Walk through any jewelry store and you will see diamonds of all sizes and shapes shining and sparkling in the bright lights. This is not how Mother Nature created diamonds, however. It takes careful planning and a skilled hand to turn a rough diamond into the jewel that it is meant to be.
If you saw a diamond in the rough before it was worked on or cut, you could very well mistake it for a piece of sea glass or an ordinary crystal or piece of quartz. Facets, angled cuts at regular intervals across the stone, are what give diamonds their brilliance and shine. They allow light to filter through the stone and bounce off of the other facets, creating a dazzling sparkling effect.
If a diamond is cut the wrong way, you wind up with a dull, lifeless stone that is worth very little to all but the least-educated diamond shoppers. Even if the stone has perfect color and clarity, if the facets are not cut just right, the stone can lose much of its value.
Before a rough diamond can begin its transformation, a diamond cutter must first inspect the stone and make detailed plans to be sure that the chosen cut is one that will completely maximize the optical qualities found in the rough stone. In addition, the cutter must consider the diamond’s profit potential. In some cases, it may be more profitable to fashion two or more smaller stones from a rough diamond instead of one large stone.
Once the planning phase is completed, the craftsmanship begins. The rough stone is first marked per the planning that was already done. The stone may need to be cleaved, which is separating larger stones into smaller ones that can be sawn.
Sawing to get the rough shape can take four to eight hours for a simple, 1-carat rough diamond, but this step is essential to get to the finished product. The girdling process then gives the diamond the conical shape on the bottom that allows it to be mounted into a setting.
The final step, and the most important one, is the faceting. For a 58-facet brilliant cut, for example, the stone would first go to a lapper (also called a blocker) who cuts the first primary 18 facets on the stone. From there, it goes to a brillianteer who shapes the remaining 40 facets. Once the faceting is completed, the stone is ready to be polished and mounted.
In any of these steps, the stone can be ruined easily, either by poor planning or poor craftsmanship. But if everything goes as it should, you wind up with a brilliant, perfectly cut diamond.