The French cut, a simple cut with a pretty play of light, is an antique diamond cut that evolved from the table cut, which is considered the first of the faceted diamond cuts.
With the table cut, said to appear in the 15th century, one of the points of a natural octahedral-shape diamond crystal is removed to create a flat top facet or “table,” while the point on the opposite side is flattened. The result is a diamond with a flat, square-ish facet on top and a flat culet, with the remaining eight crystal faces forming four simple facets at a bevel angle on the crown and four on the pavilion.
The French cut dates back to the 15th century as well, but was popularized in the 17th century by European royalty and nobility until the introduction of the brilliant cut. It added a triangularly shaped facet that points downward from the table to the girdle to each of the four corners where the facets on the crown meet.
The effect when viewed from above shows a squarely shaped crown with nine facets, with the square (or rhombus-shape) table positioned high on the crown, its four corners pointing between the corners on the crown. The result is the appearance of a diagonal cross or four-pointed star, along with more light reflection due to the additional four corner facets.
Some French-cut diamonds further split the four triangularly shaped corner facets on the crown, which creates an octagonally shaped table. This allowed for an even more sophisticated reflection of light. There was also a flat-bottomed French cut, which resembled diamond cuts without a pavilion such as the rose cut, but with a French-cut crown.
The cut was named “French cut” most likely because it was more popular in France than anywhere else at the time. The French cut regained popularity during the Art Deco period of the early 20th century, most likely for its ability to expertly complement the bold geometric forms, exotic styles and exquisite craftsmanship of the jewelry and watches that defined the period.
Perhaps the biggest draw for the French cut is that it offers a simple style with understated sparkle, which is especially useful for small accent stones that highlight the main gem. French-cut diamonds are also magical on dangling jewels where you can see their visual effects in all directions, or when placed together.
Today, original French-cut diamonds are a rare find, having been replaced by modern shapes and cutting styles. However, there’s still a strong desire for French-cut stones because of how adaptable they are to almost any jewelry design, adding their visual splendor to the overall beauty of the piece.