The Fabulous Briolette
inNovember 14, 2011 - 3:22pm
Most gem historians agree that the type of gemstone cut today known as the briolette was invented approximately 800 years ago in India by an unknown genius
When cut in a briolette, a gem can be viewed at all angles, allowing light to reflect through the stone, increasing its refraction. The slender top portion of the stone is drilled with a single hole through which a wire can be threaded to allow the gem to swing freely and glitter in the light. This cut is perfect for pendants and earrings.
Originally this cut was named “pendeloque” meaning pendant in French. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689), the famous French traveller, returned from India with drawings of pendeloque-cut diamonds. His pictures were published in his travel book in 1679.
It is possible that traders were bringing the Indian cut stones to Europe much earlier. In the 15th century a Flemish gem cutter, Lodewyk van Berquem, is known to have cut diamonds in the pendoloque fashion, introducing symmetry in the disposition of the facets, creating the pear cut. He is also credited with inventing the diamond-polishing wheel.
The briolette fell out of favor when western gem cutters made their own innovations. The rose and mine cuts increased the number of facets (on the top portion), and created an even more glittering gem stone. The real advantage of the new cuts was that less stone was lost in the process. The unfortunate side effect of the briolette cut is that a lot of the original stone is lost during the cutting.
During the Georgian period (eighteenth century), many of the briolettes from the previous centuries were re cut into these new brilliant type cuts. Today, very few examples of Baroque style briolette jewelry exist.
The 19th century saw a resurgence in briolette jewelry. Again it waned when the modern brilliant cut was invented. In the late 20th century the demand for colored stone jewelry brought this wonderful shape back to the forefront of jewelry designs. The briolette is perfect for statement jewelry such as chandelier earrings. The wide variety of colored gems available today, and the reasonable cost per carat of such stones negates the disadvantage of the briolette cutting process.
So, where did the name “briolette” originate? In the mid-19th century, the term came from an alteration of the French word “brignolette”, a little dried plum from Brignoles, France, where these specific plums are produced. Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Sources: Max Baurer, Precious Stones (vol 1), Wikipedia