Diamonds are beautiful! Not only do they sparkle and shine, but they also represent a symbol of a lifelong marriage, jewelry that you are committing to wear daily. They are also quite costly sometimes. In making such an important investment, you should consider the 4 Cs: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat. In this post, we are going to discuss the first C: Cut. Each diamond cut is unique—not just because of its shape, but because of much smaller things that give it its brilliance: table, girdle, pavilion, culet, facet, depth ratio, and diameter. Continue reading to gain some knowledge that could help you make your next diamond purchase.
I was fortunate to grow up in a jewelry family since my great uncle, father, and uncle were all in the business. Growing up, I was in and out of jewelry stores and received an early education on the best of the best. If I ever had questions, my dad would teach me anything I was curious about. From a young age, I could appreciate the phrase “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Haha! My uncle is still in the business and recently designed and created my engagement ring. It was an awesome experience to have someone we love custom create the vision that hubby and I had for the ring (yes, I knew about the ring design before the proposal… more on that in a future post!). If you don’t have this type of family connection, then it’s important to give yourself a little online education before you head to the ring store—and Amarvelous Blog can help! Read on, fellow gemophiles!
Before we get into exact cuts, let’s discuss the parts of a diamond:
- Table: flat top of the diamond
- Crown: top sides of the diamond between the table and girdle
- Girdle: narrow band at the outermost edge of the diamond
- Pavilion: the facets that slope between the girdle and the culet
- Culet: at the bottom where the pavilion facets meet
- Facet: each flat surface of the diamond that can be polished
- Depth: height of the stone from the table to the culet
- Diameter: width of the diamond around the girdle
Main Cut Family Groups:
- Brilliant cut: Introduced in the 1600s, typically cut into a cone-like shape with many facets to provide most return of light and therefore more brilliance.
- Step cut: Either rectangular or square with facets cut parallel to the girdle (emerald, asscher, baguette).
- Rose: Unlike the brilliant and step cuts, the rose cut features a flat bottom and domed top with triangular facets. There is no table. This cut is far less common than the two listed above and was invented in 1520.
Technically speaking, diamond cut is all about how well the design makes the diamond capture light, refract the light inside of itself, then reflect the light outwards at strategic points and angles on the facets in order to achieve maximum brightness and sparkle. Different cuts achieve different levels of brilliance by using slightly different angles of light or facet shapes, and it’s also based on how deep or shallow the diamond is and how many facets it has.
For most people, though, diamond cut and shape are all about preference. Consider what the person wearing the stone likes and what looks best on them. Just like anything else that people wear, diamond cuts go in and out of style. Some of these cuts originated hundreds of years ago. As new diamond cutters created new diamond cuts, the older styles sometimes take a break in popularity. Some cuts are timeless and have lasted through the trendier periods; however, just like in fashion, everything comes back in style, so don’t fret and just pick what you like most! Diamonds have been popular for hundreds of years, and cuts have evolved through time. Below are the most common cuts still in existence.
There is a long history of round-shaped diamonds from the 1600s. However, the round diamond cut we see today, or round brilliant, is by far the most popular diamond shape, the most timeless, and has more brilliance than any other shape. They are also the most valuable because more of the original stone is lost in the process of creating this cut. Round is cut into 58 facets.
Oval (Introduced over 200 years ago, but the modern oval was created in 1960)
There are a few cuts that elongate the fingers for a very slender look, and oval is one of them. The oval is cut similarly to the round and so it too captures lots of light and shines. A benefit of the oval is that it is long and therefore looks larger than other stones of the same size. 58 facets are cut to create oval.
Marquise has a longer length to width ratio. Marquise also elongates the fingers for a very slender look. This cut is oval with points on the ends creating a football look. Similar to the oval, this stone also has the illusion of being larger than it actually is due to the elongated shape. This stone typically has 58 facets.
Pear cut, or a tear drop shape, is a mix between round and marquise cuts. Pear is the last cut that helps to elongate the fingers. Pears are the most customizable stones due to width availability. Pear also has 58 facets.
