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History of Diamond Cutting

The following article on the origins of diamond cutting is taken from "The Naturalists' Leisure Hour and Monthly Bulletin, Nov-Dec 1879".

"It is generally supposed that Louis van Berghem, or Bergnem, was the first discoverer of the art of cutting and polishing diamonds by their own powder, in 1456; but this must be somewhat inaccurate, as already in 1373, the Emperor Charles had the clasp of his cloak ornamented with diamonds; and in church ornaments of even earlier date, were set diamonds with a table and four ground edges, and with the lower part cut as a four-sided pyramid. In the inventory of the effects of the Duke of Anjou, made between the years 1360 and 1368, there is mentioned a diamond cut into the form of a shield. As yet, however, the mode of cutting was rude, and added scarcely at all to the lustre of the diamond, causing it to be ranked as less in value than many other gems.

In 1407, the art had made sensible progress under the direction of a clever artificer named Herman; and although the stones were imperfectly cut, yet they must have had some lustre, as we find, that at an entertainment given to the King of France by the Duke of Burgundy, in 1410, the Duke of Burgundy gave away ten diamonds, which were valued at four hundred gold crowns, a considerable sum in those days.

"In 1456, Louis van Berghem, who had studied in Paris, discovered the art of cutting the diamond into regular facets; this discovery made so complete a revolution in the trade, that he was regarded as the parent of the art of diamond cutting, and he established in Bruges a guild of diamond cutters. In the year 1475 he made the first trial of his improved mode of cutting upon three large rough stones which were confided to his care by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The largest was the stone known as the Sancy, which was lost in the disastrous fight of Granson; the second came into the possession of Pope Sixtus IV.; and the third, which was cut in the form of a triangle, was set in a ring, and was given to the faithless Louis XI. Robert van Berghem relates that his grandfather Louis received 3000 ducats for cutting these three stones. The pupils of Berghem established themselves in Antwerp and Amsterdam, leaving Bruges on account of the intolerance of the priests. Cardinal Mazarin patronized this industry greatly; he caused the diamonds in the French crown to be re-cut, and they obtained thence the name of the twelve Mazarins.

"In the inventory of the French Crown jewels in 1774, the number 349 is described as the tenth Mazarin, it is not known what has become of the rest.

"The powerful protection of the Cardinal and Ms example, caused a taste for these jewels to pervade all classes; and it is recorded that at this period Paris possessed seventy five diamond cutters, who were well employed. Later, however, the trade declined, and from this date it seems gradually to have taken firm root in Amsterdam, where it still continues one of the principal branches of industry, and more than fifteen-sixteenths of the diamonds found are now cut there.

"Diamond cutting was introduced into this country many years ago. And there is now a large establishment near Boston that employs many women.

"The so-called double cutting, "Brilliants recoupes," was introduced by Vincenti Peruggi, or Peruzzi, at Venice, about the end of the seventeenth century. In England there used to be several cutters, who were renowned for the excellence and perfection of their work, and whose diamonds, still called old English, bring a much larger price than any others. As in everything else, however, the reduction of the price of labor produced a corresponding falling off in the quality of workmanship. This trade in England is now nearly extinct."

brilliant cut diamond

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Note - this website is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes, and should not be considered to be professional consultation. If you are considering purchasing precious stones, be sure to seek the advice of a qualified professional.


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