Rose Cut Diamonds, Intan, and Antique Hand Cut Diamonds

There are two types of rose cut diamonds seen in much of the jewelry in this region, specifically South-east Asia. One is the ‘Western’ rose cut diamond and the other is the Straits Chinese rose cut diamond (intan). The Straits Chinese rose cut diamond is quite similar to the Indian polki diamond, which is an Indian cut diamond slice.

Historically the Western rose cut is hand cleaved, much like the Straits Chinese rose cut diamond. Hand cleaved diamonds reveal techniques of hand-cutting, with uneven facets at the crown of the diamond.

rose cut diamonds on a ring
American mid-century diamond platinum ring set with a 0.5ct rose cut diamond and 0.08ct side diamonds.

Today the modern rose cut diamond is more ‘symmetrical’ like the centre of a sunflower, than say, a primitive rose cut diamond. Evolving modern diamond cutting techniques cannot escape symmetry, even for the lesser faceted rose cut diamond.

Which brings us to the distinct look of Straits Chinese rose cut diamonds. While the Western rose cut diamond has come long and far, the ‘Asian’ rose cut remains random and raw. It is this primitive look much desired by those of us who know 🙂

If you are searching Google for “antique hand cut diamonds”, it is likely you are looking for authentic (old) Straits Chinese rose cut diamond jewelry.

Old Straits Chinese Rose Cut Diamonds
rose cut diamonds on stud earrings
Straits Chinese rose cut diamond jewelry, from early 1900s. The earlier the rose cut diamonds, the more they appear as ‘organic’, in the sense the facets are more random and unsymmetrical.

 

diamond bangle singapore
This is a 1960s Straits Chinese Peranakan bangle. Although it could be older, these rose cut diamonds are now considered ‘modern’. Such diamonds can be found in both Straits Chinese and Western rose cut diamond jewelry, usually at premium prices if the diamonds are very white and the individual rose cuts are big.

With the ceaseless love for older rose cut diamonds, I am guessing we pursue it for more than its primitive ideals. Despite its primitive cut, rose cut diamonds retain that adamantine quality only present in diamonds – they look like water, and this is not masked by the fire present in modern cuts. The modern eye has long recognised diamonds to look the way they do, with multiple facets and in familiar cuts, so that you cannot easily tell synthetic diamonds from earth-mined diamonds.

For this reason, some say the Straits Chinese rose cut diamond looks ‘not like a real diamond’. Its fewer cuts let you see all the way through the diamond, with whatever light that shines through, and not in a reflected sense as in a 52-facet diamond.

But it is a genuine diamond with similar characteristics as the Western rose cut.

Characteristics of the Straits Chinese Rose Cut Diamond
Early 1900s rose cut diamond ear studs. So ‘organic’ are these rose cuts they look like glass, don’t they? Yet these are considered very good quality rose cut diamonds – white and clear – as opposed to grey or less clear diamonds.

Rose cut diamonds have no pavilion (ie. they are flat with no ‘tail’) and they always look bigger than a brilliant cut, for the same carat weight. In diamond speak, the rose cut diamond has the biggest spread (surface area) for the same carat weight of any cuts of diamonds.

“Flat with no tail”. The diamonds are shaped like a dome. Obviously the thicker the dome, the heavier the rose cut and the more valuable it is. Of course this applies if the diamonds are uniformly white and clear like this!
Wait… There’s More to the Straits Chinese Rose Cut: The Intan Diamond

If you’ve come across the term ‘intan’, it is the Bahasa Malay/Indonesia term to mean “diamond”. Intan, or diamonds from this region, are almost always the hand cut, no pavilion types. If you do come across diamonds such as Old Mine, Old European, or Transitional Cut diamonds on old Straits Chinese jewelry, these diamonds were imported from either England or France, at a time during the 19th century and up to the early 20th century.

For the smaller ‘intan’ rose cut diamonds, perhaps it is more appropriate to say they are ‘intan’ hand cut diamonds, since sometimes these diamonds are so small it is pointless to insist they really are rose cuts! Note that just because they are individually very delicate and small do not mean they are inferior to the bigger rose cuts. We cannot emphasise this enough – the quality of all rose cut diamonds, whether small or thick, depend on how white or how fiery (sparkly) they are.

 

Straits Chinese rose cut ‘intan’ diamond jewelry, from 1900s. These ‘intan’ diamonds are rose cut diamonds except thinner. Note that whether thin or thick they are all considered rose cut diamonds. The terms “intan” and “rose cut” are used rather confusingly in this part of the world!

