There are well over a dozen different diamond cuts which are popularly featured in modern engagement rings. There’s only one which is so unique that the company which invented it has patented it, several times. That design is the Asscher cut, and while it was originally quite popular in the early 20th century, it is only now enjoying a renaissance among brides-to-be. Asscher cut engagement rings are again among the ten most popular styles chosen by buyers and growing more popular by the year, as more celebrities show them off (they were even featured in an episode of the TV show “Sex And The City”).
Unlike many diamond cuts which have been developed and refined by a number of cutters over the years, the original Asscher cut was created by famed artisan Joseph Asscher and patented by his company. After the exclusive patent expired other craftsmen tried to imitate the cut, and the name Asscher was often used to refer to any square emerald-shaped cuts. However, those diamonds usually didn’t have the same reflective properties, polish and sparkle as true Asscher cut diamonds. Nearly a century later Asscher’s grandsons created a modern version of the original technique and used it to create what is now known as the Royal Asscher cut, with even more brilliance. Like its predecessor, the Royal Asscher was protected by worldwide patent (which is still valid) and describes a very specific, very impressive type of diamond.
An examination of the history of diamond cuts can be dry and boring. The Asscher cut, however, has a very interesting story behind it.
The Story of The Asscher Cut Diamond
Joseph Asscher was a well-known Dutch diamond craftsman in the 19th century. In 1854 he formed his own company, I.J. Asscher, named it after his son Issac. Isaac grew up and joined the business, as did two other sons, Abraham and Joseph. The company’s name was eventually changed to the Asscher Diamond Company, and continued to be revered as one of the most innovative and skillful practitioners of the arts of diamond cutting and design. As you’ll see, the company still holds that distinction today under a new generation of leadership.
In 1902, Asscher was already world-famous not only for its quality, but their fame would grow greatly when Joseph (the son) developed a cut which would drastically increase the brilliance of a square diamond. As you have probably guessed, what he created was the original Asscher cut, the first “signature” cut ever to be awarded a patent. It had 58 wide-set facets (with three rows of facets at the top and three more at the bottom) and looked similar to what would later be known as an emerald cut. The design allowed for an enormous amount of brilliance from a square (or slightly rectangular) stone, while still keeping more of the diamond’s weight and looking more elegant than the brilliant cut stones of today.
The Asscher cut was a hit almost immediately, with sales of Asscher cut engagement rings hitting their peak during the Art Deco era, and the years after World War I. Perhaps the most famous was the Krupp Diamond given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton (and sold a few years ago at auction for nearly nine million dollars), which was a 33 carat Asscher cut engagement ring believed to have been crafted in the 1920s. Because of their fame, the Asschers were asked to cut the world’s two largest diamonds, the Excelsior and then the Cullinan (now a part of the British Crown Jewels).
The development of new cuts during that time was somewhat responsible for the decline in popularity of the original Asscher cut, but the real reason was quite simple: World War II. The Nazis raided the Asscher Diamond Company in Holland, seizing all diamonds and sending the Asschers to concentration camps. By the time the war had ended, only ten members of the family and a handful of the company’s 500 diamond cutters survived, and the patent on the Asscher cut had expired. Two of the family members rebuilt the company in the years that followed, and eventually recaptured the Asscher reputation; in 1980 it was renamed the Royal Asscher Diamond Company after Queen Juliana of the Netherlands granted the family a royal title for its leading role in the diamond industry.
The resurgence of the Asscher cut didn’t come until 2001, when Edward (the grandson of the original cut’s creator) and Joop Asscher used simulations and computer modeling to see if they could adjust the cutting and polishing processes originally used by Joseph Asscher to improve the light performance of Asscher cut diamonds even further. Their goal was to create an even more dynamic stone with greater brilliance. Their research led to the creation of what was called the Royal Asscher cut – now commonly referred to as modern Asscher cut diamonds. The new cut was universally praised and received a worldwide patent, so it is illegal for any other craftsman to try and replicate the cut. A true Royal Asscher cut diamond has both a laser-inscribed logo and a unique identification number. Many celebrities have shown off their Royal Asscher cut engagement rings, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashlee Simpson, and Zooey Deschanel.
Qualities of a Royal Asscher Cut Diamond
The modern Royal Asscher cut diamond looks much like a square emerald cut stone, but has 74 facets instead of the 58 in the original Asscher cut. Its light performance is vastly superior to that of other step cut diamonds and is nearly the same as that of a round brilliant cut stone, previously unseen in a fancy cut diamond. The design requires larger steps, a higher crown and a smaller table than an emerald cut, with truncated corners (giving the stone somewhat of an octagonal look) and a deep pavilion; those are all intended to pull the eye right to center of the diamond. When you look down into the face of a properly-cut Asscher cut engagement ring, you should see what appears to be a series of concentric squares.
