The August Vintage Cushion

The August Vintage Cushion

August: adj 1. dignified or imposing: an august presence 2. of noble birth or high rank: an august lineage

Vintage: adj representing the high quality of a past time. vintage cars, vintage movies and yes ... vintage diamonds.

During the course of the past decade we have, within our industry, witnessed a revolution in way of diamond cut grading. In June of 2005 AGS Laboratories transitioned to a cut grading system which emphasizes at its heart a "Light Performance" grade and shortly thereafter, in January of 2006 GIA released their historic cut grading system as well for round brilliant cuts. Both of these cut grading systems have as its goal the objective of helping consumers get the most beautiful diamond they can for their hard earned dollar. While all this has been going on, this gemologist has not only taken the time to study, in depth, the characteristics of these cut grading systems but how they correlate with all the optical technologies that have been introduced over the course of the past decades and also how it correlates to what could be properly called "practical observation". On the web I've gained a gained a strong reputation for hand selecting diamonds with the finest craftsmanship coupled with the highest light performance attainable within the shapes their clients are looking for

At the same time we have witnessed a growing demand for cushion cut diamonds and particularly those cushion cuts which were traditionally known as Old Mine Brilliants. (Note: Old Mine Brilliant's are also known as "Old Mine Cuts" or abbreviated "omb" or "omc" diamonds.) Generally speaking, old mine cut diamonds were very poorly cut, off round, had sloppy symmetry and proportions that lent themselves to preserving the most weight possible from the rough material it was cut from. In the early 20th century and before electricity was even invented, these diamonds were cut by candle light and exhibited a very blocky pattern of faceting. Tall crowns, extremely deep (which made them face up smaller), wide faceting and with a very large culet which in photography appears like a hole in the middle. The images below are of genuine antique old mine brilliant cuts. Note the blocky faceting, the small table and the extra large culet facet in the center.
With the introduction of the American Ideal Cut round brilliant in the late 19th century these omb's eventually took a back seat as the cutting style of rounds changed the market forever. Old mine cut and old European cut diamonds are generally only found in pawn shops, antique shops and stores that specialize in antique and vintage jewelry. Today the modern round brilliant cut still stands as the diamond that is #1 in demand, and with the introduction of the princess cut in the 1960's, that took 2nd in demand ... until this past decade.

old mine cut antique diamondantique old mine brilliant cut diamond

During the course of time I've been serving online (since 1998) we have witnessed a growing demand for cushion cuts and in particular vintage styled cushion cuts. It is during this time that we have also been hand selecting diamonds for our clients based on optics, light performance and the best cut qualities attainable within their given shape. To date, only a couple of cutting facilities around the world have even continued to cut the vintage styled cushions that originated so long ago. That fact makes this style of cushion the hardest to find among the world of cushion cuts. Like most cutting facilities however this small handful of vintage cushion cutters follow suite in maintaining the most weight from the rough to make them as cost effective as possible. Cutting with this philosophy however produces diamonds with optics that are less than ideal and optical symmetry that is best termed "wonky".

As clients would contact us we would acquire these vintage styled cushions and perform a series of optical examinations on them to inspect them for their brightness, contrast, fire and sparkle. Here is a small sampling of ASET images that are typical to what we see as we would call these diamonds in for analysis. Some are ok but not what really cutting what this facet structure could achieve.  


Every time I would look at one of these vintage cushions with extraneous leakage or head obstruction the thought kept crossing my mind ... what if someone were to take this vintage facet structure and cut it to ...  

  • Have perfect or near perfect Optical Symmetry

  • Eliminate the large areas of blatant leakage under the table facet.

  • Eliminate the excessive head/body shadows

  • Cut it to optimize the best possible light return within this facet structure

  • Ie. A perfected optical design like this.  ---------->

  • AGS ASET of an Ideal Cut Cushion Brilliant

As I was communicating my ideas to cutters and friends of mine, a trusted friend, introduced me to a skilled cutter who had already been cutting omb diamonds and was familiar with the facet structure who could help bring my ideas to fruition. After working with this cutter for about a year I figured out the precise combination of angles which would produce the perfect saturation of reds (light reflection) via the ASET technology and in the summer of 2009 introduced the August Vintage® Cushion (albeit at that time we didn't have a name so we simply called it the "Signature Chunky Cushion"). The goal of this product was to produce precise optical symmetry combined with the best light performance attainable in the vintage cushion facet design. The graphic below  demonstrates a sampling of the ASET's and the consistency to which this new brand would be cut. These are actual photographs of August Vintage® Cushions taken under ASET technology.   

