Let’s start with the bottom line: People will tell you that “cut” is the most important of the 4Cs, and it’s true — you want a diamond that has been carved by a pro to maximize sparkle. But that’s not shape.
In This Article
In This Article
What’s the Difference Between Diamond Shape and Cut?
Others have names that require explanation, including princess, emerald, radiant, marquise, cushion, and Asscher, all of which are variations on squares and rectangles (see the gallery below). So if you walk into a jewelry store and say you want to see some “square” diamonds, a salesperson will likely nod, bring you examples of boxier shapes and (correctly) assume you know bupkis about diamonds.
Before we dive into shapes, you should know one more thing about cut and shape: sometimes they are intertwined. An emerald cut, for example, refers to both shape — chunky rectangle with cropped corners — and the signature way the surface’s stepped facets/sides appear.
Here’s another non-intuitive thing you just have to learn: In the world of gemstones, there are two categories when it comes to shape: round diamonds (sometimes also known as “round brilliant” if they were created after 1919) and “fancy” diamonds.
Round- and oval-shaped diamonds are usually faceted in the intricate style known as “brilliant” — but not always. You may be able to find diamonds that have a softer, old-fashioned “rose” cut. But if you’re looking for an ultra-sparkly, classic, round diamond, they will be labelled “round brilliant” and these always have 57 or 58 facets (sides).
Prices and styles are all over the map, depending on whether you’re looking for a name brand or an eco-friendly alternative. That blue Tiffany box comes at a price and so do custom designs. If you want a taste of the rings designed around these shapes, scroll through the Instagram hashtag for each one. You may find inspiration.
Round Cut Diamonds
Round diamonds have been around for centuries but got sparklier in the 20th century with the refinement of the “brilliant” cut, an intricate faceting style designed to maximize scintillation (the play of light and flashes of color). Remember: If you’re not buying a round diamond, you are buying what’s known as a “fancy” shape.
If you buy from a chain like Zale or Costco, round brilliants are what you’ll find. Long the most popular diamond shape, round diamonds account for 66 percent of all diamonds sold in the U.S., according to Blue Nile. But some designers work with softer rose cuts or Old European cuts, often recycled from older jewels. These are the older cuts that preceded the modern round brilliant.
Pros: Simple, versatile, easy to design around, and easy to stack with a wedding band. Two-thirds of all diamond rings in the U.S. feature round brilliants, so you’ll find plenty anywhere you shop.
Cons: Some women prefer something less common.
Beware of: Lack of depth, something that may not show up on a certificate, even with an excellent cut grade. Think of the circular crown — which includes the flat table top as well as the facets around it — as sitting on the head of a cone: Shave off too much and you’ll save on carat weight (and price) but lose reflection, while a too-deep pavilion can cause light to pass right through without adequate sparkle.
Prices: This shape is the most common of the bunch, so you’ll have supply and demand working for you. You can find round diamonds at all price points — at James Allen, for example, the price range for a one-carat stone at press time was $1,860 (below, left) to $14,340 (below, right). The faceting of the round brilliant can mask imperfections, which means you may be able to find a nice looking diamond at somewhat lower color and clarity grades than other styles. (Photos courtesy of James Allen)
Below are three more round-diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
An antique ring, c. 1920, with a round Old European cut diamond (.25 total carat weight) in a square bezel with double halo and milgrain details. Total carat weight: .25. $3,450. (Photo below courtesy of L Priori Jewelry)
See also: Our guide to round diamonds.
Square Cut Diamonds: Princess, Cushion, Radiant & Asscher Shapes
Square shaped diamonds have much in common with round — they are compact, symmetrical, and easy to stack. Most square diamonds you’ll find in chain stores are “princess cut,” a clean square shape with brilliant faceting developed around 1980 to maximize flash.
A cushion-cut square has rounded corners and slightly curved sides. An Asscher cut has a more vintage Deco look with cropped corners and clean, stepped faceting. Radiant-cut squares combine the Asscher and Princess — cropped corners and stepped facets outside with intricate faceting in the middle for more flash. One shape is not “worth” more than the other in this category. Choosing a favorite shape is a function of style, taste, personal preference, and availability.
Pros: Clean, classic, and easy to stack with other rings.
Cons: Not flattering for stubby fingers.
Beware of: Symmetry. It’s easy to go wrong cutting and faceting at sharp angles. If you choose a princess cut, look for a setting that protects the corners from chipping and the culet or point at the bottom. If you choose an Asscher, try not to go below an F color and VS2 clarity because its open table and stepped facets will reveal more flaws. A radiant or princess cut will hide less desirable clarity and color.
