Of the ten best diamond shapes most commonly used today, only one is named after a diamond cutter. Joseph Asscher, son of the renowned artisan Joseph Issac Asscher of Holland, developed the standard Asscher cut diamond in 1902. When the world’s largest rough stone, the Cullinan, was discovered in 1905, King Edward VII invited Joseph and his brother Abraham to London to cleave it.
The Cullinan Cut
There’s a lot of lore surrounding the Cullinan cut. When Joseph first tried to cleave the Cullinan in 1908, amid a crowd of eager onlookers, his blade broke. With the diamond still intact, he dismissed the bystanders and set to work creating stronger tools. The next week, overwhelmed by the prospect of making a perfect cut, Joseph reportedly fainted after striking the stone. It was a perfect cleave, and the Asschers – already popular – gained wider acclaim.
World War II
However, after the battle of the Netherlands during World War II, Nazis seized the Asscher Diamond Company headquarters. Since the members of the Asscher family were Jewish, they Nazis deported them to concentration camps. With no one to run the company or renew the patent, other cutters began to mimic the original Asscher cut diamond design. This led to confusion in the market, especially since the new cutters didn’t always follow Joseph Asscher’s original proportions. The surviving members of the Asscher family eventually returned to rebuild the company.
In 2001, their decedents went on to create the Royal Asscher cut, which added sixteen facets to the original step-cut with truncated edges. Unlike popular brilliant cuts, the Asscher highlights a diamond’s clarity and whiteness rather than it’s fire. The best diamonds for an Asscher cut are ones with no visible blemishes.