From the ancient times to the 16th century, one would generally set a perfectly octohedral diamond crystal. Sometimes the faces might be polished slightly if the means were available. This is called the Point Cut. With the advent of glazed windows, these were called Scribble or Writing Rings, as the noble and rich would scribble all manner of things on these new glass windows.
With one such ring, the imprisoned Princess Elizabeth (later Queen), inscribed on a window at Woodstock:
Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth ELIZABETH prisoner.
Around that time, the next innovation came. Diamond cutters added a new table facet to the point cut. This yielded a squarish stone with a familiar looking table facet. Here are some typical variations:
One of the most famous table diamonds no longer exists. The Great Table Diamond described in 1642 by the French traveler and jeweler Tavernier was a huge, flat pink diamond from Golconda weighing 242 5/16 old carats.
In 1969, a team of gemologists went to Iran to inventory the crown jewels. Knowing of the Great Table Diamond, the existance of two smaller diamonds of identical color and clarity piqued their interest. Research revealed that somewhere between 1794 and 1834 the Great Table Diamond had broken. Further investigation strongly supports the theory that the Darya-i-Nur and the Nur-ul-Ain are what remains of that great gem.
A computer model of how these two smaller gems could have been fashioned from the larger:
Replicas of the Darya-i-Nur and Nur-ul-Ain next to a carefully estimated model of the Great Table Diamond:
The Darya-i-Nur resides in an elaborate setting surrounded by diamonds and rubies. The exact weight is not known, as it cannot be unset. The weight, estimated by the GIA, is somewhere between 175 and 195 carats.
The Nur-ul-Ain weighs about 60 carats and graces a tiara made by Harry Winston for the Empress Farah's wedding to the the last Shah of Iran.