The main attraction of any diamond’s sparkle is its eye-catching beauty. Or is it?
Designers have begun to challenge this notion by focusing on diamonds that lack the fire and brilliance we expect from them. Portrait-cut diamonds — thin, flat stones that are minimally faceted along their perimeters and have a transparent glasslike appearance — are gaining a following among a clutch of designers and clients drawn to their unusual allure.
“The portrait cut, also called a lasque, is among the oldest forms of diamond cutting,”Beth Bernstein, the author of “The Modern Guide to Antique Jewellery.” “It originated in ancient India and got its name from the practice of placing portraits beneath the gems to enhance their appearance and protect them.”
Later, the same technique would be used in Europe. “Royals and aristocrats would commission jewels with portraits set under thin slivers of diamonds, whether as status symbols or tokens of love and loyalty,”She said.
Vishal Kothari has dedicated an entire collection of portrait-cut diamonds to VAK, his Mumbai-based jewelry company that reinterprets Indian architecture and art with a modern eye. The style’s Indian origins first attracted him, and he said he “gradually fell more in love” when he discovered that the shallow profile allowed him to achieve an effect he couldn’t create with other diamonds.
“Because the stones are flat, I can use a thin wire, making them look like they are floating against the skin,”He said. “You see very little metal in my designs.”
He has applied that nearly invisible setting technique to diamonds in every tier of his collection, from high jewelry designs, like floral earrings composed of clusters of triangular diamonds ($42,000), to dainty studs ($2,600), often combining them with accents in colored stones — ruby, spinel, sapphire — or rose-cut and full-cut diamonds.
The uniqueness of the cut and its subtle personality appeal to many of his customers, he said. This includes members of several royal families who have commissioned pieces featuring portrait-cut diamonds. A diamond choker that converts into a tennis bracelet is one of his most popular products. “Everybody has a full-cut diamond tennis bracelet. You can find it anywhere online,”He said. “But when it is done with portrait cuts it’s a bit cooler, and you can wear it anywhere, like the Tube in London, without attracting attention.”
Anup Jogani, a Los Angeles jewel dealer who specializes exclusively in rare, untreated, untreated stones and works primarily alongside high-end designers, stated that he has witnessed a surge for portrait-cut, modern- and antique-cut diamonds from sources like watches. He considers them to be a connoisseur’s choice: “It’s a diamond for a diamond’s sake, not flash and sparkle.”
Prospective buyers, however, shouldn’t expect a bargain just because portrait-cut diamonds aren’t well known; they are “around the same price”As their highly faceted counterparts Mr. Jogani stated, though the slim profile gives them a more natural look. “a much bigger look per carat.”
There are more options for portrait-cut diamonds because of their increasing popularity. Jewels by Grace is a retailer that sells vintage, antique, and its own contemporary pieces online. Its Los Angeles atelier also offers them. Grace Lavarro, the founder of Jewels by Grace, stated that she had noticed that there was more variety. “Contemporary portrait cuts come in really cool, funky shapes — kites and hexagons and cushions — whereas most antique ones would be slightly irregular in silhouette.”She said that while many antique stones have a brown cast she said that it was normal for them. “you will find a higher color, like D, E and F, in contemporary stones.”
Ms. Lavarro stated that one of her primary considerations when selecting a portrait-cut gemstone was whether it was free from inclusions or imperfections. Because the cut exposes almost every flaw at once, Because of this crystal clear visibility, such gems are good at keeping mini memories in place. A recent Jewels by Grace locket rings features a portrait diamond that slides upward, so items can be added and removed easily.
Yoram Finkelstein, founder and owner GemConcepts in Ramat Gan (Israel), has extensive experience working with diamonds in old cuts, such as portrait-cut stones. Although he did not follow vintage designs, he said that he was open to trying out new jewelry designs. He layered a one-tenth-carat pink diamond on top of a diamond cut portrait in one of his ring designs. This gave the combination a mysterious appeal. “The possibilities with these stones are endless,” Mr. Finkelstein said.
Once she could get her hands on them, Kelty Pelechytik, of Edmonton, Alberta, explored the possibilities of portrait-cut diamonds, making them a significant part of her brand’s output.
She claimed that she waited over a year for a jewel dealer to ship her the first parcel of portrait-cut diamonds. After receiving them, she began using them in 2018 in a variety of pieces, including eternity rings and hoops.
Her contemporary interpretations of lover’s eyes, a jewelry genre dating from the late 18th century that featured miniature images of a single eye or set of lips, have proven particularly popular over the last year, she said. Clients send a photo of their eyes or lips to Robyn Rich, an artist from Frankston, Australia. Ms. Pelechytik then renders it in enamel on gold and sets it under a clear portrait jewel.
The jewels are priced between $4,300 and $15,000 and are often romantic keepsakes or gifts. However, Ms. Pelechytik stated that she has also made pieces to honor parents who have passed away. “many people commission them of their children and pets as well.”
Portrait cut has been a long-standing favorite of some designers. Eva Zuckerman stated that she has used portrait-cut diamonds. “since Day 1”Her decade-old fine jewelry brand Eva FehrenThe style was so rare at that time that she “collected and coveted them for years and years.”
The New York-based designer regards diamonds as “diamonds”. “extremely beautiful with a special luster,”She said that part of their appeal was the fact they defied expectations. “I think there’s something quite irreverent about using a diamond that isn’t cut in a way to maximize its sparkle,” Ms. Zuckerman said. “I think it’s a little rebellious.”
She started with portrait-cut gems as small hoops that hugged the ear, pendants or stacking bands. However, she has since expanded their use and created more elaborate designs, such as a pair of shoulder-grazing, stiletto earrings. “We’ve gotten gutsier with scale,” Ms. Zuckerman said. “Now I feel more empowered to take risks because I’ve seen that there is an appetite for them.”
Ms. Zuckerman even selected a hexagonal portrait-cut, round-cut diamond to be her engagement ring in 2019 “I love them for so many reasons, but part of it was the wearability,”She said. “I use my hands all the time, and portrait-cut stones are low profile and understated.”
She doesn’t mind that the cut ensures that the gem is not easily identifiable. “Most people might not recognize it as a diamond,” Ms. Zuckerman said. “But if you know, you know.”