Note that each ASET image is showing strong dominant saturation of reds under the table facet combined with red/green/blue contrast extending from the table down to the edges (girdle). Every single August Vintage Cushion is cut to consistently have top optical performance from diamond to diamond guaranteeing our clients the most beautiful vintage styled cushions cut in the world today.​

After perfecting the cut we submitted the August Vintage Cushion to AGS Laboratories and as of June 9th, 2010 AGS Laboratories deemed August Vintage Cushions to officially have "Ideal" Light Performance making them the first vintage cushions in the world to attain such status. The only other cushions on the market to achieve this cut quality in optics till then was the Brellia Square Cushion Hearts & Arrows diamond.




In the video above a 2nd characteristic about these cuts is brought out in our observations and that is the size. Ie. the actual real estate on the finger!) for the weight or it's footprint. Similar to rounds (and all other shapes of diamond for that matter), when you cut a diamond to maximize its weight, it will generally result in a diamond that looks smaller for its weight. Here is an example of two round diamonds, both of which weigh 1.01ct.  

The diamond on the left is a commonly cut round brilliant while the diamond on the right is a precision ideal cut. The diamond on the left was cut to maximize the weight while the diamond on the right was cut to maximize the optics. The natural result is not only a brighter and more fiery diamond (and consequently more beautiful diamond) but also bigger circumference. The circumference of the diamond on the left (had it been cut properly) is equivalent to a .89ct diamond although it weighs 1.01ct.

Likewise we see these same results with the August Vintage Cushions. Below is an example of one of the finer generic vintage cushions we could locate, a 2.01ct alongside of an August Vintage Cushion weighing 2.05ct (only a .04ct difference), yet note the size difference.


Why are August Vintage(R) Cushions more expensive then generic cushions cut diamonds?

It's not a matter of expensive or inexpensive. It is a matter of value. For the same exact reason that all ideal cut diamonds are more valuable than their generic counterparts, so is the AGS Ideal Cut August Vintage Cushion notably more valuable than generic, non ideal cushion and cushion modified diamonds. Allow me to expound.

When a diamond cutter has a piece of rough he can follow one of two primary philosophies in his cutting. Those being

  • Taking the rough and maximizing the weight of it to yield the heaviest diamond possible. Ie. Cutting for weight at the expense of cut. or

  • Taking the rough and cutting it to a very specific geometry (a combination of specific proportions and symmetry) to produce a specific optic. Ie. Cutting for optics at the expense of weight. That is, assuming the diamond designer understands diamond optics.

For millennia, ever since diamonds have been cut, scenario #1 has dominated our trade as there has not been standards by which to cut diamonds to. There's only been basic facet designs with no particular attention to proportions or overall geometry. That is until the late 1800's with the invention of the "American Ideal" by Henry Morse and refined later by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919 which is the standard for all ideal cut rounds today. These were men in our trade seeking to improve and refine diamond optics within the round brilliant cut to make their products visibly more beautiful than the diamonds being cut in their day. However not many cutters or jewelers grasped or laid hold of the idea with the exception of Tiffany who made Tolkowsky's research their staple. Cutting ideal rounds took more time, increasing labor costs as well as losing more material (up to 25% more) during the cutting process.

With little information available about cut quality & light performance in diamond, the trade was more inclined on cutting the largest least expensive products possible. This cutting philosophy dominates the trade even till this day. In fact if one were to go online to websites that feature the "virtual inventory" and search for 1.00-1.01ct G VS2 and GIA "Excellent" cuts only it is not uncommon to find variances in pricing by as much as 40%, and this even on the same website. (Note: Any carat weight, clarity and color can be searched. I just used 1.00-1.01ct G VS2 since it is a more common quality available).

In the late 1990's and early 2000's with the introduction of new and innovative optical technologies that allow us to critically see light leakage, light return, etc. a handful of gemologists, myself included, revisited this idea of cutting diamonds for high optics thinking along the lines of their predecessors (Morse, Tolkowsky) etc. and it is with these optical technologies (ASET, FireScope, Isee2, BrillianceScope, Octonus Ray Trace, AGS Performance Grading Software) that the August Vintage line was designed and created. Like ideal cut rounds, August Vintage® Cushions and August Vintage® Old European Cuts are cut to the highest standards in the industry and are the only vintage diamonds to attain the coveted AGS "Ideal" designation for cut and light performance.

How often do you cut more August Vintage Cushions?​

As often as we need them. We generally stock inventory of August Vintage Cushions ranging from 1/2ct up to 3ct sizes in both white and warm varieties. Our primary goals is to be able to offer our clients a selection of AVC's at price points ranging from around $1000 upwards of $100k.  If we're shy in any size category we also offer custom cutting.

