A Guide to Diamond Cuts & Shapes
The "cut" of a diamond is perhaps a buyer's most important consideration. This is because the quality of the cut will directly determine the stone's overall brilliance and beauty. Referring to more than just the diamond's shape, a cut deals with the stone much more holistically. A diamond's shape is the overall outline or external wrapper; a diamond's cut is its entire anatomy.
What is a Diamond's Cut?
A diamond's cut refers to its facets and angles, number, proportions, and symmetry, affecting how light reflects out of the stone. The grade for a diamond's cut ranges from excellent (reflecting as much light as possible) to poor (much light lost out of the sides or bottom of the diamond). A skillfully cut diamond will reflect as much light as possible out of the table (top face) of the crystal and thus appear fiery and brilliant. This effect on brilliance directly affects the value of a diamond and is an essential factor to consider when evaluating one for purchase. This illustration shows how diamonds with the same shape can have very different cuts, which affect the light reflected out of the table.
Cut Too Shallow
through the bottom
Cut Too Deep
through the sides
More light, more
brilliance on top
The Gemological Institute of America has a tool that shows the effect the cut has on brilliance. Move the sliding bar to see a sketch of a diamond with different cut grades.
How is a Diamond's Cut Appraised?
The quality of a diamond's cut is held to an "ideal" standard, first developed by famed Belgian diamond cutter Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. An "ideal cut diamond," as named by Tolkowsky, is a diamond of unmatched brilliance that is able to perfectly reflect any light that enters it. Tolkowsky determined the necessary proportions, angles, symmetry, polish, and fluorescence essential for a diamond to achieve this ideal grade through his calculations. Tolkowsky produced such a gem; the modern brilliant cut diamond, his magnum opus.
While other ideal calculations have been developed and accepted over the decades, Tolkowsky's basic formula remains the industry guideline through which all diamond cuts are appraised. The brilliant-cut also remains the most popular diamond cut over a century later, accounting for over 70% of diamonds sold worldwide.
What does a Diamond's Shape Mean?
The diamond shape is the geometric outline that impacts the overall appearance and physical form of the stone. Besides the four Cs (cut, clarity, carat weight, and color), the shape is important to consider when shopping for these precious gemstones. Here's everything you need to know about diamond cuts and shapes to help you find the stunning rock you've always desired.
Diamond-Cut vs. Shape
It's important to remember that diamond cut and diamond shape are two unique attributes of the stone. The cut determines how the stone facets reflect light, while the shape influences its overall look.
Diamond shapes fall into two major categories: round and fancy shapes. The round diamond is a timeless shape that highlights the dazzling brilliance of the stone. All shapes, excluding round, fall in the fancy category and include princess, pear-shaped, cushion, oval, asscher, and marquise.
The easiest way to distinguish the two is with pictures. The picture below shows the ten most common diamond shapes.
What is the Most Popular Diamond Cut?
The round brilliant is the most popular diamond shape and cut, with many sources citing three-fourths of all diamonds sold are of this type. This could be for several reasons. Most rough diamonds are shaped such that two brilliant round diamonds can be cut with the least amount of crystal lost. Also, the round brilliant and the princess (which is the next most popular) are common because they reflect light best and are thus the most brilliant for their size. Crystals that are not symmetrically formed or have awkwardly located inclusions are often cut into what is called a "fancy cut" or a cut other than a round brilliant.
A Little About Branded Shapes
There are dozens more diamond shapes than the ten most common, yet some are mostly unknown outside the industry. Many of these are patented and kept exclusive by their owners. For example, a Jupiter cut has five sides, a Hexagon or Half Dutch Rose cut has six, the Queen and the Baroness cut have eight sides, and the bead cut looks (seriously) like a disco ball. The Tulip, Bullet, Boat Shaped Rose, Genesistar, and Fan are unusual shapes rarely seen.
Consider Diamond Cut When Buying
When selecting a diamond, most customers agree that sparkle is more important than size. Since a diamond’s brilliance is near-entirely determined by its cut, it is wise to allocate most of your budget toward the highest cut grade in your price range. The good news is that well-cut diamonds come in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to stay within budget without having to sacrifice any sparkle.
The appraisal of a diamond’s cut is determined mathematically; the stone’s proportions are compared to measurements that represent an industry-ideal standard. The physical factors that make up this standard include; table percentage, depth percentage, girdle thickness, among other considerations. Diamonds that satisfy this standard have remarkable brilliance, though quality will diminish the farther a diamond falls outside the ideal ratio. In the world of gemstones, Symmetry = Sparke, so it is essential to get as close to these measurements as your budget allows.
Your jeweler will be able to provide you with this information regarding any stone, but the proof of cut quality will always be evident in appearance. If a diamond possesses a fiery radiance when viewed face-up, it strongly indicates that the cut is of quality.
