Updated July 5, 2017

Diamond Shapes: What You Need to Know

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An engagement ring needs to match her style. Learn about all the different diamond shapes and their pros and cons.

When it comes to picking the perfect engagement ring, there are 3 main things to consider:

We've already talked about budget and diamond prices and all that stuff. Today, we're talking about the fun part - the 3rd bullet!

This is just as important because she's going to wear this ring for the rest of her life. So it should be something that she adores.

In fact, this is the part you should nail down first before picking a diamond. And part of that is figuring out what shape is best for her. A round diamond may be classic, but is it her style? Read on to find the shape that matches her personality and tastes.

Note that the diamond shape is NOT the same as cut - though many use the terms interchangeably. Cut refers to the proportions, symmetry, and polish of the diamond. These factors affect the way light is reflected back (in other words... how sparkly the diamond is).

Is she classy and elegant? Or is she daring and bold? Does she like to make her own rules or is tradition important to her?

In this guide, we'll take a look at the most common shapes, who they'll appeal to, and what to watch out for.

List of Most Popular Diamond Shapes and Cuts:

What You Need to Know about Diamond Shapes and Cuts

  • What is the Best Cut of a Diamond?
    A round super-ideal cut is the best diamond cut and exhibit the most brilliance. Round is also the most popular cut, followed by the princess cut.

    But the "best cut" is really up to your personal preference. Some girls love the timeless beauty of a round diamond. And some girls want something less mainstream. Each shape is unique in its own way. Read this guide for pointers on which shape suits which kind of girl.

    Keep in mind, cut and shape are not the same. This terminology is easily mixed up. Shape refers to the outline of the diamond, while cut refers to the proportions. Cut affects how much light is reflected back, and therefore, how brilliant and beautiful the diamond appears.

    Diamond Cut Scale
    Diamond Cut Scale © CreditDonkey

    Because of this, you want the best cut possible. This would be GIA or AGS Excellent. However, fancy-shaped diamonds don't receive a cut grade. In this guide, we do our best to give you some guidelines for optimal proportions for fancy diamonds.

    Tip: As far as pricing goes, cushion, emerald, and heart shaped diamond tend to be the cheapest. This is because the least rough material is lost when making these shapes. Round diamonds are the priciest - due to both demand and loss of rough material. In general, fancy-shaped diamonds are 20%-40% less than a round diamond of the same carat weight.

  • Which Cut of Diamond Looks the Biggest?
    Elongated diamonds tend to look larger than round or square diamonds. The longer shape looks especially good when being worn and creates the illusion of more mass.

    The diamond shapes that look the largest are:

    • Marquise: has the largest surface area of all shapes
    • Pear: has one pointy end that makes the diamond longer
    • Oval: stretched out shape looks bigger than round
    • Emerald: rectangular shape appears larger

    On the other side of the spectrum, asscher and round diamonds look the smallest.

    1 Carat Diamond - Different Shapes Illustrated
    1 Carat Diamond - Different Shapes Illustrated © CreditDonkey

  • What is the Best Cut of Diamond to Sparkle?
    Round diamonds exhibit the most brilliance. Because of their faceting pattern, the most light is able to be reflected back to the viewer (with an excellent cut of course).

    The order of brilliance for the different cuts are:

    • Round: has unmatched light performance
    • Oval, marquise, pear, and heart: also in the brilliant cut family. They're cut in the same pattern as round, so they are very close in terms of brilliance.
    • Princess: beloved for the intense sparkle it exhibits. Also close to round.
    • Radiant: gets the best of a few cuts to create a beautiful brilliance
    • Cushion: a popular shape, though unfortunately not as brilliant as others
    • Asscher and emerald: these are in the step-cut family, which is not known for brilliance, but instead for shine and luster.

    We cannot stress enough though that an Excellent cut is important to achieve that desired brilliance. A round diamond with poor proportions will appear dull, no matter how many facets it has.

Pros and Cons of Most Popular Diamond Cuts

Round Brilliant Cut

1.5 mm Comfort Fit Solitaire
1.5 mm Comfort Fit Solitaire via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Round Diamond Carat Size Chart
Round Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

This is by far the most popular shape! Over half of all engagement rings sold have a round center diamond. Not only are round diamonds classic and timeless, they also give off the most brilliance. Round diamonds are cut in such a way that allows for maximum light return.

