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The History of Pear Shaped Diamonds

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HomeDiamond AdviceThe History of Pear Shaped Diamonds

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Did you know that every diamond shape except the round brilliant is referred to as a fancy cut? The fancy cut we'll spotlight today is the pear shape. The pear cut diamond has sometimes been called a teardrop shape for its similarity to that crystal drop falling from the eye. This elegant diamond is anything but downcast—it's actually a symphony of scintillation. Let's take a closer look at its history, and evolution—and its place in modern jewelry.

The Cut: Marquise + Round = Pear

First, let's look at its shape and discover how this cut handles light. The pear-shaped diamond is an amalgam of the famed round brilliant cut, which is the world's most popular diamond cut. It also blends the elongated end shape of the marquise cut. We happen to have a soft spot for marquise shaped diamonds not only for their romantic legend of origin, but their dainty feminine appeal. So, there we have it: a round brilliant marries a marquise and the result is a compelling pear-shaped diamond.

Pear cut diamonds offer a graceful option for diamond stud earrings. © James Allen
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The Origin of the Pear Cut

Today, modern designers integrate pear shaped diamonds into their imaginative jewelry creations. That caused some diamond fans to mistakenly believe this is a modern cut. But not so fast. While It may look very much up-to-date, this diamond shape has origins dating to the mid-15th century in Flanders.

The year was 1475, where a Flemish (modern day Belgium) diamond cutter named Lodewyk van Bercken had just invented a diamond-polishing wheel, or scaif. His new invention would transform diamond cutting forever. The pioneering polishing wheel enabled him to place facets onto a diamond rough with complete symmetry, thereby creating a trail for the later development of complex diamond cuts.  In that same year, he invented the world's first pear shaped diamond.

What could dazzle you more than a fancy color pear cut diamond? This one is a showstopper. © Brian Gavin

Since its inception over 500 years ago, cutters have labored hard to determine the ideal ratio of length to width for pear shaped diamonds to optimize their sparkle factor. The number of facets however, have remained the same since their beginning. Van Bercken established his pear cut diamond with 58 facets and it hasn't veered from that standard all these centuries later. Conventional round brilliant cuts are also 58 facets, but creative license from some innovative cutters has resulted in more facet patterns established for the round brilliant. Yet with the pear, it seems like you can't improve on a good thing.

Why is the Pear So Unique?

The pear's soft-sided curves and rounded bottom narrows upward toward a pointed tip finale. Because of its unique asymmetrical shape, the pear-shaped diamond is especially well suited for pendants and earrings besides being placed as a stand-alone solitaire in diamond engagement rings. Since they've been around for so long, you'll be able to see both modern and antique diamond jewelry with pear shaped diamonds. And in doing so you'll be seeing a wide variety of proportions. Some may look like pudgy pears. Some may appear so elongated to you that they don't seem quite right; even though you can't put your finger on exactly why the shape is 'off'.

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Today, you're more likely to see commercially cut pear shaped diamonds polished into three distinctly observable ratio ranges: (1) 1-1:30 which is a semi-pudgy pear, (2) 1-1:50 which most people find attractive, and (3) 1-1:70 which is an elongated elegant contour. Some cutters have gone as far as successfully polishing a stone with a 1-1.75 ratio, but they don't want to go farther than that in order to keep the elegant lines for which pears are celebrated. You can't go 'wrong' with any of the above diamond shapes. It boils down to personal preference. One diamond will speak to you—and you fall in love. When cut 'just right' the stone should deliver a depth of scintillation all the way to the pointed end of the diamond.

Modern, sleek and yet romantic, this pear is a scene stealer. © White Flash
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You may wonder why there are still outliers in the pear-shaped department when the consensus has blessed these three basic proportions. That is because diamond cutters looking at a rough crystal often chose weight saving cuts over beauty. Simple as that. In the bid for weight retention, they may decide that an out of ideal shape will still be salient—and we can't make too much of a case to the contrary. There really is a diamond for everyone, isn't there?

Besides a well-proportioned length / width ratio, a key element to look for in a pear stone is to make sure the rounded sides of the gem are full, symmetrical and with no flattened areas or bulges too far out of symmetry. Pudgy or elongated, the pear needs to exhibit the best of a round brilliant's symmetry displayed in its belly and shoulders, and marquise-like sleek, elegant, slightly curved wings going toward the point. Shaping a crystal into a pear allows a diamond cutter to leave more carat weight in the stone—which is usually found in rounded end of the diamond.

The Best Color for a Pear Diamond

Keep in mind that diamonds cut into pear shapes are among those stones that show color the strongest.  With that to consider, when choosing a pear shape diamond, look for stones with H color or higher as those will make the the stone look whiter.

An east-west setting lends an unexpected twist to this fresh diamond pendant. © Blue Nile
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Additional Considerations for a Pear Diamond

No matter which pear-shaped diamond you select, be it one of the trade's "best proportions", or even a charming outlier, you will want to have your jeweler or a gemologist check for light leakage, a potential unintended consequence of this unique cut. Simply put, a well-cut pear diamond should not possess any light leakage, which appears as a dark bow tie effect in the center of the stone. That formation prevents the optimum light return back to the eye from the middle of the diamond. Even without training, you may be able to recognize a dark bow tie effect in the gemstone. But a professional will help isolate that effect for you and point it out.

Now let's point out a few perks of this diamond cut. First, it often looks larger than the same carat weight diamond cut into another shape, like a round brilliant for instance. Second, the delicate elongated shape adds grace and an impression of length to the lady's hand. Since pears have been around for so many years, jewelers today are seeing customers come in to inquire about reimagining their older pear cut diamond jewelry.

Some of the more updated ways to work with an older pear cut ring is to set it in a modern halo mounting. Not only does that look updated, but the halo helps the diamond look much larger overall.

A halo of smaller diamonds makes a pear-shaped diamond look even bigger as seen in this .95 carat beauty by James Allen.
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We're also seeing the bypass design utilized with pears—a pair of pears to be precise. Rather than position a pear stone vertically down the finger, the jeweler finds another matching pear diamond or even a delightful colored stone and designs a bypass ring where the point of one stone is nestled beside the rounded belly of the opposing stone. The result is opulent and intentional. We like that! And you'll occasionally see the pear stone set sideways (east-west orientation) on a stone for an unexpected modern effect.

Young diamond ring shoppers are drawn to the updated look of modern rings flaunting pear cuts. © Custom Made
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Is the pear diamond the "Comeback Kid" of the diamond set? Celebrity chatter mags have made mention of red-carpet personalities flaunting a sizeable pear-shaped diamond engagement ring in recent years.

We like to think this earliest diamond cut never really went out of style.

Diana Jarrett GG RMV

Creative writer, author and Gemologist, Diana Jarrett is a graduate gemologist (GG GIA) and Registered Master Valuer.

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