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The Guide to Emerald Cut Diamonds


If there’s one diamond cut that can be relied upon to bring an understated but impressive wow factor, it’s the emerald cut. The sleek look of the emerald cut diamond makes it a popular choice for those who want subtle sparkle with a classic style that is undeniably beautiful. From its start as a cutting style for the emerald gemstone, to its constant presence in celebrity engagement rings, the emerald cut diamond is the perfect, timeless choice.

History of Emerald Cut Diamonds

The emerald cut diamond is one of the oldest diamond shapes. Its stylistic origins date back to the table cut of the 1500s when stonecutters initially created the shape and cutting process for emerald gemstones (the green color variety; not to be confused with emerald cut diamonds). For emerald gemstones, a softer and more brittle stone due to its numerous natural inclusions, this new cutting style reduced the pressure applied to the stone during the cutting process and prevented chips in the gems. With few exceptions, emerald gemstones are still cut in this way today.

It didn’t take long for diamond cutters to notice this new shape and faceting style and begin to incorporate it for diamonds. The term ‘emerald cut’ came about in the 1920s with the sharp rise in popularity of the cut. This era was marked by the Art Deco movement that admired clean lines, symmetry, and geometric forms in all areas of life from architecture to clothing to jewelry.

Since then, emerald cut diamonds have maintained consistent popularity as an engagement ring centerpiece stone. It has become famous for gracing the rings of iconic women from Jacqueline Kennedy and Grace Kelly to Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie. Today, it is still a coveted diamond cut that withstands the test of time in both its durability and style.

When to Go Emerald: Pros & Cons

The emerald cut diamond is considered a “fancy shape” diamond, and as a member of the step cut family of shapes has particular features that can vary greatly from a brilliant cut:

Pros:

  • - The cutting process of graduated, parallel lines actually enhance the diamond’s strength and durability in protecting against chips.
  • - The emerald cut diamond has a quintessentially vintage feel all on its own.
  • - Emerald cut diamonds are relatively easy to find and in a variety of sizes and quality gradings.
  • - Although emerald cuts have a strong vintage feel, they can also be paired perfectly with sleek and modern ring designs.

Cons

  • - The flat surface of the stone and parallel step cuts make inclusions easier to spot.
  • - Will not be as fiery and sparkly as brilliant cut diamonds.
  • - Finding a stone you love with eye clean clarity may take time.
  • - Although overall a less expensive cut compared to round brilliants, you may end up paying just as much or more because of the need for very high clarity.

Evaluating an Emerald Cut Diamond: The 4Cs  

Cut

As a fancy shaped diamond, there are no industry wide standards for ideal cut, and certification agencies like GIA will not offer cut gradings for fancy shapes. And emerald cut diamonds are not cut for brilliance like most other diamond shapes. They have step cuts, which offer a more subtle sparkle through a facet styling that produces a hall of mirrors effect.

The cutting process applies stacked terraces and large parallel facets creating a scintillation pattern that differs from brilliant cutting styles seen on round and cushion diamonds. On an emerald cut diamond, instead of having tiny sparkles of light emanating from the facets, light flashes ‘on’ and ‘off’ due to the nature of the step cut. These flashes of white light complement the dark planes in each step.

While emerald cut diamonds are vastly recognized to be rectangular in shape, they can exist as more of a square shape. The classic length to width ratio for an emerald cut diamond ranges from 1.30 to 1.50. Most people choose a ratio in the 1.3 to 1.4 range. When considering the ratio, the diamond’s proportions and dimensions will also play an important role.

emerald cut diamond - 1.31 ratio

Length to width ratio of 1.31

emerald cut diamond - 1.38 ratio

Length to width ratio of 1.38

asscher cut diamond

Asscher cut - or square emerald cut (1:1 ratio)

Color

Similar to the discussion on clarity, color is going to be more visible in an emerald cut. The large table and step cuts display more color than other fancy shapes. So, color will be more easily noticeable to the naked eye.

An emerald cut diamond of color grade I or lower will very clearly show a yellowish tint. The naked eye is not as likely to notice a tint at color grade G or better. For the best quality and value of a stone, it’s best to stay at or above a G color for an emerald cut.

A final note about color is to consider the metal for your setting. If you are choosing a more cool tone of platinum or white gold, a G color grade or better will radiate with white color. If you’re going with a yellow or rose gold, the warm tones will complement slightly lower color grades like H or I nicely.

Clarity

With the cutting style of an emerald cut, the table – the top surface area – becomes a clear, unobstructed view into the center of the stone. Any inclusions in this middle area will be clearly visible. And since step cut diamonds are not as bright and fiery as brilliant cut stones, there’s nothing about the faceting style that can mask the blemishes within the stone.