Advantages: Because of the intense bling of round diamonds, their sparkle can hide inclusions and mask color. So you can afford to save some money in color and clarity. We suggest a color of H (J for yellow gold bands) and clarity of VS2.

Watch out: Round cut diamonds are the priciest. They often cost as much as 20% - 40% more than fancy-cut shapes. This is because the most rough material is lost when making a round diamond, so that's factored into the price.

Round diamonds are also notorious for looking small! They tend to look smaller when compared with another fancy-cut diamond of the same carat weight. Keep this in mind if you have a certain size goal.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat ideal-cut, H, VS2 round diamond, price is $5,500 - $6,000.

Best for: The classic girl who loves tradition. If you're really not sure what your girl prefers, it's usually hard to go wrong with something as timeless as round.

Princess Cut

Princess Engagement Ring by Jeff Cooper
Princess Engagement Ring by Jeff Cooper via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Princess Diamond Carat Size Chart
Princess Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

This is the 2nd most sought-after shape. Princess cut diamonds are edgy and contemporary, yet still feminine and delicate. Created only in the 1960's, it quickly became famous for its stunning brilliance. They're popular for being almost as sparkly as round diamonds.

Advantages: Just like round diamonds, princess cuts are so brilliant that they hide a number of faults. So you can save some money on color and clarity. They also look nice no matter how small (or large!) the stone is and work with almost any kind of setting design.

Did you know? A 1-carat princess cut diamond (which is 5.5 mm across) is actually smaller than a 1-carat round diamond (which is 6.5 mm across). However, the diagonal (corner to corner) length of the princess cut stone is 7.8 mm, so it still appears larger than a round diamond.

Watch out: The most common issue with princess cut diamonds is chipping the sharp corners. So consider that if your girl is active or does a lot with her hands. Or you can protect the rock in a bezel setting.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat ideal-cut, H, VS2 princess cut diamond, price is $3,700 - $4,500.

Best for: The trendy girl.

Oval Cut Diamonds

Oval Halo Ring
Oval Halo Ring via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Oval Diamond Carat Size Chart
Oval Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

For a modern twist on the classic round, we love the oval diamond. It is elegant and not too out-there, yet unique enough to stand out.

Advantages: Oval diamonds are basically modified rounds, so they are close to round in terms of brilliance and fire. A couple of the huge pros are that they are cheaper and look larger. Plus, they give a slenderizing effect to a woman's finger.

Watch out: Most oval diamonds exhibit a bow-tie effect. This is a dark area in the center due to uneven distribution of light and often the result of a too-shallow cut. However, having completely no bowtie is a sign of a too-deep cut. You want to get a diamond whose bowtie complements the diamond.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Oval diamond with bowtie and without

A grading report won't tell you if the oval diamond has a large bowtie or not. The only way to know is to spin it around and see it from all angles. If there is one, a bowtie will be really easy to spot. This is why we suggest only buying from a store that has videos of the actual diamond, such as James Allen.

Rule of Thumb: Look for an oval diamond with a table percentage of 54%-61% and a depth percentage of 56%-61%.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, H, VS2 oval diamond, price is $4,000 - $4,600.

Best for: The girl who appreciates tradition, but likes to express individuality.

Marquise Cut

Marquise diamond in thin French-cut pave band
Marquise diamond in thin French-cut pave band via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Marquise Diamond Carat Size Chart
Marquise Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

This is truly an eye-catching shape. The marquise diamond is long and elongated with pointed ends. This is one of the least seen cuts on ring fingers of brides. It is for the girl who's not afraid to stand out in a crowd - in fact, she loves the attention! This is certainly not for everyone, but the more and more I look at it, the more I like it.

Fun fact: This modern-looking cut actually has quite the historical background. Its creation dates back to in the 1700's, when King Louis XV wanted a diamond made in the shape of his mistress's lips.

Advantages: The elongated shape is super flattering on the finger. And another plus? This cut looks HUGE compared to other shapes of the same carat weight. It has the largest surface area of any shape.

