Elegance and fire with a modern feel, oval cut diamonds are one of the most brilliant and sparkly diamond shapes next to a round diamond. A refreshingly unique choice for an engagement ring, oval diamonds also appear larger than other diamonds of similar carat size, have an elongating effect on fingers, and typically cost less than other diamond shapes. With so much to love, we’re breaking down what you need to know about oval cut diamonds.
The Guide to Oval Cut Diamonds
History of Oval Cut Diamonds
While they may seem like a modern trend, the oval cut diamond has been in use for hundreds of years, but was first mentioned in literature around 1800. This was around the advent of the brilliant faceting style for which the round diamond cut became renowned. The modern oval cut diamond with its 57-58 facets was developed in 1957 by famous Russian diamond cutter, Lazare Kaplan.
Kaplan pioneered a modified brilliant cut for an oval shape, helping to combine the desirable brilliant faceting style with stones that many would largely consider worthless because of their pronounced inclusions. Since this modern revival, oval cut diamonds have been a mainstay for engagement rings and jewelry alike for all the reasons we’re going to discuss.
When to Go Oval: Pros & Cons
As with every diamond cut, there are appealing and not so appealing characteristics to find a balance between if that’s your chosen cut. In our oval vs. round diamonds article, we go into detail about just such characteristics and why you might choose one cut over the other. These are some pros and cons to consider about an oval diamond:
- - They can appear larger than their carat weight.
- - Options to go with an elongated oval or a shorter, wider oval to help accentuate the look of your finger.
- - Perfect choice if you want a classic ring that still has a little something “out of the ordinary.”
- - Oval cuts hide imperfections in the diamond really well.
- - The bow-tie effect is likely to be present in any diamond you choose.
- - Oval cut diamonds display more body color, so you’ll need a higher color grade if your preference is a near colorless stone.
- - With so many varying shapes, it may take longer to find an oval that is the proportion, size and overall look you love.
- - It’s really hard to get an idea of how an oval cut diamond will look just based on evaluating gradings on a certificate.
Evaluating an Oval Cut Diamond: the 4Cs
The cut of a diamond is expertly graded on a scale of Excellent to Poor using a strict formula that incorporates various measurements of a diamond. This grading can be achieved with some cuts, but certification agencies like GIA do not provide cut gradings for oval cut diamonds. This is due to the oval shape’s complex and varying structure.
The cut of a diamond measures the quality of ‘light return’ and it’s very difficult to do that with consistency across the multitude of shapes of ovals. The long and skinny ovals will have a different light return profile than a squat and rounded oval. Therefore, the best way to determine cut quality is to compare multiple diamonds side-by-side and choose the one that looks best to you.
To get an idea of what would look best for you, an oval cut diamond has certain proportions that make up the information about its cut. Oval diamonds come in a variety of shapes and sizes in a length to width ratio that ranges from 1.28 to 1.70. Elongated ovals appear thin and long with a ratio above 1.5. Rounded ovals appear wider and fall closer to a ratio of 1.3. Most oval diamonds you will see have a ratio between 1.34 to 1.42.
Color is graded by the GIA on a scale from D to Z, with D being the most colorless diamond. It’s usually impossible to distinguish color differences to the naked eye in side-by-side grades, and the shape and cut of an oval will skew the grading scale slightly.
For an oval cut diamond, a near colorless grading of G will look more like an average H or I color as distinguished for other shapes. This mainly occurs because oval diamonds show more of their color due to their shallower cut. In order to still appear white, or colorless, to the naked eye, a higher color grade is necessary.
Due to the brilliant faceting style of an oval diamond, inclusions and blemishes are much more easily masked, especially near the sides of the stone. But ovals have a specific imperfection that you should become familiar with: the bow-tie effect. It’s so named because with all oval cut diamonds, there is a visible shadow across the diamond’s center that appears to resemble a bow-tie.
The level of severity of the bow-tie will vary across all oval diamonds and only shows from a direct face-up viewing angle. If you choose ones that look good with minimal bow-tie, the end result will be a stunning piece of jewelry. It’s most important not to get hung up on the bow-tie effect, and to use the other qualities of an oval diamond to help choose one that is prettiest to you.
