Most consumers don’t realize the long, complicated, precarious journey a diamond takes from its humble beginning amidst tons of rock in the Earth to its sparkling transformation in a jewelry store counter. An especially critical point in the diamond’s journey is its time with the diamond artisan, who must cut the diamond to maximize its beauty.

Diamonds come from the Earth in a state referred to as “rough” crystal. Each diamond is unique, able to take many shapes. The potential for one of these roughs to make it to the jewelry counter varies from crystal to crystal, but just around 5% of all diamonds found are gem quality. Sorting through the rock and then the rough to find the “gems” is only the first step.

Then, when the diamond is cut by hand, it is the cutter’s job to examine the rough shape and then determine how to do it for the most beauty and value. The cutter will have to consider where, within the rough, clarity and color are best, as well as which shape will capture the most (and best) of the rough. Some important stones may be studied for weeks or even months before the first cut is made, because that first cut will determine the stone’s irreversible future. In a sense, the cutter is like the sculptor who must look at a chunk of marble and determine how to find the best shape within the best part of the stone. Unlike most sculptures, however, a diamond will be judged both outside and within.

When the diamond’s shape is isolated within the rough, the art of faceting and polishing produces the most beautiful optical effects of the stone. Even though a diamond’s, carat, color and clarity are grades based on nature, the cut quality and resulting beauty also reflects the work of an artisan diamond cutter.