Explaining Diamond Shapes & Cuts

When looking for that special stone it’s important to understand the difference between shape and cut… the two are often confused!

What is a diamond shape? 

The shape of a diamond describes its physical form, or the particular outline of the stone. It’s essentially the stone’s silhouette. Even though you may hear them referred to as different “cuts” round, pear, marquise, and Asscher are all words used to describe the shape of a stone.

What is a diamond cut?

The cut is one of the famous 4Cs of diamond grading (clarity, color, carat and cut), it describes how well the diamond was formed when it was cut from the rough in order to maximize things like light reflectivity and clarity. It’s important to note that only round diamonds are graded for cut… otherwise the math simply gets too complicated for the graders! The grading of a diamond’s cut takes into account things like the depth, symmetry, even faceting and overall dimensions.   The cut rating does not affect the clarity score, or vice versa - both are independent of each other.

Diamond shapes & prices

While some may say that certain shapes will "save" you money, it's fundamentally difficult to compare prices across shapes. We always advise clients to choose the shape or design that they like most, first and foremost, and then find the best diamond in that shape.

Here's a car analogy - comparing prices across different shapes is similar to trying to maximize the value of a car based on tonnage and engine, rather than a car that suits your lifestyle (suv, or mini van, sedan or convertible) and a style that I like. If a client likes the look of an oval diamond, and in particular, a design that houses an oval diamond, it isn't relevant to know that a princess cut might give you more diamond carats for your dollar.

The most traditionally popular shape for diamond has long been the Round Brilliant. The brilliant-cut Round shaped diamond, with its scintillating 58 facets, has been around for the past 100 years, and, with all its fire and life, has long served as both the elegant favorite focus of simple solitaires, and the center point for intricate, dazzling designs. Originally developed in 1919, the Round Brilliant diamond is the most popular cut - so widely loved that it is used in over three quarters of all diamond engagement rings.

For brides looking for the elegance and fire of a Round Brilliant but with a more modern feel, an Oval shaped center stone is a fantastic option. The Oval shape maintains the sleek simplicity, soft roundness and light-exuding brilliance of the Round Brilliant while adding an elegant elongation that promises to flatter the shape of the wearer’s hand. A favorite shape in rings of previous centuries, Ken and Dana Designs loves being part of the Oval cut’s resurgence.

Another shining option for those in love with the brilliance of the Round diamond, but looking for a little something extra is the ever romantic Pear shape. A beautiful marriage of scintillation and asymmetry, this cut has actually been around since 1475! Now, Ken and Dana Designs are making this several hundred year old cut modern rings like the “Tani.”

Also known as a Navette (or “little ship” in French) cut, the first Marquise cut diamond was designed by none other than the “Beloved” King Louis XV of France in the late 18th Century. King Louis commissioned a high jeweler to cut the finest diamond available to resemble the silhouette of the lips of his mistress, the famed Marchioness Madame de Pompadour. With its seductively tapering lines, the Marquise shape certainly remains a choice worthy of the high French courts.

Emerald cut diamonds, along with Asscher, baguette and Carre, are what is called a step-cut stone, with cuts that run in parallel to one another and graduate like steps. Emerald cuts differ from Asscher in that they are rectangular while Asscher are square. The even step cuts enhance their stark clarity and clean color. Emerald cut stones work best with simple settings that showcase their striking shape and "hall of mirrors" like effect.

Because step cut diamonds are not good at hiding inclusions, you'll need a VS1 clarity or above, whereas for a round diamond you could get a perfect to the eye diamond with a SI1 clarity diamond.

Asscher cuts are similar to Emerald cuts but are square instead of rectangular. Developed in 1902 by Joseph Isaac Asscher, the Asscher cut became immensely popular in the Art Deco period and so to a modern eye they often appear to have a certain antique charm. That lovely antique sensibility married with their modern, geometric styling make the Asscher cut a beautiful compromise of old and new.

A Cushion cut is also square in shape, but even softer and more “old world” than a Radiant cut. A Cushion cut’s wonderfully antique sensibility is derived from its predecessor, the ancient Old Mine Cut, one of the oldest diamond cuts ever achieved. Roughly square in shape with soft, rounded corners, the Cushion cut takes the Old Mine Cut and makes the pavilion shallower, the crown lower and the table larger, all of which to enhance the brilliance and light of the stone.

A Princess cut appears to be sharply squared, like a crown, when seen from above, while when seen from the side it appears to be made up of a series of sparkling pyramids. Originally made popular in the 1980s, the Princess cut remains a royally reliable choice!

If you find a square shape appealing, but don’t like the look of a step cut stone, you may want to consider a Radiant, Princess, or Cushion cut. The Radiant cut, like that found in the Bixton (shown right) diamond takes the silhouette of an Emerald cut, but with cropped corners and faceting that further rounds the stone, imbuing the regal starkness of the Emerald cut with the brightness of a Round Brilliant. The Radiant has basically the silhouette of an emerald cut or asscher cut, but instead of step cut faceting, it has brilliant cut faceting. This is for someone who wants the shape of an emerald or asscher cut, but with lots of fire and brilliance as opposed to quite sparkle or minimalist look that you would get from a step cut stone.

The Rose Cut is the oldest known cut of any stone. Unlike subsequent, more modern cuts, the Rose cut diamond has no table, or flat top, , instead, is comprised of a series of small, light diffusing facets that create a domed top. The stone can have as few as three or as many as 24 facets, which always come together at a delicate apex, giving the stone the appearance of an unfurling bloom… hence the name, Rose cut! It is a great option for anyone who wants a ring with a very low profile.

Old Mine cuts are also amongst the earliest established stone cuts, dating back to the mid-18th Century. With softly squared edges and a luxuriously deep feel, the Old Mine cut can easily be confused with its successor, the Cushion Cut. The difference between the two being the Old Mine cut’s small table, high crown, and larger culet (flat opening at the bottom of the stone), which gives the cut a more architectural look and can often allow for more light. The reason for its incredibly unique shape and sparkle - individual to each stone - is because standardized, modern diamond cutting technology was not available at the time of their creation.

Shape & Harmony with Ring Style

Of course, a ring is so much more than merely a stone, and so when picking a stone cut it’s important to consider how the specific silhouette of that diamond (or other beautiful gemstone!) will be complemented, and complement in turn, the design of the ring setting.

For example, sleeker, more architectural designs that aim to let a single stone take center stage would do well to feature the stark, elegant geometry of a Marquise, Princess or Radiant cut stone.

Settings with antique or vintage sensibilities would pair beautifully with the historical and romantic Rose, Old Mine and Cushion cuts, while the most traditional Round Cut can always stand as a solitaire or a centerpoint for a beautiful haloed design.

Because of their parallel step-cutting, silhouettes like Emerald and Asscher cuts are a perfect choice for designs featuring flanking stones, while Pear and Oval cuts offer similar opportunity for light filled designs that elongate the finger, but with an added sense of rounded softness.

Have questions? We're happy to help.