When most people think of diamonds, they immediately picture the round brilliant cut diamond. While this is the most popular shape of diamond available, there are actually many more shapes to choose from. Each of these shapes has their own unique character, and also their own type of sparkle.
Round Brilliant Cut – The Classic
The most popular cut, the round brilliant diamond as it is known today was designed by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. Tolkowsky was an engineer from a family of diamond cutters. He calculated the exact ideal proportions, number of facets, and angles of the cut, using the physical and optical properties of diamond. He is recognized as being the first person to accurately design the ideal cut for a diamond to display a maximum balance of sparkle, fire and brilliance. His cutting design is now regarded as the North American standard for round brilliant diamonds.
As the name suggests, round brilliant diamonds are circular and round in shape and display even and symmetrical brilliance across the stone. Since the round brilliant cut is standardized, there is a standard cut grading system used to evaluate the stone, with grades ranging from “excellent” to “poor”. For a beautiful diamond, we always recommend to have a cut grade of “very good” to “excellent”. Anything below this standard, and the diamond loses its sparkle. Since only the round cut is completely standardized, it is the only shape of diamond that will have a cut grading on a GIA report.
The round brilliant cut is ideal for those who are looking for a classic look that will really maximize the sparkle of their stone. This type of cut looks great in all sorts of engagement ring designs, from the classic solitaire, to the modern halo design. For the gentlemen out there looking for an engagement ring, you can never go wrong with a round cut. It is the most popular cut, the most brilliant, and will be the safest choice for your other half if they haven’t told you what they like.
The oval cut dates back to the 1950’s. It is essentially a round brilliant cut, but stretched out into an oval shape. Like the round brilliant, it also shows great sparkle, fire, and brilliance. Some oval cut diamonds can show what is called a “bowtie” effect, which usually occurs when the diamond is cut too deep or shallow, or if the diamond is too narrow and long. This effect appears as a dull area in the middle of the stone, resembling a bowtie, where there is less reflection of light. With oval cut diamonds, as well as other shapes that commonly have this effect, it is always recommended to examine the stone to ensure it does not have a noticeable bowtie.
The oval cut is a great option for those who like the look of the round cut, but want a diamond with a longer profile. When set in a ring, oval cut diamonds accentuate the length of the finger and look great in many different designs. As an added bonus, an oval cut diamond can also appear larger than a round diamond of the same carat weight.
Otherwise referred to as a “teardrop” shape, the pear cut is essentially a modified oval cut where one end has been “pinched” to create a point. Like the oval cut, the pear cut is prone to displaying a bowtie effect as well. Care must also be taken when inspecting the diamond to ensure that the point of the stone is centered and the stone is symmetrical and evenly rounded on both sides.
The pear shape, like the oval, also accentuates the length of a finger when set into a ring. Due to the asymmetrical shape of this cut, it may be more difficult to pair this diamond with other stones in a three stone ring. As such, this cut is best reserved for solitaires and halo rings. They also look great in a pair of drop style earrings, or on a pendant. The teardrop shape of this cut gives the stone a very elegant and graceful look.
The marquise cut is rumoured to date back all the way to 17th century France, when King Louis XIV requested to have a cut made to resemble the smile of his favourite mistress, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour. Since then the cut has been perfected to make it even more brilliant. Resembling a pear cut, but with points at each end, the marquise cut is the cut most prone to a bowtie effect. A visual inspection of the diamond can help you ensure you don’t receive a diamond with this effect.
This diamond will have a long, slender appearance, and will be the longest of any diamond cut within a certain carat weight. Often seen in vintage jewellery, the marquise cut is a good choice for someone who is looking for lots of sparkle but also wants a more bold, unique, yet vintage look.
Probably the most romantic of all the diamond cuts, and the most feminine, this diamond shape is very seldom seen being worn. It takes a certain personality to pull this one off, but it can really make a statement. Similar to the pear cut, but with a cleft and two lobes at the top of the stone, the heart cut is also prone to showing a bowtie effect. Though, this is often not as prominent in the heart cut compared to some of the other fancy cuts. With this cut, it is all about symmetry. It is important to ensure that the cleft is indented enough, but not too far, and that it is properly centered. The two lobes must also be of equal height and width, and must have an even, rounded profile. A heart cut is one of the hardest diamond cuts to accomplish, and requires the skill of a master diamond cutter to produce. As such, it can be one of the most expensive cuts on the market.
While difficult to cut, and selling at a premium for this reason, the heart cut makes the ultimate statement in an engagement ring (or any other gifts for your significant other!). As the saying goes, a diamond is forever… so a heart cut diamond is the ultimate symbol of eternal love.
The princess cut originated in the early 1980’s in London, England. With a square shape, sharp corners, and straight edges, this diamond shape is definitely striking. Princess cut diamonds are known to show a lot of sparkle. This cut also provides a few extra benefits when compared to other shapes. Due to its cutting style, the princess cut can hide inclusions more easily than some of the other shapes. Another great bonus is that princess cuts are one of the most economical cuts of diamond available as they minimize wastage of the rough diamond during cutting.
