The History of Marquise Cut Diamonds
6 Minute Read
A marquise cut diamond is a chic diamond silhouette that not only boasts a noble name, the marquise but has an actual royal history to its origin. The marquise diamond cut was heralded in regal circles for centuries—and its popularity trickled down to mainstream consumer appreciation in the late 60s to the early 1970s. Over time, however, because the cut had become so popular in bridal jewelry, it became known as 'my mother's diamond', and younger shoppers turned away from it. Happily, that has all changed as modern shoppers are taking a fresh look at this timeless stone.
A Historical French Kiss
The idea came straight from the French Royal Court. France's flamboyant and long reigning king, Louis XV (b.1710-d.1774) ruled from 1715, from 5 years of age until his death in 1774. He led a privileged but lonely life as a youth, endearing him to his subjects as a lad, while earning the nick-name "Louis the Beloved." Later on, historians recount, that luster dulled as it was replaced with resentment from the citizens of France. Historians claim his reign contributed to the decline of royal authority that led to the French Revolution in 1789, just a few years after his demise.
Louis XV certainly came by his love of diamonds naturally. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was resplendent in fabulous jewels throughout her storied life. The king's own grandfather, Louis XIV, was called the Sun King, for his penchant of draping himself head to toe in diamonds to the astonishment of guests at his lavish candlelit dinners. Louis XV also had several mistresses, a common practice with royalty, then and now. One of his favorite lovers was Madame du Pompadour.
Legend says it all began at a masked ball in Versailles. King Louis XV encountered Jean Antoinette Poisson. The King was so smitten by her that he made her his chief mistress with a key a place in his court as the Marquise de Pompadour (also known as Madame du Pompadour). He declared that hers were the most perfect lips he had ever seen. When the king commissioned a royal jeweler to create a design and shape of diamond that looked most like her lips, the marquise cut was born!
How to Understand a Marquise Cut Diamond
Over time, the marquise diamond's shape and facet plan has been perfected as cutters became more savvy about light performance in diamonds. Today, this elliptical shaped pointed-end cut features 56 or 58 expertly placed, sparkling facets. Diamond cutters confirm that the modern marquise cut handles light almost as perfectly as a round brilliant cut diamond. Symmetry is a key characteristic with the marquise cut diamond, but also is being well-proportioned. One doesn't want the stone looking too long, or too short and squat. Balance is critical.
Although there may always be a bit of artistic leeway given to expert cutters, there will be 33 facets polished on the crown, and 25 on its pavilion. Today, marquise stones are usually cut to length/width proportions of 1:1.75 - 2.25, the ideal aimed for being 2 to 1. Since this cut makes the most of its original rough crystal, it's not unheard of to find a 0.36-ct weight stone easily being 7 mm long.
Take a close look at the marquise stone you're interested in. Marquise diamonds are sometimes polished with what cutters refer to as a French Tip. This French tip application is simply a variation of the cut, with several small facets replacing one large bezel facet at each tip. You may need the help of a professional to see if your diamond has a French tip. It makes the points of the stone look more like a star, and adds greater sparkle to the ends.
You may have already learned that the shape of a rough crystal often informs the cutter as to what he can create from that diamond. There are some rather 'flat' diamond crystals, and those often get earmarked for the marquise shape. Because of that, examine your loose marquise stone carefully from its side profile as well as the top. Then, you'll know if your marquise diamond is too shallow, or "spready" as they are referred to in industry jargon. Marquise stones can in fact be spready—or quite narrow in depth. If you find one and like it, then you should be able to buy it at less than its perfectly proportioned counterpart. The pointed ends of a marquise can make it more vulnerable to chipping so keeping the depth within a normal range is the best way to go. Is a spready diamond a bad thing? Not really—they can look quite a bit larger than an ideally proportioned stone—just be aware and be savvy as to what you're buying.
The elegance of a finely cut marquise is truly a work of art:
The marquise cut is also vulnerable to exhibiting a bowtie effect if the cut varies too greatly from its ideal standards. When shopping for a marquise cut stone, you should look for one that displays the least visible bowtie—that dark effect in an outline of a bowtie seen when looking down through the table facet of the stone. A slightly visible bow tie is not necessarily a deal breaker on a marquise diamond, especially when you plan to set it in a ring with a diamond halo or other accent stones surrounding it. Then you've got plenty to dazzle the eyes!
How to Protect Your Marquise Diamond
Play it safe with your marquise diamonds by protecting their tips. We all know how hard diamonds are, but that doesn't make them exempt from chipping on those delicate points. A marquise diamond could be bezel set in some cases and then you're worry free. Most often they are prong set. So, if it's up to you, look for V-prongs to cover the tips as the best protection against damage. Double prong (claw type) set on each stone end is another way of guarding your diamond against some unfortunate damage.
North-South or East-West?
The elongated shape of the marquise diamond was traditionally set vertically on a ring as a subliminal way to give a more gracefully long appearance to the wearer's hand. While it is still true of course, modern designers are also re-envisioning the whole marquise appeal by orienting the stone in an east-west placement on a ring. This updated interpretation of a great classic stone breathes new life into a traditional diamond shape.
The marquise cut is reemerging as a smart choice because the cut often looks larger in carat size than other stones of the same weight. Designers creating edgy updated styles allow consumers to see the marquise shape in a brand-new light. Whether it is set in a halo mounting, which heightens the impression of a much larger stone, or fixed in an east-west orientation, this stone gives plenty of choices to shoppers looking for personal expression through their bridal jewelry. Couture jewelers often grab marquise stones first to design floral motifs, waterfall designs, and cluster patterns. The marquise effortlessly fits into the most complex design layout. This may be the diamond cut for you if you enjoy admiring a stone that appears much larger than it actually is—and has a super-romantic history to boot.
Diana Jarrett GG RMV
Creative writer, author and Gemologist, Diana Jarrett is a graduate gemologist (GG GIA) and Registered Master Valuer.
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