Antique Cut Diamonds: Portrait Cut
When we think of famous diamonds such as the 530.2-carat Cullinan I diamond, which sits atop the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross as part of the British Crown Jewels, or the nearly 46-carat Hope diamond with its natural dark-grayish-blue color, “works of art” certainly comes to mind. After all, diamonds like these captivate the imagination like no other gemstones and are considered exceptional items in our world.
There are some diamonds, however, whose purpose is to showcase other “works of art.” They’re what’s known as “portrait cut diamonds.”
A portrait cut diamond, also known as a lasque, has its origins in ancient Indian jewelry-making. It’s a thin, flat diamond usually cut from an inferior stone into a shape such as a rectangle or a square. It has a large table that takes up almost the entire crown, with polished upper and lower surfaces and slight facets on its sides. The result is a very shallow stone that resembles a slim sheet of glass.
As the name suggests, portrait cut diamonds were historically used to clearly view and protect miniature portrait paintings, much like a piece of glass is used in a modern-day frame. Naturally, colorless diamonds with very good clarity were the most in demand so that the paintings’ natural colors and details could easily be seen.
An outstanding example of a portrait cut diamond can be found in what’s referred to as “The Russian Portrait” or “The Portrait Diamond.” Dating from approximately 1820, the diamond is a “rather thick” pear shaped stone of “peerless purity” measuring 40 mm by 29 mm and weighing approximately 27 carats, making it the largest portrait cut (also referenced as table cut) diamond in the world.
"The Russian Portrait" diamond, circa 1820.
The portrait cut diamond covers a miniature portrait of Alexander I, the emperor of Russia from 1801 and 1825, set into a gothic-style gold memorial bracelet elaborately adorned with ivory and enamel. Under the diamond, the words “To the blessed Emperor Alexander I” are engraved.
More recently, portrait cut diamonds are seeing a resurgence, although they’re no longer being used to cover miniature portrait paintings. Instead, portrait cut diamonds are popping up in statement-making fashion and bridal jewelry. One such example can be seen in actress Rooney Mara’s unique engagement ring received from actor Joaquin Phoenix in 2019, which features a striking hexagon-shaped portrait cut diamond.
Here at Jogani, portrait cut diamonds are a particular favorite. We greatly value the individuality of each special stone—in shapes as varied as “bean,” “moon” and “lozenge”—and craft ring settings that highlight their one-of-a-kind features and subtle beauty. We think portrait cut diamonds work especially well as the centerpiece of “tattoo rings,” which give the admirer an open window to the “work of art”—tattooed finger—beneath. You can see our stunning collection at Jogani.com.