the principle markets for the Buddha cut are in Asia, primarily in Japan and Taiwan.
Another diamond shape built with religious overtones is the 10 Commandments diamond manufactured by Trillion Diamond Company, and patented in 2006. The diamond is first cut into the shape of the tablets on which the 10 Commandments were written and then the commandments themselves are permanently laser etched onto the back of the stone, easily read with a magnifying glass. These diamonds are typically mounted in pendant settings to be worn close to the owner’s heart and are available in 3 versions Protestant, Catholic and Jewish.
Religion plays a role in still more unusual and inventive diamond cuts with the Cross Cut, patented by Israel-based R.G.S. Diamonds Ltd. The Cross Cut comes in several different styles including brilliant, classic, gothic, lotus and step. Like the Buddha and 10 Commandments, Cross diamonds are most often worn as necklaces, but are also fashionable as earrings and rings. The most common usage of the cross diamond is to position it in the center of a larger cross made of gold or other precious metals.
The US patent for the ‘Butterfly Gem’, describes the stone as follows: A cut stone having a crown (21) and a pavilion (23), the crown having peripherally four indents orientated face to face and forming a cross, the appearance of the crown of the stone forming a butterfly.
Canadian Guy Couture, who holds numerous patents in the jewelry industry - including unique clasps - developed the cut and the patent in 1998. The Butterfly Gem is licensed exclusively through a Quebec based company called ‘Papillon Gemme,’ which is French for Butterfly Gem. Although butterflies are a popular choice for jewelry manufacturers and other diamond shapes are frequently fashioned into butterflies, the Butterfly Gem is the only cut where an entire single stone is formed into a shape resembling the winged insect.
The Christmas Star was commissioned by De Beers and placed on top of their 1994 Christmas tree, which toured 20 cities in Japan and was seen around the world on television including CNN.
It was developed in order to provide retailers an alternative marketing concept that would allow diamonds to be used in decorative pieces for the home, as opposed to jewelry. It is also one of the earliest examples of a branded diamond, first cut and polished by Fancoldi in Israel.
Each Christmas Star diamond also came with a registration package that would allow the owner to name a real star in the Milky Way Galaxy, a service that still exists today but which is no longer tied to a diamond purchase. These diamonds were somewhat unique in that they were priced and sold in terms of their millimeter dimensions, not by their carat weight.
Star of David
The Star of David is of course a globally recognized symbol for the Jewish people and is used in a myriad of jewelry designs adorned by millions. It is not uncommon to see diamonds made into the Star of David, however this is often done by arranging several diamonds as needed, often with a hexagonal center stone surrounded by small triangles.
An Israeli diamond company, Elanor Agam Jewelry, was the first to fully facet a single rough diamond into a Star of David, or Shield of David, as it is commonly known in Hebrew. The proprietary shape is a brilliant cut, however it loses a significant portion of its rough size and is said to be one of the most difficult shapes to cut. Even the company’s expertly trained cutters sometimes encounter problems with diamonds breaking in the manufacturing process, and each stone is an exercise in patience and precision.
Yin Yang Cut
Like the Star of David, jewelers have been fashioning small stones into the shape of the Ying Yang symbol for many years. The symbol is perhaps as important to the Chinese culture as the Star of David is to Jews and many elaborate and colorful pieces have been designed.
Second generation Israeli diamantaire Rony Golomb, together with Joey Peleg, whose roots go back to a well-established New York diamond family, have invented the Yin Yang Diamond – two half diamonds which together create the Chinese symbol. Although the pair has produced Yin Yang pieces in many different colors, the most common is to have half the piece in a colorless (white) diamond and the other half in a black carbonado stone that has helped to develop another use for black diamonds.
The UK Flag Diamond
The UK flag diamond is an eye-catching cut that displays the familiar Union Jack within the pavilion facets of an emerald cut stone. It was first developed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The UK Flag is a patented cut developed by Israeli firm Davidi Diamonds. All UK Flag diamonds are manufactured in Davidi’s factory in Israel.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity. No one should act upon any opinion or information in this website without consulting a professional qualified adviser.
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Diamond industrialist Ehud Arye Laniado is a man passionate about diamonds. From his early 20s in Africa and later in Belgium honing his expertise in forecasting the value of polished diamonds by examining rough diamonds by hand, till today four decades later, as chairman of his international diamond businesses spanning mining, exploration, rough and polished diamond valuation, trading, manufacturing, retail and consultancy services, Laniado has mastered both the miniscule details of evaluating and pricing individual rough diamonds and the entire structure of the diamond industry. Today, his global operations are at the forefront of the industry, recognised in diamond capitals from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and Hong Kong to New York.