Prices: The princess cut is fairly common and its brilliant faceting can mask minor inclusions, so you will likely find it pretty accessible. Asscher cuts are less common and their stepped facets require better clarity, so expect to pay more.
Here are some square-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
Princess-cut 1.01ct diamond at Brilliant Earth. $5,780. (Photo below courtesy of Brilliant Earth)
Cushion-cut .90ct diamond in platinum with pavé diamonds at Blue Nile. $3,047. (Photo below courtesy of Blue Nile)
Vintage Asscher-cut 1.02ct diamond with baguette side stones in platinum from Doyle & Doyle. $7,700. (Photo below courtesy of Doyle & Doyle)
1.5ct Radiant Pavé Engagement Ring in Platinum. $10,097. (Photo courtesy of Blue Nile)
Rectangular Cut Diamonds: Emerald, Radiant, Cushion, and Baguette Shapes
Rectangular diamonds have a classic elegance. Mounted perpendicular to the shank, they visually lengthen the finger. If set east-west or parallel to the shank, they create a modern, fashion-forward look. Cuts using this basic shape include emerald, radiant, cushion, and baguette. Modified rectangles with a more vintage look like the cushion and radiant are trendy now. Emerald cuts sell best in Dallas, according to Blue Nile.
Pros: Flattering to the hands, the rectangle lends itself to many faceting styles from sleek geometric to softer vintage styles, and there’s a variety of ring designs.
Cons: Classic rectangles such as the emerald cut look best with some bulk behind them — meaning larger stones and more carat weight.
Beware of: Cut. A true rectangle has pointy corners, so be sure the setting has bezels or prongs to protect it from chipping. An emerald-cut diamond has cropped corners and stepped facets that may show inclusions. If you go with that, you may need to upgrade your minimum specs for clarity and color (minimum F color with VS1).
Prices: Of the rectangle shapes, a good emerald cut will likely end up costing more than other styles. Its stepped-cut facets hide few flaws so it requires a high clarity grade.
Here are some rectangle-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
Emerald-cut diamond (.92 carats, E color) in platinum with pavé at Brilliant Earth. $5,140. (Photo below courtesy of Brilliant Earth)
Radiant-cut 1.50ct diamond in 14k gold by Bario Neal. $14,961. (Photo below courtesy of Bario Neal)
Art: Cushion-cut 3/4ct diamond in 18K halo setting at Ben Bridge. $4,999. (Photo below courtesy of Ben Bridge)
See also: Our guide to emerald diamonds.
Oval Cut Diamonds
One of the fancy shapes introduced in the 18th century when brilliant faceting was introduced, the oval combines the curved symmetry of the round brilliant with the flattering length of a marquise or pear.
Pros: For brides who want something both eye-catching and flattering, this shape will stand out. An oval can provide the illusion of a bigger diamond for the money without straying too far from a classic look. This shape creates the illusion of a bigger diamond without the cost of extra carat weight.
Cons: Harder to stack with a wedding band unless you buy them as a set.
Beware of: Overly pointy ends and the dreaded bowtie effect, that dark reflection in the center of the faceting. Look for graceful curves and symmetry.
Prices: Similar to round brilliant but with the optical illusion of a larger diamond.
Here are three oval-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
Oval diamond ring with halo (.75 carat) in 18k with pavé diamonds from Brilliant Earth. $5,400. (Photo below courtesy of Brilliant Earth)
Oval diamond with brilliant faceting in rose gold, 1.05ct, G color, SI1 clarity. $5,700. (Photo below courtesy of Jewels by Grace)
Rose-cut oval diamond, 1.54ct fancy yellow in 18K gold. $8,495. (Photo below courtesy of Jewels by Grace)
Pear Cut Diamonds
Invented in the late-1400s, the pear shape is the teardrop of diamond cuts, a combination of a round and a marquise. It’s usually faceted in the brilliant style to maximize scintillation and lends itself to some beautiful and unique designs. This style sells best in New York City, according to a recent study.
Pros: Cut well, the pear shape is a way to have the symmetry and flash of the round brilliant with a little eye-catching edginess. Like the marquise and oval, this cut can make a stone look bigger than it is and flatter the finger.
Cons: Because it’s a little quirky, it won’t appeal to everyone as a ring to wear every day.
Beware of: Poor cuts and the bowtie effect, a dark band across the center. This is a fancy cut that takes some skill to pull off. A beautiful pear shape diamond should be perfectly round on one end with a gentle curve leading to the point. The culet at the bottom should be centered and the faceting symmetrical.
Prices: A pear shape with a brilliant cut can work with slightly lower color and clarity grades (like H, SI2) and give you a big rock for a reasonable price. If your bride is open to an alternative engagement ring, you’ll find all kinds of designer rings made with pears.
