Dec 032010

The unique diamond set in the engagement ring

As an independent jewellery valuer I have the pleasure of appraising beautiful jewellery every day, and I meet some very interesting people along the way.  None more so than a gentleman by the name of John Alderson, who had a very special diamond ring for me to value recently. You see, the diamond was no ordinary diamond; this round diamond was cut in a way I had never seen before. When I mentioned this to John I noticed a little twinkle in his eye, ‘that’s because I designed the cut and cut it myself’ he said. Now my ears pricked, how fabulous, a unique experience for me, how many people can say that they designed and cut a diamond all by themselves? Not many for sure! So we embarked on a trip down memory lane, John remembered everything like it was yesterday.

During WWII, Asquith’s Machine Tools based in Halifax joined forces with ‘J K Smit & Sons’, a diamond merchant from Amsterdam, to form ‘Smit-Asquith Diamond Cutting Factory’.  In 1940 the diamonds had to be smuggled out of the Amsterdam bourse before Hitler’s army started to invade Holland.  These diamonds were then cut at the new factory here in England.

12-fold crown facet layout - King Cut

Smit-Asquith Diamond Cutting Factory went on to develop what we now know as the ‘mechanical-dop’ which had adjustable back legs so the facets could be polished with more accuracy.  The dop holds the diamond in place against the scaife (polishing wheel) during the polishing process.  All employees of Smit-Asquith were War Veterans; the only stipulation was that they needed good eyesight and a pair of fully functional hands!  In 1944 John was invalided out of the RAF and when he recovered he joined Smit-Asquith cutting diamonds.

He disliked sawing the diamonds as it was too laborious and boring. He liked cleaving and bruting but what he really wanted to do was cut something slightly different – he studied to be a metallurgist before the war and had a passion for mathematics and physics so he was always looking for ways to add extra facets to the round brilliant cut to create a different cut; his perseverance eventually paid off when he produced a round brilliant cut diamond with 85 facets.

12-fold pavilion facet layout - King Cut

The factory owner sent the diamond to London where the cut was patented as the ‘King cut’ but unfortunately John was never recognised as the designer.  On its return from London the diamond was re-cut into a normal round brilliant cut so John asked if he could cut another which was agreed but had to be done in his own time.  John bought the rough and after many a long day’s work he would stay on to polish his diamond only this time he made it better!  This diamond would eventually become the ‘unique’ stone he presented to his fiancée when he asked for her hand in marriage.

My fascination for this story led me to research the story further, however there is very limited information relating to this cut in any reference book that I have encountered.  I wanted to put pen to paper to so that John gets the recognition he deserves as such was John’s quest to enhance his own knowledge he went on to sit his FGA prelim in 1947! If anyone has any information that would fill the gaps I am sure he would be delighted to hear it.

Shirley D Mitchell DGA, FIRV
Windsor, England.  Dec 2010


Photo credits – Facet layout diagrams – Neil Masson  Ring – Shirley Mitchell

Disclaimer – The AIJV blog is authored by a selection of AIJV members and guests specifically to be able present many different viewpoints on a large variety of subjects. The opinons expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the AIJV

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Shirley Mitchell

Shirley Mitchell is the owner of an independent jewellery valuation practice in Windsor, England - Shirley D Mitchell DGA. Shirley is a very active member of the AIJV and is a Fellow of the Institute of Registered Valuers in the UK.

  13 Responses to “The King Cut – Valuer meets the diamond, the designer and the cutter”

  1. My goodness, what a great story.
    It’s a shame that he didn’t get the recognition for designing the cut though.

    Thanks Shirley, that is a nice read.


  2. Such a nice story. 🙂

  3. Great story. The fact he never got recognition I guess was typical of the times (employer/employee attitudes) but at least you’ve gone some way towards redressing this. Thanks for sharing it with us all!

  4. Fascinating story – I bet the future Mrs Alderson was well-impressed with her fiance’s attention to detail and that the ring is now a family treasure. How lovely to have someone cut a stone especially for you 🙂

  5. The only other reference I found was this design published in “Facet Designs Vol. 5 – Rounds” by Long & Steele. It was called the “Elbe Round”. The reference indicated that the design was in the 1/9/74 issue of the Official Gazette (p. 1748) of the U.S. Patent Office. Where Maximo Elbe apparantly claimed the design as his own.

    • How interesting – this would be some 30 or so years after John cut his. It doesn’t look like the UK and US consulted each other back then. Thank you for adding another dimension to my research. 🙂

      • I have also seen references to the King Cut attributed to the King Diamond Cutting Company in New York.
        The facet layouts you used in your article were taken from the Diamond Cuts Library by Neil Masson. He got all of his information directly from the Patent Office in various countries but interestingly he states the cut is registered to “Unknown”. It is all a bit of a mystery…. but facsinating.

  6. Do you know anything more about the Wartime factory – I have a Kelly’s Directory for Kenilworth, 1945 and met an elderly lady who worked there sending out invoices for recutting machine tool ”candles’ (?) at 3/6d a time.

    • Hi Geoff, I passed your query on to John, if you still require more information get back to me and I will see what I can do for you. Thank you for your query.

  7. Read with interest. just a couple of nights ago I gave a presentation on How Diamond Polishing was Mechanised During Second World War. How do I know the story in ultimate detail? My father Leslie Harkness working foe Asquith’s more or less oversaw the whole project and related the story to me just a year before he died.I have a lot of documentation!

  8. Dear All,
    My greataunt was Lillian Gwendoline Stancliffe Asquith,and not a word of this was spoken about in the family except regarding her grandfathers funeral when she said the mourners wore that many Diamonds they felt they should be wearing sunglasses .I spent many happy years myself in the retail jewellery trade
    and I also was a registered valuer and am now retired.My greataunt would have been, I am sure so delighted at your findings, she spent many happy days growing her beautiful flowers for the Wem show.
    My brother and I came upon your article whilst doing family research.

  9. The diamond cutting factory finally manufactured the drilling and tapping device after the diamond trade could no longer function The industrial diamond business was carried out in Wales under the name Smit Asquith

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