One of the oldest forms of cutting is the Rose Cut. This form of cutting is probably as old as the table cut and can be witnessed in the fabled Koh-i-Nur, cut in the early 16th century and which is a form of rose cut. The cut usually has a flat back but with a domed and facetted front. It was a cut used for many of the old and historic diamonds. However, if the diamond is facetted all over and is almost teardrop in form it is referred to a briolette. The old antique-cut briolettes, with their many facetted surface, act like dazzling drops of sunlight which reflect a myriad of colours and light.
Probably the most famous “old” white diamond in this cutting style is the “Briolette of India”, a 90.38 carat D colour stone which was bought from Cartier in 1910 and had been cut in Neuilly, France at the turn of century. Subsequently it was purchased by Harry Winston in 1946 who sold it to an Indian Maharaja. It then returned to Harry Winston to then enjoy yet another new owner until it was finally purchased by a titled important European family in 1971 - the same year as the sale of Madame Walska’s jewels.
The Walska Briolette. Detail of the design by Cartier, late 1920s, from Cartier Archives, London
M. Vainer Limited of London are internationally renowned as diamond cutters and in the 1980’s they cut the 'Vainer Briolette'. A yellow stone of 116.60 carats, it is the second largest briolette recorded in the world, the largest being 180.85 carats, also of yellow colour. The 'Vainer Briolette' was subsequently sold to the Sultan of Brunei and the cutters went on to cut other large and important yellow briolettes. However, it would appear that the 'Walska Briolette' is the largest and most important fancy yellow briolette cut in the old antique style and certainly the most historic. This iconic and extraordinary diamond is certainly not only a marvel of nature but a wonderful treasure for man.