The beautiful briolette cut is an antique gemstone cut unlike any other. It has a three-dimensional mainly teardrop or oval shape without a flat table, girdle or pointed culet. It’s also surfaced on all sides with facets to reflect light in every direction, much like the pendeloques used for ornamenting a chandelier.
The briolette cut can only be created from a fairly sizeable stone with a suitable surface area and clarity. Its unique design might have evolved from the early double rose cut, which features a rose-cut design on both the crown and pavilion of a gem. When one side of a double rose-cut gem is longer than the other, a drop shape is formed. The briolette cut is also completely covered with triangular, or sometimes rectangular, facets to guarantee the most sparkle.
Perhaps the earliest evidence of the briolette cut can be traced to India in the 17th century. It was during this time period that storied French traveler and gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier made several voyages to India and sold two briolette-cut diamonds to King Louis XIV of France.
Briolette-cut gems were most often drilled through their tips and worn as pendants. They were also ideal for use in dangling earrings and fringe-style necklaces. The Napoleon Diamond Necklace, for instance, is an outstanding example. Created in 1811 by Etienne Nitôt and Sons in Paris, the necklace was a gift from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France to his second wife, Marie-Louise. The necklace showcases 28 old mine–cut diamonds suspending a fringe of five pear-shaped diamonds, four oval-shaped diamonds and ten briolette-cut diamonds in an alternating pattern.
The Napoleon Diamond Necklace featuring ten briolette-cut diamonds.
As diamond-cutting technology progressed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, however, lapidary artists abandoned cuts such as the briolette to pursue the table-crown-pavilion cuts well-liked today. Many important gems in this shape were recut. Briolette-cut gems had a resurgence in the Victorian and Art Deco periods, but then waned again in popularity as the briolette cut was viewed as an inefficient use of a gem’s rough.
Today, the briolette cut is finding favor once again. In 2013, “The Star of China,” a 75.36-carat Type IIA briolette-cut diamond with internally flawless clarity and D color sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for a record $11.2 million. It’s considered the world’s largest and most perfect briolette-cut diamond and is certainly a sight to behold at every angle.
"The Star of China," the world's largest and most perfect briolette-cut diamond.
More recently, prestigious jewelry manufacturer Cartier debuted a gorgeous high-jewelry collection in 2019 called “Magnitude.” The collection includes the “Yuma” earrings, necklace and ring featuring dazzling briolette-cut yellow diamonds. Here, we see briolettes, whether in clusters or cascades, used as a distinctive artistic element in exciting, contemporary styles, proving their staying power and appeal.