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What is a Bolshevik Diamond?

By Frank

Highly experienced diamond polisher who loves to share his knowledge with you. Continues to stun his colleagues with interesting - or simply bizarre - facts about diamonds and gems.

September 18, 2020

Almost everyone knows the classic brilliant. Today, it is the standard diamond cut. It is the most sparkling diamond shape after the Royal 201. But did you know that the brilliant is “only” 100 years old? The brilliant is certainly not the first cut. One of the predecessors of the brilliant-cut is the Bolshevik cut diamond.

The first diamonds and cuts

Diamonds have always been popular. As early as the fourth century BC, diamonds were traded in India. Even back then, it was already clear that diamond is the hardest (natural) material in the world. So there was no way to polish them. That’s why the first jewels contained rough diamonds.

Cleaving and sanding

It was not until seventeen centuries later that the diamond came to Europe through the Middle East. In the meantime, people found they were able make a diamond prettier. Because of the discovery of cleaving, it became possible to remove the top of the octahedron. But people were also able to make the sides of the diamond look better. They “sanded” the sides of the gem with some diamond powder.

By removing the top from the rough diamond shape, the octahedron (Pointed Cut), they were able to make the diamond a bit prettier (Table Cut)

The rose and briolette

Around the 15th and 16th century, diamonds came directly from India. As a result, the supply increased considerably and with it the demand for diamond workers. With new techniques, it was now possible to polish facets. This led to special cuts such as the Briolette and the Rose. The rose in particular was, and remained, very popular. Especially the Netherlands produced many rose cuts during the Victorian style period (around 1900). But instead of the standard twelve facets, Amsterdam polishers usually created rose diamonds with eighteen facets. Moreover, the curve was somewhat taller than roses from other places. That is why we also call this type of cut the “Dutch Rose” or “Amsterdam Rose”.

The way to a round diamond

Even though we often consider the Rose as a precursor of the brilliant, the real precursor is the Bolshevik diamond. The technique to make a non-round diamond rounder did not yet exist. That is why all polished diamonds were some kind of rounded square or rounded rectangle. In these polishes, the shape of the rough diamond, the octahedron, was still recognizable. An example of this kind of cut is the ‘Mine cut’.

different diamond cuts that lead to the bolshevik diamond The Rose Cut was very famous in Amsterdam

Steam-driven machines

In the mid-19th century, steam-powered machines made their appearance. These machines could saw and cut diamonds. In 1840, Coster Diamonds was the first diamond-polishing factory to use these machines. We call the technique to make diamonds round “bruting”. When this bruting was suddenly possible with the new machines, a world of options opened up for diamond cutters. Suddenly it was possible to cut and polish diamonds. And fast too.

A new, round diamond cut

This is how the old European cut was born. Compared to the earlier cuts, this one is already a lot rounder. Nevertheless, polishers considered it important to preserve as much of the rough weight of the diamond as possible. Therefore, the old European cut has a much steeper top than the brilliant as we know it today. In addition, this shape has much wider facets at the back and often a flattened point at the bottom.

old european cut The old European cut is round and has a small table

The Bolshevik diamond

The Bolshevik cut is almost the same as the old European cut. But unlike the latter, the Bolshevik is not from Europe. You may have guessed it by name. The Bolshevik diamond comes from Russia!

A new group of polishers

After the Russian revolution, in the early 20th century, a lot of diamonds came onto the market. Many Russians aspired to become a diamond polisher. However, they often did not have the right tools. For example, if they even had a loupe, it wasn’t nearly as good as the ones the European polishers used. The Russian polishers did a on the naked eye. The goal for the Russian polishers was to make the diamond round, but at the same time keep as much of the rough diamond as possible. They tried to make their cuts similar to the old European cut. But because they lacked the high-quality tools, diamonds from Russia looked a bit different.

Ring with bolshevik diamond Ring with Bolshevik diamond. Image source: Catawiki

The appearance of the Bolshevik diamond

Compared to the newer European shapes, the Bolshevik diamond had an even steeper top. This would leave more of the rough stone, which made the diamond have a higher carat. In addition, the girdle – the widest part of the diamond – was often a lot thicker. Moreover, it appeared to be very difficult to make a diamond exactly round without the proper tools. These three characteristics make it relatively easy to recognize a Bolshevik cut diamond. But isn’t that part of the charm too?

Bolshevik diamonds in Europe

The pace of the Russian polishers was high. They produced an whole lot of diamonds. Despite the fact that the cut was not top quality, the stones were very popular. Especially in Europe. Unlike Russia, Europe does not have diamond mines. That is how many Russian diamonds came to Europe. And where to better than in the City of Diamonds?

ring with bolshevik diamond Bolshevik diamonds are often not perfectly round because the polishers lacked proper tools. Image source: Catawiki

The name Bolshevik

Popularly, Amsterdam people called Russian diamonds “Bolsheviks”. Of course, this referred to Russian rulers of that time. Even though at one point the Bolsheviks were no longer in power in Russia, the term “Bolshevik-cut diamonds” was integrated into the diamond business.

And that is how the Bolshevik diamond got its name. Basically, the design stems from the old European cut. But especially back in those times, there were not specific rules for polishing diamonds. And certainly not for the names of the diamond cuts. The official names started with the introduction of the brilliant cut diamond.

Ring with Bolshevik diamond. Image source: Catawiki

Bolshevik cut diamonds in jewelry

In modern jewelry, we actually never see Bolshevik diamonds anymore. Over time, the Bolshevik was replaced by a brilliant-cut. The brilliant sparkles a lot more, so that is not very surprising. But in antique jewelry, we occasionally come across a Bolshevik. Yet or many people it is not easy to recognize a Bolshevik cut. That is why it is often confused with an old European cut or the mine cut.

Do you have antique jewelry and are you curious whether you have a Bolshevik cut diamond? Visit us. My colleagues and I are happy to take a look at them. If you prefer to polish a diamond yourself, I invite you to book a diamond masterclass.

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