The Beginning

The story of the flat lap is essentially the story of faceting. Before the invention of the horizontally spinning flat wheel, all stones were cut on round water-wheel powered cutting mills or rubbed against a flat, stationary abrasive surface and were almost always cut as domed cabochons. This all changed in the early 1400s, when the artistic revolution of the Renaissance kicked off in Europe and technology and its associated ideas started to transform.

History remembers Flemish diamond cutter Lodewyk van Bercken as the inventor of the horizontal diamond wheel (or scaif in diamond cutting terminology) in 1476. Under close scrutiny, though, it seems that Lodewyk might have been mistitled, because we have two illustrated representations of early faceting machines in manuscripts of the era. Henri Arnaut, one of the most learned and well-known medical astrologers of his century, left us an incredibly detailed drawing of one of these machines in 1439. In a German manuscript called the Codex Latinus Monacensis, 40 years before Bercken, we see a crude drawing of the same kind of machine, so it seems likely that Lodewyk van Bercken was not actually the “father of faceting” that we were lead to believe.…