Marcel Tolkowsky: The Father of the Ideal Diamond Cut

Marcel Tolkowsky - ideal diamond cut - Jaume Labro Custom Jewelry

When you are searching for the perfect piece of diamond jewelry, you simply know when you have found the right one. The way it shines, the weight against your skin, the texture of the materials and the instinct that the piece was meant especially for you. While our love for jewelry is often based on feeling and emotion, it may surprise you that we have a mathematician to thank for it.

An engineer, mathematician and gemologist, Marcel Tolkowsky was a true innovator in diamond-cutting. He pioneered an approach that continues to influence jewelry artists today.  While artists and gemologists like Jaume Labro have expanded, built and improved on this early model, “Tolkowsky’s Cut” (or “Ideal Cut”) is a touchstone in modern jewelry.

Tolkowsky’s Ideal Cut Diamond

Marcel-Tolkowsky - the father of ideal diamond cut

Marcel Tolkowsky was born in Belgium in 1899 to a Russian family of diamond-cutters. While Tolkowsky was dedicated to the family business, he firmly believed that his studies in engineering and math would help him take diamond-cutting to a higher level. He dedicated his life to developing cuts that showcased the true power and beauty of a diamond.


In 1919, while studying at the University of London, he published his influential book Diamond Design. This book outlined what would soon become known as the “Tolkowsky Cut”. His two-dimensional model was designed to consider the three factors determining light in diamonds: fire, brilliancy and sparkle. Fire is the extent to which light will reflect spectral colors. Brilliance is the white light that returns to the crown of the diamond. Sparkle (or scintillation) refers to flashes of light reflected from the crown.

Marcel Tolkowsky wanted a design that accounted for table-size, pavilion and crown angles in order to feature a diamond at its most stunning. He realized that cutting a diamond too shallow or deep would cause light to escape unnecessarily. After extensive research and experimentation, he finally fell upon the ideal cut diamond.

The Science Behind the Tolkowsky Cut

The Ideal Cut Diamond Sizes - Tolkowsky

Tolkowsky found an unspoiled medium, allowing a diamond to maintain its otherworldly light. His cut required 58 facets on the cut of an individual diamond to achieve the desired look. The Tolkowsky cut requires 38 cuts on the crown and 20 below the girdle (on the pavilion) of a diamond. The facets refer to the smooth surface on a diamond that is polished and cut to bring out the fire and brilliance of the gem.  

After he published his discovery, Marcel Tolkowsky remained dedicated to diamond design for the rest of his life. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1940 where he continued his life’s work, retiring only at the age of 76.  He remained a member of the Diamond Trading and Precious Stones Association until his death at 92.

Diamond Cutting Today

Inarguably, Marcel Tolkowsky’s ideal cut revolutionized the way many thought about diamond-cutting, and while these ideal cut diamonds remain a classic, for many artists, they act as a template. Today, many gemstone cutters have continued to build and improve upon his remarkable designs.  As the Gemological Institute of America explains, the proportions of a diamond do not account for the quality of the stone.

A common misconception is that a cut refers to the shape of a diamond. Rather, cut refers to qualities like the proportions, symmetry or polish of a gem. The better the cut, the better your diamond will look it’s best. The ideal cut is simply one of the many cuts, shapes, and designs to consider when choosing your perfect piece of jewelry.

When developing cuts which unleash the true beauty of these precious gemstones, Jaume Labro employs the same precision and dedication developed over one century ago.  Looking closely at the facets of diamonds, Jaume Labro creates cuts that shine brightly, capturing light and reflection to enhance each stone’s beauty.

Choosing Your Perfect Diamond    

Choosing the perfect diamond - Jaume Labro Sustainable Jewelry

Choosing the perfect diamond ring or other jewelry is a deeply personal act. It’s important to know that something that can bring such joy, like a diamond, is ethically-sourced, which is why Jaume Labro only uses conflict free-diamonds. The source of all diamonds used in Jaume Labro’s work are carefully vetted by stone-buyers from his studio, so you can rest assured that your diamond was ethically-sourced with careful consideration to human and environmental rights.

At Jaume Labro, we understand that each step of finding your perfect diamond – from the cut to the design – is vitally important. Therefore, we work with each client to develop custom Mokume Gane diamond rings

Why Jaume Labro Diamonds Are Exceptional

As Jaume Labro has found through his work and travels, finding the perfect diamond is different for each person. While design settings may vary, your diamond’s perfect cut is what truly brings it all together. Science and engineering modernized the way we cut and appreciate diamonds today, but the skill and creativity that goes into cutting the perfect diamond has been carried through the 21st century.  

Understanding the cut and skill behind your perfect diamond can help you make the choice that is best for you. Tolkowsky’s ideal cut helped pave the way for modern jewelry-making today.

See how Jaume Labro’s Mokume Gane fine jewelry continues to innovate the legacy of Marcel Tolkowsky.