Every bride dreams of the perfect engagement ring but before you go shopping, take our crash course in diamond shapes and cuts. The Gemological Institute of America points out that most people use the terms “cut” and “shape” interchangeably when describing the look they’re going for, but you can impress your jeweler by knowing the difference. Diamond shape refers to the stone’s outline ― round, pear, oval, etc.; the diamond’s cut is the arrangement of those light-catching facets.
This is the most common facet arrangement and applies to many shapes. The most popular choice for engagement rings is the round brilliant cut, which consists of 58 facets (if a culet facet is included at the bottom of the gemstone) or 57 facets (if the culet is pointed). There is one octagonal table, or top flat surface of the diamond, 16 kite-shaped facets and 40 triangular-shaped facets, with an optional small octagonal facet at the culet.
Other popular shapes for brilliant cut diamonds are:
- Heart Shape: The symbol of romance, the heart shape speaks of everlasting love with extra sparkle. This shape also requires a four-pronged setting.
- Pear Shape: Pear-shape diamonds resemble a sparkling teardrop. This sophisticated style requires specialized settings.
- Marquise Shape: The marquise shape is an oval with pointed ends. The stone can be placed either horizontally or vertically across the band. This style looks best by itself or surrounded by smaller stones.
- Oval Shape: This shape is very popular with women who wish to accentuate long, slender fingers. The oval diamond requires a six-pronged setting.
The step cut has shown up on many a royal finger. What step-cut diamonds lose in flash and sparkle, they more than make up for in clarity. The facets tend to be larger than those in brilliant-cut diamonds. Popular cuts in the subset of step cuts are:
- Emerald Cut: This cut was originally developed for cutting emeralds instead of diamonds, but makes for a lovely stone all the same. An emerald cut requires a four-pronged setting.
- Asscher Cut: The Asscher cut has a truly mesmerizing effect and mimics infinite depth. The cut was named after its creator, Joseph Asscher, and was a popular cut for jewelry of the Art Deco era. It is similar to the emerald cut, but its facets are generally larger and the cut tends to appear more often in square rather than rectangular-shaped diamonds. This cut creates a sophisticated look.
- Cushion Cut: The cushion cut made its debut in the 1700s and was the most popular cut until the early 1900s. Lately, it’s been making a comeback with brides who appreciate its classic look. The cushion cut is available in varying shapes, but most commonly a round-edged square or rectangle. It requires at least a four-pronged setting to secure its romantic and antique style.
Brides who want the best of both worlds may select a mixed-cut diamond, which incorporates some features of both brilliant and step-cut diamonds. The most popular example of this style is the princess cut, which was developed in the 1960s and has emerged as the second-most popular diamond shape, behind the round diamond. The princess cut is used with square or rectangular-shaped diamonds and it is popular because a diamond cutter can start with a rougher diamond than he might normally use. Because there’s less waste, the result is a more affordable price for the consumer.