A robot which cuts diamonds perfectly? This revolutionary invention has turned the diamond industry on its head. Innovations have followed one after the other since Antwerp-based Marcel Tolkowsky launched his mathematical calculation in 1919 for cutting rough diamonds. We would like to explain modern diamond cutting in more detail.

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Diamond cuts - BAUNAT

The cutting robot and the benefits of using a robot

For many years, Antwerp was the undisputed world centre for the diamond trade, but India has now acquired an increasing share of diamond cutting. 92% of the world's rough diamonds are now cut and polished in Surat, India. Against this backdrop, the Scientific and Technical Research Center for Diamonds (WTOCD) developed the automatic cutting machine at the request of Antwerp’s diamond dealers.
Thanks to the cutting robot, smaller stones can once again be evaluated, assessed and cut. Until recently, the higher wage costs were an insurmountable obstacle to this. And of course, the professional skill and experience of the human cutter remain essential.

The Fenix robot has an unrivalled talent for cutting rough diamonds. It also makes many more cuts possible, such as round, pear-shaped, marquise or oval. Even previously unimaginable fantasy shapes are now an option. This opens up many prospects for new trends and personalising diamond jewellery.

Find out all there is to know about the Antwerp diamond industry

What makes the Fenix so special?

The Fenix cutting robot equipment and software can handle various tasks, such as planning and work preparation, the form and orientation to cut the rough diamond in, locating any inclusions and evaluating the options.

The robot performs certain operations which are very difficult or even impossible for human diamond cutters. Unlike the traditional cutting process, Fenix does not have to take the so-called cleavage direction into account. This depends on the crystalline structure of the diamond. Cutting against the cleavage direction of the rough diamond produces an undesirable, whitish surface, such that light does not reflect as well. Many rough diamonds could not be cut until recently, because of having a complex cleavage direction. With the Fenix, that obstacle is a thing of the past.

The Fenix cuts stones that were hitherto impossible to cut. During testing, Fenix processed unpolished stones which had been waiting for the right technology for over 50 years. The robot even transformed gemstones with two cleavage directions into beautifully cut diamonds.
A rough diamond being cut - BAUNAT

Very accurate cutting using the Fenix

The Fenix turns raw gemstones into sparkling diamonds quickly and accurately. The Fenix can even deal with diamonds which even the most experienced cutters could not cope with. And this is exactly where the added value lies. There is less waste, and diamonds can be cut more efficiently.

The temperature of the gemstones soon shoots up with manual cutting. This causes the metal diamond holder to expand, creating potential margins of error when taking measurements. With the Fenix, the temperature of the gemstone does not climb above 35 degrees Celsius. Result: no distortion, no margins of error and more stunning, more symmetrical diamonds in a shorter time. A diamond dealer takes a whole day for a one-carat diamond. Fenix cuts it in just an hour.

Read here how diamonds are cut

Diamonds are crafted through a partnership between diamond cutter and robot

Why diamond cutters don't have to fear for their jobs

However, the diamond cutter always gets the last word. Human expertise and know-how, coupled with the superior cutting potential of the equipment, together ensure optimal results.

Rough diamonds look like dusty stones and have no sparkle. Only by cutting the gemstone into a certain shape, is a sparkling diamond created which could be used in an engagement ring, for instance. Every decision before, during and after the cutting process influences the diamond's ultimate value. The cutting process consists of five steps:

  1. Planning
  2. Cleaving and sawing
  3. Grinding or bruting
  4. Faceting and polishing
  5. Inspection

Read more about the diamond cutting process

Other innovations we can expect

The Fenix has sparked a real revolution in the diamond industry. And there are many innovations still to come.

Up to a few years ago, a ring made entirely of diamond was just a pipe dream. Rings are usually made from precious metal with diamonds set into it. But thanks to modern technology for cutting rough diamonds, it is now a reality. Swiss diamond dealer Mohammed Shawish of Shawish Jewellers put the world's first ring made entirely of diamond on show in 2012. The cutting process took more than a year, despite modern lasers and cutting techniques. The ring was cut from a single diamond gemstone and has a carat weight of 150. It comes with a hefty price tag: 52.5 million euros. It will probably be some time before the public at large can buy rings made entirely of diamond. The price is a particular obstacle.

The robot can perform a number of operations which are very difficult or even impossible for human cutters.
Sir Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, and Marc Newson also designed a ring made entirely of diamond. Unlike Shawish's ring, it is made of synthetic diamond. Sotheby's put an estimate on the ring of about $150,000 to $250,000. It eventually went for just over $250,000.

Furthermore, Giovanni Daems, from Kessel, Belgium, developed a fully automatic diamond setting machine in 2018. This means diamonds can be set into jewellery 15 to 20 times faster than by hand. The equipment was first put on show at the China International Import Expo. Daems' company has already developed various equipment which automated processes in the diamond and jewellery industry, such as sorting equipment, polishing equipment and automated quality control. The setting machine is his most recent new addition. Every stone set by the setting machine is 100% accurate and is of the same quality as any stone set by hand.
Just as the diamond industry needs new technology to cut rough diamonds more accurately, modern technology also needs diamonds. In fact, 70% of global diamond production is not used in the jewellery industry. Those diamonds end up in various other industries. Since diamond is one of the hardest substances in the world, it is a popular gemstone for all kinds of industrial processes. A few examples:

  1. Solar energy:
    General Electric has developed a brand-new material, a compound of diamonds and silicon called silicon carbide. It is used in electronic chips in solar panels, so that we can convert the sun's power into energy which can be used at home or in various industries.

  2. Semiconductors:
    It is a known fact that diamond has high thermal conductivity and low electrical conductivity. Therefore, diamonds started to be used in electronic circuits, replacing traditional silicon. Hence, semiconductors using diamonds conduct heat better than other conductors, without becoming electrically charged.

  3. Water treatment:
    Diamonds are known to withstand extreme conditions. They hardly react at all with their environment and possess electrochemical properties that are perfect for purifying water.

  4. Anti-counterfeiting technology:
    Believe it or not, there is a company in the US called Taneeh, which specialises in using diamond granules to develop anti-counterfeiting systems. This means they are able to prevent fraud using recognition technology, helping avert theft worldwide.

Diamonds are therefore extremely versatile and will continue to be used in many new applications in the future. Neither the diamond sector nor industry is standing still when it comes to new applications for diamonds, and development is going at full pace.

Which innovations and trends should you still know about?

The Fenix robot has an unrivalled talent for cutting rough diamonds and makes even more cut shapes a reality. This creates many opportunities for personalising diamond jewellery. In addition, there are plenty of other innovations and trends in the jewellery industry:
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