Consider Diamond Shape When Buying
You should consider shape when buying a diamond ring because it will affect how the ring looks on your finger. Women with shorter fingers should try on elongated styles such as a pear, oval, or marquise and avoid wide bands that give the illusion of even shorter fingers.
Square shapes such as princess or radiant-cut diamonds are best for women with long fingers as they make them appear shorter.
Women with larger hands may want to avoid very slender, delicate ring settings and narrow diamond shapes like the emerald or the marquise, as they will not look proportional. Heart and round shapes are better for larger fingers and likewise not flattering to thin fingers. It's necessary to try on a variety of styles for contrast, even if they aren't your first choice.
Express Your Style
You may be told that diamond shapes can be matched to the type of woman you are. This is mostly entertainment or hopeful advice for men attempting to choose an engagement ring for a surprise proposal. Still, there is some truth to that statement. If the woman is very traditional, she will probably prefer a round brilliant diamond in a solitaire setting. If sentimental and romantic, she will likely be charmed by a pink diamond in a heart shape. If she is fashion-forward and prefers to be unique, she may like an unusual shape, a colored diamond, and a modern setting.
Rather than trying to fit yourself into a category, choose the diamond you like best in a setting that sets it off best or choose the already complete ring that makes you swoon. If you select a ring for someone else, you may find yourself shopping (with her) for a replacement, but it is not likely that your proposal will be turned down just because the ring isn't to her taste.
Complementing The Rest of The Ring
Some shapes are better suited to certain setting styles. If the setting is crucial to you, that can drive the shape of the diamond you select. If you prefer a solitaire setting, you can choose any shape available and show the diamond off to its best potential.
Oval, round, princess, radiant, cushion, or marquise shapes are well-suited to being the primary stone in a multi-stone ring. Asymmetrical shapes such as the pear, trilliant, or heart are best displayed in solitaire settings. They are challenging to balance with other stones in a multi-stone ring, but trilliant shapes work well as accessory stones.
So what diamond shapes work best for you? Consider the hand that will wear it, the other parts of the ring, your taste, and your lifestyle. These are the most important factors when choosing a ring that you will cherish for a lifetime.
What Is the Most Popular Diamond Shape?
The round brilliant cut is the most popular diamond shape, loved for its extraordinary sparkle. Naturally flattering on different fingers and hand shapes, round diamonds feature nearly 60 facets reflecting light and casting a magical spell of mini rainbows for a breathtaking spectacle of radiance and contrast. They are the gold standard for engagement rings that woo women worldwide with their outstanding beauty.
What Are Some Other Diamond Shapes That Women Love?
When shopping for diamonds, the shape and cut you fall in love with depend on your personal taste.
The princess-cut diamond is a much-loved fancy shape, featuring a modified square silhouette with pointed corners. Contemporary yet timeless, princess-cut diamonds have over 70 chevron-shaped facets for a scintillating combination of fire and sparkle.
Asscher-cut diamonds are ideal for people who love bold geometric shapes with a clean look. With a square shape, angled corners, and 58 multi-layered facets, assher diamonds have a brilliant, vintage appearance.
Cushion-cut offers a unique spin on the popular round stone, with rounded edges encompassing a rectangular diamond. For those who love statement engagement rings, marquise-cut diamonds are a fantastic choice. The pointed edges create a vintage appeal while producing the illusion of a large-sized stone for regal elegance.
Other popular cuts include the oval-cut diamond, ideal for both classic and on-trend engagement rings. An oval-cut helps to lengthen the appearance of the finger on which the ring is worn. And the rectangular-cut, with parallel and rectangular facets for pristine color and magnificent clarity.
What's the Best-Looking Diamond Cut?
The most sparkling diamond cut is the round brilliant. The 57 facets of this cut allow light to enter the stone and reflect off every facet to create a dazzling shine that's hard to surpass. Absolutely timeless, the round-cut is undoubtedly the best-looking diamond you'll ever find. A round diamond looks beautiful in any piece of jewelry, but a solo round diamond in a solitaire design is thoroughly stunning.
What Is the Rarest Diamond Shape?
Heart-shaped diamonds feature a precise length-to-width ratio with exact symmetry and beautiful curves that make them genuinely exclusive. If you're looking for a ring that's as unique and rare as your special bond, heart-shaped diamonds are an excellent option.
Some of the rarest, well-known diamonds include:
- The Hope Diamond: Found in India in 1642, this dazzling dark gray and blue diamond weighed in at a massive 132 carats.
- The Blue Moon Diamond: Found in 2014 by Petra Diamonds, this gorgeous blue gem is internally flawless and is a whopping 12 carats.
- The Incomparable Diamond: Unearthed in 1980, this stone weighs 407.5 carats and is a brown-yellow color.
- The Taylor-Burton Diamond: Given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton, this white, pear-shaped stone weighs over 69 carats.