The Cut Comparison: Different Cuts of Diamonds, Explained
Buying a diamond is one of life’s greatest moments, as it often signifies an exciting life event or symbolizes a great expression of self-love (treat yourself!). However, it can also be a confusing and sometimes an overwhelming process. This is because all stones (mined and lab-grown diamonds) are unique, and there are a lot of factors that go into considering what a “good” diamond looks like. For many consumers, it’s all about the carat weight — but, the cut is also extremely important since it can affect how big the diamond looks. And the cut isn’t just as simple as what shape the diamond is. In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of diamond cuts so that you know how to find the best stone for your budget, starting with the two questions on every consumer’s mind: why does diamond cut matter, and which cut is the best to make the diamond look larger?
Why is diamond cut so important?
To answer this question, we first need to think about why diamonds are the most beloved gemstone. One word: sparkle. Nothing sparkles like a beautiful diamond! There is one factor that is most crucial to getting that bright sparkle, and as you may guess — that is the diamond cut. Yep, before it is even polished, the way it is cut will be the determining factor in exactly how much sparkle you get out of loose diamond stones. This is true for both mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds.
If you’ve been reading our blogs, then you probably already know about the four C’s (Color, Clarity, Cut, Carat) that were created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and serve as the international standard for diamond grading. According to the GIA, “Precise artistry and workmanship are required to fashion a stone, so its proportions, symmetry, and polish deliver the magnificent return of light only possible in a diamond. The quality of cut is crucial to the diamond's final beauty and value. And of all the 4Cs, it is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze (source).”
Additionally, the cut of a diamond is important for hiding inclusions, which are small imperfections that are found within the diamond. They occur during the formation process, which subjects the stone to extreme pressure and intense heat. Nearly all diamonds have inclusions, but a great cut will minimize their visibility.
Which diamond cut looks biggest for carat size?
Beyond the sparkle factor, one of the major drives for an excellent cut is that it can affect how big the diamond looks. That’s right — it’s not all about the carat. In fact, if a high-carat stone is poorly cut, then it can potentially look smaller than a stone that weighs less carats but has been well cut.
With that said — there’s a reason that round diamonds are the most popular diamond shapes in the world! It’s because round diamonds have the most ability to optimize light reflection, which in turn ups the sparkle factor and makes round diamonds shine brighter than the rest. In turn, this means that round diamonds look larger than other cuts and shapes.
In addition to being the best cut for shine, the round shape is full of symbolism. Designed to conjure the feelings of dependability, warmth, and empathy, the shape serves as a perfect symbol for love and commitment, which is perfect for capturing the essence of your relationship.
What are fire, brilliance, and scintillation?
You may or may not hear these terms when you’re shopping for a diamond, but just in case you do, here are the definitions as according to the GIA:
● Brightness: Sometimes called brilliance, this refers to the internal and external white light reflected from a diamond. Having perfect proportions in the diamond cut ensures there is no light leakage, which in turn makes the diamond appear brighter.
● Fire: The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow. This is most prominently and beautifully seen in darker environments, like for example, at a candlelit dinner.
● Scintillation: The sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond. This is typically best seen when the diamond is moving and in environments with brighter, artificial lighting (like the office).
What is a brilliant cut diamond?
There is a fascinating history behind how diamonds have come to be cut as we see them today, as indeed, a diamond from a few centuries back would not look the same whatsoever. As shared by the Cape Town Diamond Museum, the process of creating the perfect cut diamond took over six centuries and was attempted by thousands of craftsmen before it was perfected. Then, in 1919 the code was cracked as a Belgian-born gemologist and mathematician Marcel Tolkowsky discovered the perfect symmetry and proportion needed for a diamond to shine to its top potential. As such, he then established the best way to cut loose diamond stones in order to maximize shine. Marcel viewed the diamond through a mathematical lens and saw it as a system of mirrors and windows that could be designed to capture as much light as possible, and he achieved that by creating the brilliant cut diamond. If you’re interested in the mathematical precision behind the brilliant cut, read more about it here.
What are the different shapes of diamond cuts?
When shopping for diamonds, many people believe that shape and cut are the same things. However, it’s important for consumers to know that shape and cut are two different things and should be separately evaluated. The shape refers to the outline of the appearance of the stone, whereas cut refers to the diamond’s ability to reflect light (and is categorized by brightness, fire, and scintillation, as defined above). However, shape does have an influence on how the diamond sparkles. As such, here’s a list of diamond shapes in order from most sparkly to least sparkly.