The end result of the cutting is a stunning stone, combining the brilliance of a high-quality round brilliant diamond with the elegance of a fancy cut gemstone. It’s no surprise that the wealthy and famous favor Royal Asscher cut diamond engagement rings, because they can get the best of all worlds – particularly since they can afford large stones.
Buying a Ring with a Royal Asscher Cut Stone
One important note: for the remainder of this article, we will use the terms “Asscher cut” and “Royal Asscher cut” interchangeably, because you can’t just go to your local jeweler and buy an original Asscher cut diamond. Just remember that we’re now discussing only the 21st century Royal Asscher diamond.
Unlike other step cut stones, Asscher cut diamonds don’t “cover” some of the lower qualities which might otherwise be acceptable, so it’s harder to reduce the cost of a Royal Asscher engagement ring by making compromises on certain aspects of the stone as you might with a different fancy diamond. Here’s a closer look at the way the 4 C’s stack up for this elegant yet brilliant gemstone.
Carats: As a square (or almost-square) diamond, an Asscher cut stone will look smaller to the eye than a rectangular step cut diamond of equal carat weight. That leads many buyers to take a step beyond what they had planned, in terms of the size of their ring. That’s unfortunate, because Asscher cut diamonds are among the most expensive of all popular cuts. However, others feel that the remarkable brilliance of the stone compensates for a slightly smaller diamond. The price per carat does increase once you go over a one carat stone, as it does with most diamonds.
Color: Your first thought might be that you can go a little lower on the color of a Royal Asscher cut diamond, in the same way that you can make that compromise with other stones with exceptional brilliance. The problem is that the larger steps of Asscher cut diamonds make the color more obvious to the naked eye. For that reason, experts recommend that you stick with H color diamonds, and say that the step up to G color is often noticeable if you can afford it. You can cheat a bit, as with most stones, if you select a yellow gold setting because it will hide a little of the yellow tint in an I or J colored diamond.
Clarity: The table on a Royal Asscher cut diamond may be a bit smaller and more sparkly than the original cut, but it’s still wide enough to showcase inclusions in the stone fairly easily. As with other diamonds with large tables, it’s important to make sure the stone is eye clean; it’s recommended that you go no lower than SI1 or VS2 clarity for a small stone, and VS2-VS1 for a stone larger than half-a-carat (with a personal or photographic inspection to see where the inclusions are located).
Cut: The Asscher cut is another diamond which GIA (the most respected independent laboratory) doesn’t fully evaluate when it comes to cut, because they feel that the light performance of many fancy cut diamonds can’t be measured properly, even though there are rigorous standards for Royal Asscher cut stones. You’re left relying on the slightly-less respected AGS laboratory grades for cut and light performance, or simply on what you see when you look at the diamond along with the GIA report on polish and symmetry (which should be good or better). The table percentage on this cut should be between 57 and 72% (with 61-69% considered excellent) with a depth of 59-79% (61-68% is excellent), and it should have a girdle that’s slightly thick and a culet that’s very small, at worst. The optimal length to width ratio for an Asscher cut diamond is between 1.00 and 1.03.
Needless to say, these guidelines are just numbers and letters. They should only be used for guidance, with your eyes and your senses telling you the real truth about the Asscher cut engagement ring you’re considering.
The Price of Rings
Original Asscher cut engagement rings were among the most-expensive available in their day (even if they weren’t as large as the one that Dick gave Liz). Today, an authentic Royal Asscher cut ring is again among the priciest out there, because it requires an absolutely outstanding stone and extremely talented cutter to create a Royal Asscher diamond, and because the supply is strictly limited by the company. Expect to pay a premium over the price of a round brilliant diamond, perhaps 15-20% more, for one of these gorgeous stones. You can be certain that it will be eye-catching, though.
Settings to Choose From
The most popular setting used with Asscher cut diamonds is a four-prong setting which elevates the stone, protecting its vulnerable corners while allowing more light to shine through the diamond, thereby increasing its brilliance. A halo setting is quite striking in this regard if there’s extra space between the center and pave stones, because it provides even more room for light to enter the stone. Solitaire settings, on the other hand, are also popular because they allow the beautiful Asscher diamond to be the star. Those who are looking to dominate any environment prefer a three-stone ring with baguettes, or less frequently trillions or emerald cuts, alongside. Stay away from channel or bezel settings, because they will cut down on the amount of light refracted by the diamond.
The growing popularity of Asscher cut engagement rings, along with the continuing press attention paid to celebrities wearing them, may eventually boost their sales to levels only seen by classic modern cuts like the round brilliant and the princess cut. For now, though, you can be sure that when you make an appearance wearing an Asscher cut engagement ring, it will be the most unique and beautiful ring in the room.