Watch out: Because of the shape, yellow tints are more easily noticed, especially at the pointed tips where color tends to get trapped. If you want a white looking diamond and plan to set it in a white gold or platinum setting, we advise going 1 or 2 color grades up. Go for a color of H at the lowest, and adjust up in grade as the diamond size increases.

Marquise cut diamonds also exhibit the bow-tie effect we mentioned earlier. So again, it's best if you're able to see it in person or at least a 360-degree video.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, G, VS2 marquise diamond, price is $4,500 - $5,500.

Best for: The girl who loves to be center of attention.

Pear Shaped Diamond

Pear Halo Pave Ring
Pear Halo Pave Ring via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Pear Diamond Carat Size Chart
Pear Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

The pear cut is the love child of the brilliant round and marquise. It has a round edge that tapers down to a point. It's elegant and has a lot of character at the same time.

Advantages: This is another cut that gives a slenderizing effect to the finger. Most people wear it with the end pointed towards the fingernail.

Fun fact: This teardrop shape is so gorgeous that some of the world's most famous diamonds are cut in this shape, e.g., the Star of Africa (the largest diamond in the world at a whopping 530.4 carats) and the Millennium Star (203.04 carats).

Watch out: It's easy to chip the pointed, delicate tip of the teardrop. The best way to protect it is with a V-shaped prong.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Protect the tip with a V-shaped prong

Pear shaped diamonds have the same faults as marquise and oval diamonds. They also exhibit a bow-tie effect and the pointed tip traps more color. The same advice would apply: look for a diamond higher in color grade, and never buy blind without being able to view it at all angles.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, G, VS2 pear diamond, price is $4,500 - $5,500.

Best for: The elegant lady who also likes to stand out.

Emerald Cut

Screenshot from James Allen Website

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Emerald Diamond Carat Size Chart
Emerald Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

The emerald cut is a step cut diamond. Unlike brilliant cuts, this is known for its depth and luster instead of brilliance. It has a large rectangular table that's like peering into a hall of mirrors (or like looking at steps going down). The corners are faceted, so you do get some sparkliness at the edges.

This cut reached its heyday in the art-deco period, and is gorgeous on vintage ring settings. It's sophisticated, elegant, and has a timeless appeal.

Advantages: The emerald cut is one of the cheapest of all shapes. So we recommend that you put any extra money towards higher color and clarity grades.

Watch out: Because of its depth and translucency, any color or imperfections are easily revealed. Nothing can be hidden with this cut! We recommend a color of H and clarity of VS2 at the lowest. Go up to G and VS1 if the diamond is larger than 1 carat.

Also, if the emerald diamond is poorly cut, a large area will appear as black. Obviously you want to stay away from this. Unfortunately, fancy cut diamonds aren't given a cut grade, so the only way to know is to see photos of the actual diamond.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

The above shows an example of emerald cut diamonds with large blackout areas, and an ideal looking one.

Tip: For optimal light performance, look for an emerald diamond with a table percentage of 53%-65% and a depth percentage of 56%-65%.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, G, VS1 emerald diamond, price is $3,500 - $4,500.

Best for: The girl who loves all things art deco.

Asscher Cut

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Asscher Diamond Carat Size Chart
Asscher Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

We call this the modern vintage cut. The asscher diamond is another step cut popular in the art deco era, but has a modern update. It's often thought of as a square emerald. But there are slight differences in the cut style.

Advantages: Compared to the emerald cut, the asscher has a higher crown, a smaller table, and larger step facets. This makes the asscher cut more brilliant than its emerald cousin.

Watch out: The asscher cut may have 2 large turn-offs. First, it's among the priciest of the fancy-shaped diamonds. And on top of that, it has one of the smallest surface areas of all diamond shapes. But the trade-off is a very unique look and shine that will definitely stand out.

And just like with the emerald cut, you can more easily seen yellow tints and flaws. So the same tips for color and clarity would apply.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, G, VS2 asscher diamond, price is $4,000 - $5,000.

Best for: The girl who enjoys the vintage look but want something sparklier and more modern.

Cushion Cut

Pave Set Cushion Ring
Pave Set Cushion Ring via James Allen

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Cushion Diamond Carat Size Chart
Cushion Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

The cushion cut was first introduced over 200 years ago, but has regained popularity within the past decade. So much so that it's now the 3rd most popular cut (after round and princess).