Did you actually invent the "ideal vintage cushion cut" or did you just invent the name "August Vintage"? 

Contrary to what anyone says, I did actually invent the "Ideal" vintage cushion cut, more commonly known as the Old Mine Cut. Even though AGS technically owns the term "Ideal" within the trade, the August Vintage Cushion was optically designed around their very definition of the term and my years of working with optical technologies including AGS' own Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET). In fact when we submitted the first August Vintage diamonds to AGS Laboratories they were not going to grant August Vintage Cushions the status of "Ideal" for optical properties because of the culet facet which is a point of leakage on a diamond. After debating with the scientists at AGS and pointing out that other fancy shaped diamonds had leakage => the size of the culet in AVC's, AGS recognized the flaw in their prohibition, changed their minds and decided that what we had developed was in fact the best possible optics one could attain from the old mine brilliant facet structure.

How did you come up with the name "August Vintage"?​

The name "August Vintage" was developed in corroboration with members from the online community. I knew I wanted to incorporate the word "vintage" in the name and a forum member who went by the name of "Ellen" suggested the word "august" which means "inspiring awe or admiration, majestic". This word coupled with "vintage" which carries with it the definition of "Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal; classic." was just a match made in heaven.​

Why do you stock K, L, M, N and lower colors in August Vintage products?​

Because they are just as beautiful as their whiter counterparts and come in at great price points! Originally we had no intention of cutting August Vintage diamonds below J color but after we began cutting we had many inquiries for colors in this range. My curiosity got the best of me and we cut a business of AVC's ranging from K-N/O colors and after we and our clients witnessed how amazing they were we have since stocked a regular inventory of both "white" and "warm" August Vintage Cushions. The pastels observed in ambient lighting blend beautifully with the warmer tones and the chemistry is simply amazing. When a person understands that the beauty of a diamond lies in its cut quality, ie. it's ability to effectively and efficiently grab and reflect light there is a large body of people who love and appreciate the beauty and price points of these warmer colors. In fact I'd be hard pressed to call a "K" color August Vintage "yellow" because their superior optics cause them to face up so white. The AVC used in the graphic above happens to be an M color (photo courtesy of Natalia Milianku).

Can I have an August Vintage diamond custom cut?​

You sure can. When cutting diamonds from the rough it is important for you to understand how the process works and the flexibility we need from you when we are doing this.​

When a business of rough is purchased the diamonds will generally be categorized into parcels of estimated color/clarity grades. For example if we purchase a parcel of 10 diamonds we may purchase them (for sake of example) at G VS2 pricing. Of the 10 diamonds, after they are finished being cut and are submitted to the Lab, a couple may be graded as F VS, F SI, G VS1, H VS2, G VS2, H SI1, etc. It is very possible and highly likely that not all the diamonds are going to get exactly the G VS2 pricing I paid for. However when you average out the cost of the lot it generally works out fair for what was paid. So in essence if you would like an August Vintage custom cut for you we need a certain degree of flexibility, generally within 2 grades, color & clarity.​

The same would hold true if we were purchasing a single larger diamond. Due to the fact that clarity and color grading are, to a degree subjective we need this flexibility from our clients.

I'm looking at a competitors diamond and it is a G VS2 and comparing it to yours which has a lower color/clarity grade and are comparably priced. Why should I get an August Vintage over theirs? Isn't theirs the better buy? 

Absolutely not. When you consider that this is the diamond that will be on your wife's hand for the rest of your lives and quite possibly the diamond that will be passed down from generation to generation within your family, we are firm believers in sacrificing an intangible for a tangible. To clarify ... the average layman cannot see the difference between a G and an H color. Many would be hard pressed to see the difference even between a G and an I color. Color and Clarity when not detectable by human vision is something we would consider an intangible. The cut quality however is something that can be visibly seen and is a "tangible" that is well worth sacrificing the intangible for. Never forget ... cut quality dictates the beauty of the diamond. Color and Clarity (as long as it's not as yellow as you want for an engagement ring or has large eye visible inclusions) will always take a back seat to cut quality. As far as being a better buy... definitely not for the same exact reasons an Ideal Cut is more valuable than a non ideal cut. The cutter or you the buyer can either put your money into higher clarity, higher color or higher cut. You have to decide what is important to you in this purchase. The tangible or the intangible. It's really that simple. It's difficult because only till now do consumers have that choice. In the past they never did. To read about others who have made the same choice here is a thread on an Internet forum made exclusively by August Vintage Cushion lovers.