Here are three pear-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
Pearl-shape brilliant (1.19ct) in double halo setting at Shane Co. $8,820. (Photo below courtesy of Shane Co.)
Rose-cut pear shape with diamond halo in 14K gold, an alternative engagement ring by Lauren Priori. $5,850. (Photo below courtesy of L Priori Jewelry)
A different gray rose cut by Lauren Priori, shown here with a diamond band. Pricing available upon request. (Photo below courtesy of L Priori Jewelry)
Here’s a pear shape custom ring in a bezel setting by the same designer. Pricing available upon request. (Photo below courtesy of L Priori Jewelry)
See also: Our guide to pear diamonds.
Marquise Cut Diamonds
Said to be named for the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV in 1740s France, the marquise diamond can look ultra-modern or quaintly antique, depending on the ring design. The ideal marquise shape is a gentle curve from point to point: a stylized leaf or boat, symmetrical in silhouette and facets. Los Angelenos are the top buyers of marquise-shaped diamonds, according to Blue Nile.
Pros: A marquise makes a diamond appear larger than it actually is. It can also make fingers look longer.
Cons: Your bride needs to love it and not care that it may go in and out of style. Marquise-cut diamonds were big in the early 20th century, made a comeback in the 1970s, then dropped in demand by the turn of this century. They seem to be coming back at the moment.
Beware of: A dark band across the center known as the bowtie effect, typical of elongated shapes like this. The ideal marquise should be about twice as long as it is wide. Look for symmetry in contour and facets, crisp points, and gentle curves. The marquise needs enough depth to reflect light back from the many intricate facets in its pavilion, but not so much that light passes right through.
Prices: Another big look for the money, especially with brilliant cuts, which hide some flaws.
Here are three maquise-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
A simple solitaire with SI2 clarity and J color in 14k gold at James Allen. $1,880. (Photo below courtesy of James Allen)
At Aaron Faber, a 1.45-carat diamond (I color, VS1 clarity) in platinum setting with baguette side stones. $5,400. (Photo below courtesy of Aaron Faber)
A 1.35-carat marquise diamond in platinum with six marquise side stones surrounded by 54 round brilliants at Costco. $3,899. (Photo below courtesy of Costco)
See also: Our guide to marquise diamonds.
Heart Cut Diamonds
Of the more niche shapes, the most well-known is the heart. This one dates to the Elizabethan era and appeals to both sentimental types and lovers of camp. Warning for grooms: Don’t go with this shape unless you KNOW she would like it.
Pros: The heart shape is a rare jewel compared to standard cuts. You’re not going to find a ton of quality heart-cut diamonds in your average jewelry store. Yet the heart-shape diamond is still a jewelry standard.
Cons: A good heart-cut diamond will be more expensive than your average diamond. This is a cut that requires skill and a quality gemstone, the bigger the better. Given the cost required to get it right, the heart-cut diamond may not lend itself to the limited budget of a first marriage or the everyday-wear of an engagement ring.
Here are three heart-shaped diamond rings that demonstrate the range of the shape in different styles, sizes, and settings:
A bow-inspired ring with two heart-shaped diamonds from Brilliant Earth. From $2,000. (Photo below courtesy of Brilliant Earth)
Heart-shaped diamond (.52 carats) with halo in platinum from Tiffany & Co. $10,100. (Photo below courtesy of Tiffany & Co).
Other ways to get a heart-shaped ring: a ring with round brilliant diamonds prong-set in a heart-shaped mount (1.20 total carat weight) at Costco. $1,699. (Photo below courtesy of Costco)
See also: Our guide to heart shaped diamonds.
What’s the best cut? Depends on what you want: Sheer girth (size)? Sparkle? Value? Since you asked, we’ll spell it out clearly:
- Which Diamond Cut Is Best?
There’s no “best” in the diamond world, just like there is no “best stock” or “best book.” It really depends on what you want and can afford. For the record, round brilliant diamonds sparkle the most but they are also the most expensive.
- Which Diamond Cut Sparkles Most?
For maximum flash and fire, brilliant cuts such as round, oval, marquise, and princess offer the most bling for the buck (at least for excellent cut diamonds at Blue Nile).
- Which Diamond Cut Looks Biggest?
Elongated shapes like oval, marquise and pear tend to look bigger than round or square shapes.
- Which Diamond Cut Is Most Expensive?
Round brilliant diamonds are most expensive if you are talking about price per carat (assuming all other criteria are equal, including color, clarity and cut). At least according to this survey, which is based on “excellent” cut diamonds sold on Blue Nile. But there are mighty expensive rings for all cuts, and unless you are buying the diamond separate from the ring, these findings may not apply where you’re shopping. Oh, and this would not apply for antique and rarities (in all shapes and sizes).