As with all diamonds, oval cut diamonds are sold by carat weight. But there’s something special about how an oval’s carat weight will compare with another shaped diamond’s carat weight. In an equal carat weight comparison between an oval diamond and a round diamond, for example, oval diamonds will appear larger. This is due to its elongated shape and weight distribution toward the top of the stone.
The weight distribution pushed toward the top of the stone equates to ovals appearing about 10% bigger with a larger expanse of surface area. Because of this, if you had your heart set on a 2 carat diamond, a 1.86 carat oval diamond may appear just as large as a 2 carat round diamond and save you the cost of the price jump at the next full carat. We go deeper on this topic in our 1, 2, or 3 carat oval diamond ring comparison article where you can learn just what thought process we’d take to make a decision about carat weight.
See a real life example comparing a 2.50ct round vs a 2.27ct oval.
Choosing an Ideal Oval Cut Diamond
When buying an oval cut diamond, deciding on your own ideal length to width ratio is going to be one of the most important factors. This proportion dictates how the diamond will look on the hand. Each oval diamond will appeal differently to your personal taste and exhibit varying light performance based on its ratio and other measurements. So knowing that you prefer an elongated oval to help lengthen the look of your finger will help you consider diamonds only within a larger ratio range, or likewise look within a smaller ratio range for a more rounded diamond that can help add a flattering balance to thinner and smaller hands.
When considering the other ratings for an oval diamond, color will be slightly trickier than clarity. The brilliant facets and rounded shape of an oval diamond help to obscure many inclusions and blemishes from the naked eye. However, as we mentioned before, the shallower cut of an oval slightly shifts the color scale, so a higher color quality grade is likely going to be more important than a higher clarity grade to find a really pretty oval diamond.
Lastly, the symmetry of an oval diamond is an aspect of its cut that often gets overshadowed by the discussion of ratio, proportion, and bow-tie effect. Symmetry is an important part of creating the beauty in an oval diamond – that’s true for most fancy-shaped diamonds. To determine the symmetry, draw an imaginary line down the center. The shape and faceting of each half should mirror each other. Do this again across the middle and the shape and faceting should be mirrors here as well.
Oval Cut Diamond Prices
Oval diamonds will typically be 10-30% less expensive than the most popular brilliant, round cut diamond. Part of this is due to the lesser demand of oval diamonds, but the way the oval diamond is cut also has an important role. The cut of an oval diamond allows for more of the diamond rough to not be wasted. That retention makes the diamond less expensive to produce.
Since stone to stone comparison pricing isn’t as straightforward based on lab reports alone, it’s important to always see stones in person. And you can be sure that the highest quality stones will be priced at a premium and that just as with all other diamonds, price will increase exponentially as the carat weight increases.
Below is an example of how an oval diamond compares to a round diamond of similar weight, color, and clarity:
Designing a Ring with an Oval Diamond
An oval cut diamond will have the visual effect of lengthening the finger. This could be a lovely match for those with fuller hands or shorter fingers. The more narrow and elongated the oval shape, the stronger the lengthening effect. If the oval is more rounded and wide than long, it will have a more subtle lengthening effect, so it would be perfect for those with slender fingers already.
Oval cut diamonds are very well suited for any type of setting, but they really bring an added nuance to traditional styles. A solitaire stone with a pavé band is always a timeless look. In our Lucia, we add two small side stones for a little spark of originality and to accentuate the sparkle of the center stone.
Oval diamonds are also a perfect fit for a modern and minimalist aesthetic. In our Katie, a simple bezel setting and polished band elevate the stunning beauty of the diamond and present an overall smooth, sleek and chic look that is ready to be paired with any style wedding band.
While ovals already appear larger than stones of a similar carat size, adding a halo setting maximizes the size and sparkle. With our Samanthina, a subtle halo elevates the brilliance of the center stone and adds to the lengthening effect already created by the shape of the oval.
And for anyone considering a unique take on the standard vertical stone, setting your oval cut diamond horizontally will demand a double look of appreciation. With our Charleen, we paired a vintage vibe with the surprise of a horizontal oval for a uniquely modern engagement ring.
Luckily, oval cut diamonds are extremely versatile and look great in all types of metals, settings, and ring designs. Start with an idea of what you’d love your diamond to look like and then work with a professional jeweler for advice you can trust to find your perfect oval diamond. In our experience, you can never go wrong with a well-chosen oval diamond!