The princess cut is ideal for those who want a stone with a distinctly square shape, but still want to maximize the sparkle and brilliance of their diamond. It holds up very well in a solitaire setting, but can also look beautiful in a halo design.
The cushion shape is one of the oldest diamond shapes still in use today. Some of the world’s most famous historical diamonds are cut in the cushion shape, but not with the same brilliance that the modern cushion cut has. Thanks again to Marcel Tolkowsky, the cushion cut was modified to have more facets to rival the brilliance of the round cut. Many cushion cuts now on the market will be officially classified as a “modified brilliant cushion cut”. These stones have enough sparkle, fire and brilliance to rival the round brilliant diamond. While the cushion cut is usually more square in shape with rounded edges and corners, they can come in more rectangular shapes as well.
Cushions carry a lot of their weight in their pavilion (the bottom half of the diamond), and so will accentuate any colour in the stone. This is why they make a great choice for fancy coloured diamonds. For this very same reason, you may need to pick a stone with a slightly higher colour grading if you choose this cut for a colourless diamond. The cushion cut is a great choice for those who want the look of a square diamond, but don’t like the sharp edges and corners of the princess cut. Despite its long history, it is a modern cutting style, while still keeping to a more classic semi-rounded shape.
The ultimate vintage shape for a diamond. The emerald cut, as the name suggests, was originally created for emeralds in the 1920’s, and was soon adopted for diamonds as well. While this cut was created in the 1920’s and officially called an emerald cut, its basic elements have origins dating back to the older “table cut” from the 1500’s. The emerald cut was immensely popular during the Art Deco period, and has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past number of years. While not as brilliant as some of the other cuts in this list due to their larger and fewer facets, this cut is very popular for those looking for a diamond with a vintage look. Due to the large facets and large table (the largest facet, which is in the center of the diamond), inclusions are more visible in this cut of diamond than in other cuts. This cut is also fairly deep, so it will accentuate any colour in the stone. For these reasons, it is important to select a diamond with higher colour and clarity than what you would normally select in a round brilliant cut stone. This cut of diamond is also well suited for fancy coloured diamonds since the depth of the stone will really capture and show off the colour. When selecting the diamond, ensure that the keel of the stone (the bottom part of the stone resembling the keel of a ship) is straight and aligned properly. Also look for the “hall of mirrors” effect, wherein the bottom facets of the stone should resemble a hall of mirrors, reflecting light back to your eye.
This cut is the most popular choice for those seeking a vintage look. The long, rectangular shape of the diamond also accentuates the length of a finger when worn in a ring. It can look great in a solitaire, but can also be quite stunning in a three stone ring. In a halo design, the emerald cut shows great contrast with the rest of the ring and can create an interesting look.
The asscher cut was originally developed in 1902 by the Asscher Brothers of Holland, and closely resembles the emerald cut. The primary difference here is that the asscher cut does not have a keel like the emerald cut, and is more square in its shape (while still maintaining the cut-cornered octagonal look). This cut of diamond has all the same characteristics as the emerald cut when it comes to how the stone shows colour and clarity. The asscher cut is a great choice for those who want a vintage look, but prefer a square shape as opposed to the more rectangular shape of the emerald cut.
Probably one of the least-known and under-appreciated cuts, the radiant cut is usually seen in fancy coloured diamonds and rarely in colourless diamonds. It was originally invented in the 1970’s, yet many are still not familiar with this cut. The radiant, like the cushion and emerald cuts, also has a heavier pavilion. This means that the stone will show colour more than a round brilliant cut. What makes the radiant cut a great option is that it has the same cut-cornered, semi-octagonal shape as an emerald or asscher cut diamond, but has much more brilliance due to its larger number of facets. Like these cuts as well, the radiant cut can be found in both square and rectangular shapes, while still having the same brilliance.
The radiant cut is a great option for those who are looking for a unique shape, but do not want to compromise on the brilliance of the diamond. It is a versatile cut style that can be utilized in many different ring designs, both in colourless and fancy coloured diamonds.
A Shape for Everyone
There are diamond shapes for all different types of personalities and preferences. From the classic round cut, to the vintage emerald and asscher cuts, to the more unique marquise and heart cuts, there are many different options to choose from. What is your favourite diamond shape? Let us know in the comments!
Michael is a Diamond and Jewelry Consultant at Kimberfire – a brilliant way to buy diamond engagement rings, fine diamond jewelry and loose diamonds in Toronto, ON and across Canada. He graduated from the Jewelry Essentials program and the Gemmology program at George Brown College. Before joining Kimberfire, he worked in fine jewelry sales at some of the biggest names in the diamond jewelry business, such as Birks and Tiffany & Co. As an FCGmA certified gemmologist, he lives and breathes diamonds and gemstones. This shows in his large collection of gemstones and mineral specimens that he keeps at home. On his days off, Michael keeps active on his mountain bike and in the swimming pool.