- Round: This is the best shape for sparkle and to appear larger thanks to its unmatched light performance. By far the most popular shape of loose diamond stone for engagement rings, it is also the most valuable diamond shape.
- Oval: Beloved for its elongated shape, the oval diamond is like a round diamond but appears stretched on the sides. Also, a part of the brilliant cut family, oval diamonds are known for their shine.
- Marquise: Another elongated diamond in the brilliant family, this elliptical-shaped diamond is often called the football cut, the boat cut, or the eye cut. This cut has a fascinating origin as it’s believed that King Louis XV of France requested a diamond to be cut to resemble the shape of the lips of his mistress, Jean Antoinette Poisson, the Marchioness Madame de Pompadour.
- Pear: Said to be a perfect blend of the round and marquise shape diamonds, the pear shape is another diamond in the brilliant cut family.
- Heart: Cut in the same pattern as a round cut, the heart cut is close in terms of brilliance (and belongs to the brilliant cut family).
- Princess: This shape refers to a square stone that has 90-degree corners and is the second most popular diamond shape for engagement rings.
- Radiant: Similar to the cushion cut diamond, the radiant cut has more of a rectangular outline with cut corners (vs rounded corners as seen in a cushion cut).
- Cushion: Once referred to as the old mine cut, a cushion cut combines a square cut with rounded corners and looks similar to a pillow. Although generally less brilliant, these diamonds are popular because they exhibit better fire.
- Asscher and Emerald: These diamonds are closely related. An asscher diamond is “a square-shaped, step cut diamond with deep cropped corners, giving it a sophisticated, octagonal shape. The style evokes vintage glamour, but with a modern update. “ The emerald diamond, however, has “a large open table and is flatter on top.” Neither of these diamonds are known for brilliance, but instead for shine and luster.
What is the process used to cut a diamond?
As for mining diamonds, the most likely place that it is cut and polished is in India. Because we know that many consumers are looking for ethically made diamonds, we feel it should be pointed out that sadly, many of the Indian people who are cutting, and polishing diamonds are victims of child labor. We wrote a blog about how lab-created diamonds help with the issue of child labor if you’d like to read an in-depth report of this atrocity. This blurb from Diamonds for Peace summarizes everything you need to know about child labor in cutting and polishing factories:
“India is now one of the top diamond distributors, and ‘cheap labor’ has been supporting its business. It is said that children can do such work considerably better than adults. They usually have good eyesight and finger agility and skill to ensure high quality of diamonds. Small and cheap diamonds imported to India are cut and polished by children. India makes a substantial income from such diamonds. The risk of harming their health is unavoidable in dark factories with no fans. Polishing material is made of chromium oxide and diamond powder, which has a severe impact on the body when touched directly for long periods of time.”
We strongly condemn the use of child labor in these practices. If you want to use your agency to help stop child labor practices in the mined diamond industry, then opting for a lab-created diamond is one of the best actions you can take.
How are diamond cuts graded?
The cut is only graded based on a five-step scale from Excellent to Poor, created by the GIA and seen below:
Excellent Cut Diamonds provide the highest level of fire and brilliance. Because almost all the incoming light is reflected through the table, the diamond radiates with magnificent sparkle.
Very Good Cut Diamonds offer exceptional brilliance and fire. A large majority of the entering light reflects through the diamond’s table. To the naked eye, Very Good diamonds provide similar sparkle to those of Excellent grade.
Good Cut Diamonds showcase brilliance and sparkle, with much of the light reflecting through the table to the viewer’s eye. These diamonds provide beauty at a lower price point.
Fair Cut Diamonds offer little brilliance, as light easily exits through the bottom and sides of the diamond. Diamonds of a Fair Cut may be a satisfactory choice for smaller carats and those acting as side stones.
Poor Cut Diamonds yield nearly no sparkle, brilliance or fire. Entering light escapes from the sides and bottom of the diamond.
Why do depth percentage and table percentage matter?
When you are shopping our site for lab-grown diamonds, you’ll notice that we always list the depth percentage and the table percentage. Both are descriptors of physical properties and help determine how much the diamond will sparkle. The depth is the distance of the diamond from top to bottom, and the depth percentage is a calculation of total depth divided by total width. The table of the diamond, however, is the flat face of the diamond that sits on top. To calculate table percentage, the formula is table width divided by total width.
While it’s great to learn about the many different factors and types of cuts for diamonds, the bottom line is that the best cut is the round brilliant cut — and that’s exactly why we exclusively offer ethically-made, lab-grown diamonds at New World Diamonds. Whether you’re looking for loose diamond stones or diamonds that are already set in jewelry, we can help you find the perfect diamond to create your moment. Start shopping now >