For this reason, clarity is one of the most important gradings to consider for an emerald cut diamond. Step cut stones are generally not as bright and never as fiery as brilliant cut stones. The cut is meant to show clear, straight expanses of white light return, that means there’s no scattering of light to hide inclusions.

Considering that you can so clearly see inclusions in emerald cuts, a VS1 clarity or higher is the typical recommendation for a quality stone. However, It’s always important to view any diamond in person to make sure it looks clean to the naked eye. But if there are inclusions, it’s best that they not be in the center of the stone. Staying away from the table will provide the most coverage from viewing them.

Below see a VS2 clarity diamond, which would normally look eye-clean in a round brilliant cut, but in this emerald cut one can easily spot the black inclusions. Compare to the below VVS2 clarity diamond, which is a safer choice for emerald cuts. Some VS1 clarity diamonds can look eye clean as well, but this is not always the case.  

A VS2 emerald cut diamond  

VVS2 emerald cut diamond

A VVS2 emerald cut diamond

Carat

The emerald cut accounts for roughly 3% of all diamonds in the marketplace. Emerald cut diamonds also have a higher yield on cutting, meaning that the least amount of weight is lost when cutting a rough diamond into a polished emerald cut. This makes cutting an emerald cut a more cost-effective process than cutting a round brilliant diamond.

Although they are less in demand than the most popular round brilliant diamond, emerald cuts are widely available. It also shouldn’t be too difficult to find emerald cuts in a variety of carat sizes, even into larger carats. While the quality will differ, large carats are available, but you can still expect the price to increase exponentially with each full carat jump.

Choosing an Ideal Emerald Cut Diamond  

The shape appeal of an emerald cut diamond is based on a pleasing rectangular body and beveled corners. Deciding on your ideal proportion for an emerald cut is a subjective choice, but by far, square emerald cuts are seen in the vast minority of emerald cuts. It may even be difficult to find a more square cut in person to consider.

Although emerald cuts are technically less expensive, you’re likely going to be far more discerning about the emerald cut diamond you choose than you would be with a diamond from the brilliant cut family. As we’ve talked about, emerald cut diamonds simply do not hide inclusions well, so the clarity grade of VS1 or better is going to be critical for a quality diamond.

We always say it, but it is extremely important to view emerald cut diamonds in person from as many different tilts and angles as possible. The lighting should be good and either yourself or a trusted jeweler should be able to view the diamond under magnification to verify the lack of or presence and placement of inclusions.

With many other diamond shapes, smaller stones tend to hide inclusions well, and it only becomes more of a concern over the 1 carat mark. While that is still generally true for emerald cut diamonds as well, the step cuts of this shape make it more susceptible to visible inclusions even in the smaller carat weight. In the end, it’s best to always view emerald cut diamonds to confirm an eye clean appearance.

Emerald Cut Diamond Prices

The price of an emerald cut diamond is generally 20-30% less expensive when compared to the most popular and expensive round diamonds. But as with every diamond, depending on the quality gradings, prices for a 1 carat emerald cut could range from $3,500 to $8,000, which is quite a significant span.

To optimize for a beautiful emerald cut diamond, you shouldn’t necessarily think that a D color and Internally Flawless clarity is going to look better than a F color, VS1 clarity diamond. Although the D/IF diamond has the technical qualifications, the makeup of the F/VS1 diamond may look extremely similar in a face up view and could have even better brilliance than the D/IF diamond.

Designing a Ring With a Emerald Cut Diamond

Emeralds are the epitome of elegance and a subtly classic look. It’s impossible to go wrong with a simple solitaire emerald cut engagement ring. A plain metal band will perfectly accentuate the diamond for a simple and beautiful ring. Our engagement ring design Robin is the perfect example of this timeless look.

To really play up the pristine clear light of an emerald cut diamond engagement ring, you can maximize the shine with a three stone ring. In our Rebecca, we’ve set an emerald cut diamond with two equally beautiful, smaller emerald cut diamonds on either side. On a simple, polished metal band, the triple punch of emerald cut diamonds is about as timeless as you can get.

Just because the emerald cut has such a strong vintage connection doesn’t mean it can’t be the centerpiece of a truly modern ring design. In our Autry, we’ve set a stunning emerald cut diamond horizontally and mixed some metals between the band and the prongs to provide just enough intrigue for countless double takes in appreciation.

Paying homage to the era when the emerald cut reigned in the jewelry world, a vintage look is always stunning for this shape. For example, our Lexeen takes the elegance emitted by an emerald cut and adds the sophistication of a split shank and double claw prongs. The warmth of the yellow gold metal softens the angles of the ring.

With so much beauty and versatility, an emerald cut diamond can look right at home in contemporary rings without much adornment or the standout center stone surrounded by other diamonds and flashy metalwork. The crisp geometric shape and cutting style ensure elegance and sophistication every single time, just optimize for eye clean clarity and proportions you love!


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