Princess-cut diamonds are the second-most popular diamond shape and also a timeless pick. This cut is typically square, with pointed corners, and a rounded top. You can find a length to width ratio with one side slightly greater than the other, making the stone look rectangular. However, the more perfectly square the stone is, versus rectangular, the more valuable the stone is. These stones typically have 57 or 76 facets.
Cushion (Introduced in 1400, name changed several times until 1900)
Cushion-cut, or pillow shaped, diamonds can be square or rectangular with rounded corners and outline. These stones have 58 facets.
Radiant cut is very unique, because it combines facets on the emerald cut with facets of a round cut and can be square or rectangular. The radiant cut is the most radiant within the rectangular family. Now you see where the name comes from? Radiant cuts have 70 facets.
Emerald-cut diamonds get their unique Art Deco look from rectangular-cut facets. This belongs to the step-cut family. This stone is rectangular in nature, but by looking at the length to width ratio you can find shorter and more wide options as well as long and skinny options. This stone has 57 facets.
The asscher cut is often mistaken for emerald cut due to the blocky way the facets are cut. However, asscher cut is a square instead of rectangle and has angled corners. This cut is commonly said to have a “hall of mirrors” look. There are actually two types of Asscher cuts: standard and royal. Royal is extremely rare. Standard is cut with 50 to 58 facets, and royal is cut with 74.
Baguette-cut diamonds are in the step-cut family, so they have a similarly cut top as emerald and asscher, but this cut has far fewer facets: baguette only has 14 facets! This cut comes in an assortment of sizes and can range from really small carat sizes to be used as decorative stones, to large solitaires. This stone is cheaper than emerald cut, because it lacks the same brilliance. If you pick this cut, then go with a more shallow stone, since having a deeper stone will not create more brilliance due to the way the light refracts inside the stone.
Triangle is more commonly used as side stones to accompany a larger center stone. They can also be used as solitaire stones and be the star (or triangle) of the show. The triangle can range from 31 to 50 facets depending on the cut. For all three triangular cuts, the more facets, the more shine. If you were using a triangular cut as a side stone, you would not want to outshine your center stone, so you may go with a lower facet count. You would go for the higher facet count for a single center stone.
Straight trillion is similar to the triangle cut described above. These stones don’t have a lot of depth to them, so they will sit lower to the finger in an engagement setting. Curved trillion is a rounded-edge version of the straight trillion cut.
Calf’s-head-cut stones are very rare and unique. They have six sides with a shape similar to that of a calf head. This shape has been cut with both the brilliant and step-cut methods. This cut has a greater depth than trillion and therefore more brilliance. Calf’s-head cut is more commonly used as side stones, but it can also be a solitaire.
Heart cut is, as you expect, a heart shape. It is said to be a more complicated cut and requires a more experienced diamond cutter to achieve the symmetric and heart shaped look. This cut has 56 to 58 facets.
There are some companies that have invented totally brand-new cuts then trademarked the cutting method so that they are the only business in the world who offers that cut. These business-specific cuts are sometimes very beautiful, but beware that you may end up paying more for the brand’s name—and the financial investment that they needed to make to protect and advertise their unique cutting method—than for the quality of the diamond itself.
As mentioned before, diamond cut is an important factor in the value of your stone, because the cut determines how much light the stone can bring in and reflect out. The more light captured then reflected, the more brilliance the diamond has. When you see a stone sparking from across a room, it’s most likely not because it was recently cleaned, and it may not even be due to a larger size, but it’s more likely because of the excellent cut of the stone. Now that you’ve learned a bit about diamond (and precious gemstone) cuts, you can confidently go to a jewelry store and pick out the perfect piece! And don’t forget to check back at Amarvelous Blog in the coming months for posts on diamond clarity, color, and carat options!
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that the rose cut does not feature a flat bottom and domed top with triangular facets. The rose cut in fact does feature a flat bottom and domed top with triangular facets.
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