Question: What exactly is the American Ideal? Was it Americans who refined the cutting/proportioning process?
The American Ideal Cut
Ideal is defined as:
“A standard of perfection, beauty, or excellence.”
“THE QUEST FOR THE IDEAL”
The GIA diamond course from 1993, on the page titled “The Quest for the Ideal” points out: “Although Diamond Design was first published in England, Tolkowsky’s design is often called the American Ideal Cut, because US cutters were the first to adopt it. … For years, GIA used the American Ideal Cut as the basis of a comparison system in teaching diamond cut evaluation.”
Although not the first person to formulate proportions believed to result in maximal brilliance and fire, he is the one most people think of as the father of this ideal.
Tolkowsky’s findings became the basis for the American Ideal Cut. And his model for the best-performing round-brilliant diamond remains the most influential in history.
By 1880 he was recutting the traditional Old European cut diamond without regard for weight retention to produce the most beautiful round brilliant cut diamond of his time. (Morse’s model had a pavilion angle within a degree of 41 and a crown angle close to 35 degrees).
His work went largely unheralded because the great majority of diamond manufacturing in the US steadfastly followed traditional European cutting with the goal of maximum weight retention from the rough diamond crystal.
Since the times of Morse and Tolkowsky, cutters of the American Ideal have continued to improve its beauty by lengthening the lower-girdle facets and slightly increasing the table size–all the while staying close to Tolkowsky’s and Morse’s recommended average pavilion and crown angles (40.75,41 and 34.5,35).
Introduced in America in the 90’s, the optically symmetrical, hearts and arrows ideal was championed by several American diamond importers and cutting houses. The American Ideal continued to be refined by cutters using the latest diamond cutting technology and optical performance assessment tools.
The American Ideal cut diamond has evolved and improved in optical performance and beauty through the advancing skills and technology of the very best of the diamond cutting profession. Today, cutting firms worldwide are embracing the evolved American Ideal.
Begun in America with Henry Morse, championed by GIA and AGS, and nurtured by American cutters, this pinnacle of performance and beauty represents, in diamond cutting, the culmination of the quest for Ideal.
DIAMOND BEAUTY – BRILLIANCE, FIRE AND SPARKLE
Fire, which is diamond’s dispersion of light into rainbow colors is an important and desirable aspect of diamond beauty. It is a property of the American Ideal that is often overlooked, because the bright lighting in today’s jewelry stores usually emphasizes the other two aspects of diamond beauty— brilliance and sparkle.
The diamond’s fire is better observed in high contrast lighting. Lighting of this nature may be found in some restaurants, theatres, ballrooms, etc., where the illumination is mainly from spot lighting in otherwise low light surroundings. The prevalence of artificial lighting of this type from gas and kerosene lamps, candles, chandeliers, etc. better highlighted the fire aspect of the diamond’s beauty in times prior to the advent of modern, 20th century lighting. At that time, unlike today, fire was advertized as the diamond’s most important attribute.