 

antique peranakan jewellery
1900s ‘intan’ hand cut diamond chandelier earrings. It takes a special skill to set these ‘intan’ hand cut diamonds. Because they are so delicately sliced, the risk of dropping out is not uncommon. However, we know the expertly set pieces are less likely. Bear in mind these craftsmen have retired or are gradually retiring!

 

antique hand cut diamonds
Late 19th century ‘intan’ hand cut diamond navette ring. The ‘kana’ or olive ring is a timeless Straits Chinese heritage design. This ring here is a particularly long version of navette rings, the longest we’ve seen. Again these diamonds are all rose cuts, except smaller.

 

Peranakan Intan Jewellery
For such a simple design, can you imagine the amount of work it takes to set the ‘intan’ diamonds? These hand cut diamonds are all primitively cut and not calibrated. The craftsman must be able to ‘feel’ how stable each diamond is in its holder, which are really bead work and not prong work.

 

Yet for the bigger diamonds and those in-between sizes, there is a lot of confusion as to what is and what is not a rose cut diamond piece. For us, we look to the quality of the diamond to distinguish. If the diamonds are fiery and not too small, we tend to term these rose cut diamonds.

rose cut diamond bracelets
1900s Straits Chinese rose cut diamond bracelet. We threw in some Western rose cut diamonds around for comparison. You cannot say these are not proper rose cut diamonds, can you? On closer inspection, the Straits Chinese rose cut diamonds are comparably thicker ie. higher carat weight.

 

 

antique rose cut diamond jewelry
Late 19th century Straits Chinese toi et moi rose cut diamond ring. Another one of those confusing pieces folks randomly term as ‘intan’. Yet this is an era-authentic rose cut diamond ring.

 

18k Antique Rose Cut Diamond Earrings
Late 19th century ‘intan’ diamond ear studs. In this case we’re more likely to term these ‘intan’ hand cut diamonds rather than rose cut. This pair shows very distinctly the difference between rose cut diamonds (they have facets however few) and very simple hand cut diamonds (few and almost no facets). Yet it is very hard to find a pair as primitive and organic as this.

 

rose cut diamonds on a pendant
1900s Straits Chinese diamond pendant. Rose cut or ‘intan’ diamond, can you tell?

 

antique hand cut diamonds
1900s Straits Chinese diamond pendants. Two pendants feature rose cut diamonds while the other two feature ‘intan’ hand cut diamonds. Can you tell which is which?

Whether or not you are buying a piece that is properly rose cut diamond or ‘intan’ hand cut diamond is hardly why you noticed the piece in the first place.

The quality of all diamonds, whether rose cut or hand cut, whether small or thick, depend on how white or how fiery (sparkly) they are.

Really, that’s all you need to know, if you are lost to all this!

The Future of Straits Chinese Rose Cut Diamonds – Heirloom or Fever?

Let’s look at more Straits Chinese rose cut diamond jewelry pieces. The more you see, the more intimately you become aware, that carat weight cannot measure the allure of Peranakan diamond jewelry.

Rose Cut Diamonds in a Cluster - Cocktail Ring
The rose cut diamonds on this retro chunky ring are considered big. White and fiery of course.
what is rose cut diamond
Not big enough? A rose cut diamond cluster of over 4 carats. Notice how big rose cut diamonds appear, since all the weight is spread out on the surface for which our eyes can properly behold.

 

It is for this ‘bigger’ and ‘clearer’ properties that appeal to lovers of the rose cut. In recent years, the over production of commercial diamonds in general has led to tastemakers, connoisseurs and collectors all tutting at its commercial look (surprise, surprise). This of course means their love for diamonds has to go somewhere.

You got it.

We always know it’s a matter of time before more of the Western world learns of the gentle ‘Asian’ rose cut diamond.

The way we look at the ‘Asian’ rose cut diamond is how ‘white’ it is and how far along this white is without any black dots. I couldn’t have worded this any other way, as this is really how au naturel our rose cut diamonds are. No 4Cs or fluorescence, even lesser symmetry…

Hence, size becomes a lesser concern when you bear in mind these diamonds are just hand cut from a raw, without too much concern over this or that. The outcome of such freedom gives you a diamond that looks truer to the human condition, perhaps flawed but less complex than one is led to believe.

WYSIWYG. The Straits rose cut diamond and the Straits ‘intan’ hand cut diamond.

Like this article? Our article on rose cut vs brilliant cut diamonds may be of interest to you.

Want to know how to wear brooches or the Peranakan kerosang differently?

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