Also called the "pillow cut," this cut is typically square-ish (though some are rectangular too) with rounded corners and slightly curved edges.

Advantages: It has a pretty soft shape that's not as harsh as square, and not as common as round. It's also one of the least expensive shapes.

Watch out: Cushion cuts aren't known for brilliance because many are cut so poorly. If you want a cushion cut diamond that truly shines, consider Brian's Gavin's signature hearts & arrows cushion cut diamonds.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, H, VS2 cushion diamond, price is $3,000 - $3,500.

Best for: The traditional girl who wants something a little bit different.

Radiant Cut

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Radiant Diamond Carat Size Chart
Radiant Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

This cut is the hardest to categorize. It's a combination of the round brilliant cut, the princess cut, and the asscher cut. Because it takes the best of different cuts, the radiant cut diamond displays incredible brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

Many people ask about the difference between a radiant cut and princess cut. The radiant cut has cropped corners (like the asscher) and a less geometric/symmetrical look. A princess cut will have a neatly lined up X pattern when looking at it face-up. And a radiant cut diamond has more of a chopped up "crushed ice" look. It just depends on your personal preference!

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Radiant cut (left) vs. princess cut (right)

Advantages: Just like the name, the radiant cut is super sparkly. It can either be more square or rectangular, so you can choose the shape you like best. If you like the rectangular emerald shape, but want something sparklier, the radiant is a great alternative.

Watch out: This cut can be more expensive than the princess cut for a diamond of the same carat weight, because more rough material is lost during cutting. But because of its cropped corners, it's a better choice for more active girls.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, H, VS2 radiant diamond, price is $3,500 - $4,500.

Best for: The girl as unique as this cut.

Heart Shaped Diamond

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Heart Diamond Carat Size Chart
Heart Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

A heart is the ultimate symbol of love. This is the shape for true romantics.

It's best to get a stone over 0.5 carats, because anything smaller and you won't be able to see the heart shape. To showcase the beautiful heart, a simple solitaire or bezel setting is best. A thin pavé band or custom halo can also be great too, but anything more than that will bury the heart shape.

Advantages: It's not that commonly seen, so it's more unique. It also looks adorable with a pink sapphire center.

Watch out: This is another challenging shape to buy right! Different proportions will have a significant impact on how it looks. In our opinion, a ratio of 0.9:1 or 1:1 (length to width) will give the most pleasing looking heart shape.

You also have to pay attention to the outline of heart shape. You want one that has completely symmetrical wings that are neither too rounded nor too flat. You also want it to have a clearly defined clef and tip.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Unfortunately, ugly heart shaped diamonds are all too common. Most diamonds are cut to maximize the shape of the rough diamond instead of for beauty. In the above picture, the first two are examples of unattractive looking hearts (too thin and too fat), and the third is a beautiful, pleasing heart shape.

The grading report will not tell you what the final shape of the diamond looks like. Once again, it's so important to only buy from an online retailer who provides actual images.

Estimate price: For a 1 carat, H, VS2 heart shaped diamond, price is $4,000 - $5,000.

Best for: The sentimental, hardcore romantic

Conclusion:

That was a lot of information. To condense it, here are some major points to remember:

  • Round, princess, and radiant cuts give off the most brilliance. Their incredible sparkle can hide a multitude of flaws. This gives you more leeway when it comes to color and clarity.
  • Round diamonds are the most expensive, followed by oval, marquise, and asscher.
  • Step cuts, like emerald and asscher, are not known for brilliance, and instead shine in a different way. They easily reveal color and clarity, so you'll need to choose higher grades in these areas.
  • Fancy cuts, such as oval, marquise, and pear, exhibit a bow-tie effect. Look for a diamond whose bow-tie adds to its beauty.
  • Only round and princess cut diamonds are given a cut grade by GIA.
  • It is so important to see actual photos of fancy cut diamonds since they are not given a cut grade. We recommend looking at James Allen for their HD 360-degree videos of every diamond in their collection.

We hope you have a better idea of the different diamond shapes and what to watch out for! Every girl is unique with different interests and styles, and a diamond that matches her will be all the more special.

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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