Diamond cutters take a rough diamond and use a variety of techniques to form it into a traditional diamond for jewellery.
What do diamond cutters do?
As well as shaping rough diamonds, diamond cutters also make repairs to diamonds for antique and modern jewellery. They may work with jewellery dealers, or provide other jewellery services as well as diamond cutting for jewellery shops and businesses.
The work of a diamond cutter is divided into three skills:
What is the job like?
- marking the diamond with an ink line to show where it will be split
- gluing the diamond into pots using plaster of Paris and glue to hold it in place
- applying a special preparation of crushed diamond and castor oil – this is mixed into a paste and then applied to a rotating blade using a roller. The diamond paste is needed because diamonds can only be cut with diamonds.
Depending on the size of the diamond this stage can take from four to five hours to several days for larger stones.
The cutting process involves:
- placing the diamond, once it has been cut into two pieces, onto a cutting machine with special glue
- cutting round the diamond using another stone glued onto a cutting stick.
Finally, the polishing process includes:
- grinding facets onto the rough stone in order to create a prism, which catches the light and makes the diamond look attractive
- grinding 57 facets, which are carefully ground and polished at precise angles.
Diamond cutting is a highly specialised area of work with very few people employed in the UK.
Diamond cutters need to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the properties of diamonds, which are the hardest of all the gems. For example, different types of diamonds have different 'grains'.
When working with antique jewellery, it's important to maintain the old 'look' of the diamond. Antique jewellery may have breakages or chips in the diamonds, which then need to be re-cut to repair them.
Experienced diamond cutters may also be involved with sourcing diamonds from all over the world.
How do I become a diamond cutter?
Diamond cutting is a highly specialised area of work with very few people indeed employed in the UK. Those that are usually work in the Hatton Garden area of London, which is well-known for its jewellery shops and workshops.
Much diamond cutting is now done outside the UK, since so much jewellery is now imported from overseas.
Personal qualities are very important for this work. You need to have:
- good practical ability and manual dexterity as the work is very detailed
- excellent concentration for long periods of time
- good vision, corrected with glasses if necessary
- creative flair and imagination.
You also need to be self-motivated and focussed with the self-belief to promote your own ideas.
What qualifications and training do I need?
Practical subjects such as design and technology are very helpful for this work, as they also provide experience of using tools for metal and woodwork.
However, there are no set entry qualifications for a career in diamond cutting. An interest in the work is far more important.
At present there are no formal apprenticeships or college courses for this work. If you are interested in becoming a diamond cutter, you could write to companies asking about possible opportunities. The addresses of diamond cutters in Hatton Garden are on the internet.
It can be a difficult area to get into as the opportunities are limited. It takes about six years to become fully proficient as a diamond cutter.
Useful courses might include:
- a four-day course in Diamond Studies run by Holts Academy of Jewellery
- the courses that relate to diamonds run by Gem A (the Gemmological Association of Great Britain) – a Diamond Grading and Identification course and a Diamond Diploma.
None of these courses include diamond cutting as such, but provide a useful background for anyone who is interested in the subject.
What can I earn?
Young people starting out could expect to earn the national minimum wage for their age.
Most diamond cutters are self-employed. Their earnings can vary from the minimum wage to an annual wage of between £25,000 and £30,000 per year for the most successful.