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.
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.
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 www.diamond-master.com. 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