Recorded: 12 August 2021
Topic: diamond cutting
Recorded: 12 August 2021
The cutting and polishing of diamonds. See also lapidary.
This craft uses minerals extracted from the earth – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance
|Area currently practised
|Hatton Garden and Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
|Origin in the UK
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Diamond is one of the most sought after gemstones and has been used in jewellery and decorative items for thousands of years. The hardness of diamond and its high dispersion of light make it useful in industrial processes and highly desirable for jewellery.
The popularity of diamonds for use in engagement rings began in the 1930s and continues to this day, driving huge international trade.
Diamond cutting is a specialised process and is concentrated in a few cities around the world. The main trading centres are in Antwerp, Tel Aviv and Dubai and from there, the rough diamond is sent to the main processing centres in Surat, India and the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
The centres of UK diamond cutting and jewellery making are Hatton Garden in London and Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
Diamond cutting is a highly specialised area of gem cutting which involves shaping a diamond from a rough stone into a faceted gem. Cutting diamond requires specialised knowledge, tools, equipment, and techniques because of its difficulty.
The basic diamond cutting process includes these steps; planning, cleaving or sawing, bruting, polishing, and final inspection.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
High set up costs: The equipment and the raw materials for diamond cutting are expensive and specialist.
High cost of rent in London: Although there are some rent controlled premises in Hatton Garden, the high cost of rent in that part of London has made it difficult to run a viable business.
Access to raw materials: A small independent craftsperson is unlikely to have the purchasing power to buy rough diamond.
Competition from overseas markets: The diamond cutting market is now dominated by large overseas companies and the smaller companies can’t compete on price. India in recent years has held between 19 and 31 per cent of the world market in polished diamonds and China has held around 17 per cent of the world market share.
Training issues: There are few options for formal training and most will learn on the job.
Access to equipment: Most specialist tools are no longer available in the UK and so cutters have to buy them in from the centres of diamond cutting in Israel and Antwerp.
Skills shortages at the higher levels: Concern has been raised that there are skills shortages and a lack of new entrants into professional gem cutting and diamond cutting.
Society of British Jewellers
Institute of Professional Goldsmiths
Craftspeople currently known
Businesses employing two or more makers:
- Monnickendam Diamonds – 1 master polisher, 2 cutters and 2 trainees
The British Academy of Jewellery (formerly Holts Academy of Jewellery) emerged from the jewellery trade in Hatton Garden and has developed accredited training and apprenticeships for jewellery makers. This was created in response to concerns about skills shortages and a lack of new entrants into the trade.
Note: There is no mention of diamond cutting on the BAJ website and so looks unlikely that they offer this as a training option.
Kirby, terry (2003), ‘School for jewellers preserves dying art of diamond-cutting’, The Independent
Tolansky, Samuel, (1962) The history and use of diamond (London: Methuen and Co)