What do uncut diamonds look like? This is not something that diamond lovers often think about. These days, we generally only see cut rather than uncut diamonds. But it is fascinating to think about the history of jewellery and the changing nature of what we think of as being beautiful.
When you see an uncut diamond, you wonder how it ever came to be that someone first thought to cut and shape one. Uncut, they are rather dull looking lumps. Interesting, earthy, but nothing like the sparkling, gorgeous gemstones that we see today. For a very long time, diamonds were set in jewellery in their natural form. In Roman times, jewellers simply set diamonds into rings in their natural octahedron state.
If you have a look at this photo of some uncut diamonds, you can see what a challenging task setting them into a piece of jewellery would have been. Rings discovered from around this time have very high settings. There was no other way to accommodate the octahedron shape of the diamond. The value of diamonds was in their hardness. Not their sparkle and brilliance. Diamonds were the hardest substance known to man.
Faceting Uncut Diamonds
The diamonds in the photo are dull looking. You could even mistake them for a piece of glass that the ocean has washed over a million times. But they are not. Expert diamond cutters reveal the inner beauty of these stones. What they achieve is a true marriage of human endeavour and the beauty of nature.
Diamond cutting is both an art and a science. Techniques for faceting diamonds have evolved over hundreds of years. There are many considerations that a cutter weighs up before cutting an individual diamond. For round cut diamonds, cutters will generally try to achieve as close to mathematical perfection as they can get. Good cutters can cut the diamond so as to maximise the dispersion of light through the stone. It was Marcel Tolkowsky who developed the Ideal Cut back in 1919 when he wrote his pioneering paper, “Diamond Design”. Despite all the technology available to us today, there have not been any significant changes to the proportions of the ideal or excellent cut.
Can You Get Uncut Diamonds in Australia?
Why is it that we don’t see many uncut diamonds in Australia?
One of the main reasons is that we do not have diamond cutting houses in Australia. So rough diamonds are exported straight to those countries that have specialist cutting houses.
Also, Australia is a signatory to the Kimberly Process. This is an initiative from governments around the world and the diamond industry.
The aim of the Kimberly Process is to prevent rebel movements from selling uncut diamonds. This is because the proceeds of the sale of diamonds can finance wars against governments. The Kimberly Process regulates the import and export of rough and cut diamonds in Australia.
Uncut diamonds must be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate. They must come from or be exported to a country that is also a signatory to the Kimberly Process. Diamonds must be transported in tamper proof containers. Hefty fines apply if you import or export a diamond and do not abide by the law.
We are seeing a rise in popularity of a raw, natural look in jewellery designs. The lack of availability of uncut diamonds means that they are not often found in jewellery in Australia. But there are lots of alternatives, if this is what you like. Salt and pepper diamonds have seen a huge rise in popularity, perhaps because of their earthy look. But that’s another subject that I will write about soon!