Al Gilbertson, G.G.
The Gemological Institute of America
Paperback, 214 Pages. $29.95
American Cut, The First 100 Years, sets the record straight. Al Gilbertson tells the true story of the development of the ideal cut round brilliant diamond. First, Gilbertson clears away the prevailing myth endlessly repeated by industry writers, including this one, that Marcel Tolkowsky was the first to articulate the proper proportions for fashioning a round brilliant cut diamond.Gilbertson has done his homework. He traces the origin of a finely cut diamond from its origins in Early European history to a maverick American jeweler by the name of Henry Morse. Morse, a jeweler not a cutter, opened a diamond cutting shop in Boston around 1860. Morse had the idea that improving the cut of a diamond would result in a more beautiful stone and that better looking stones would sell better. This revolutionary concept brought him in direct conflict with his own employees, diamond cutters educated in Europe where cutters were actually fined if they lost too much weight cutting a diamond.
The author makes the point, not unknown to young men shopping for an engagement ring today, that in diamonds, better meant bigger. From earliest times, European monarchs were in competition with one another to own the biggest diamonds. The ownership of a big rock was a status symbol that added luster to a reign not to mention being a highly portable source of ready money. Not everyone agreed, Louis XIV, the biggest gem collector of them all, ordered his jeweler, Pitau to recut the French Blue from a hefty 114 carats to a mere 66, a loss of 41%, simply to improve its sparkle.Morse has the good luck to hire a fellow named Charles Field, as his shop foreman. Field invented a mechanical diamond bruting machine that replaced the old method of hand rounding, a laborious process of hand rubbing that required weeks to shape a single gem. Morse experimented with a series of cutting angles and by 1870 had discovered crown and pavilion angles that dramatically improved face-up appearance. Morse and Field then invented a gauge to be used by their cutters to achieve the true precursor of modern "ideal cut" round.
There is a whole lot more. Gilbertson takes us right to the present discussing the influence of Tolkowsky and American pioneer gemologists, Frank Wade and GIA founder Robert Shipley. Gilbertson’s own insights into beauty and diamond cutting are of real interest. He was part of the team that researched over 70,000 sets of proportions that led to the new GIA diamond cut evaluation system and knows whereof he speaks.
Profusely illustrated, well researched and thoughtfully written, American Cut, The First 100 Years gives us the real story. It is one of those books that deserve a place of every gemologist’s library. At $29.95 it is a bargain. Order here
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