Selecting Shapes and Cuts

Buying an engagement ring can be an exciting, but often confusing activity.  Even when you’ve made the decision to go for a specific type of gemstone, there’s still the question of which cut and shape.

The way that a gemstone is cut will make all the difference to the amount and quality of light that is reflected.   There are many different types of cuts but quite simply each cut uses a geometric balancing of small, smooth and polished surface areas (known as facets) that are cut and positioned at different angles to allow the light to bounce off the facets.  The amount of sparkle or lustre coming from a gemstone will be determined by the type of cut and the quality of cut – as well as by the clarity of the stone itself.

A jewelry cutter will look at a gemstone and any imperfections it may have and decide on the best way of cutting the stone to get the most out of it.  Each cut gemstone is created by a jeweler using one of 5 main cutting techniques.  These are:  Brilliant, Step , Mixed, Fancy and Cabochon.

Brilliant Cuts:

These cuts are primarily used for diamonds and other clear gemstones.  There are many variations of the brilliant cut  The single brilliant cut has 17-18 facets, whereas the full cut round brilliant has 58 facets.  Brilliant cuts are used for a number of gemstone shapes, such as the popular round solitaire, the oval, the pear and the marquise.

Step Cuts:

Colored gemstones commonly have this cut because it helps to enhance their colors.  The cut is used for four sided shaped stones such as the Emerald Cut – a cut that is rectangular in shape.  The Step cut has similarities to a staircase – hence its name.

Mixed Cuts:

Using a combination of step cuts and brilliant cuts, these mixed cuts are found with oval and pear shapes as well as the popular cushion cut.

Fancy Cuts:

These cuts allow the cutter to shape the natural stone in such a way that they eliminate imperfections whilst retaining as much of the stone’s carat weight as possible.  Fancy cuts use a combination of cuts to create shapes such as The Princess Cut, The Heart Cut and the Trilliant Cut.

Cabochon Cuts:

Derived from the French “Caboche”, meaning a “small dome”, the Cabochon cut does not have any cut facets but is simply cut into a dome like shape and polished.  It is commonly used for stones like opals and other stones that do not benefit from cutting into facets.

The above cuts are used to produce a wide range of gemstone shapes and styles of rings – all with varying degrees of brilliance, sparkle, glow and lustre.

The eventual shape and style of the stone is determined by the cutter’s assessment of how the raw stone can be cut to minimise any flaws whilst retaining maximum carat weight.

The Gemstone Shapes and Styles:


People often have strong views about the shape of gemstone that they like and it is important to do your research to understand the type your girlfriend may prefer.  When buying a ring as important as an engagement ring or promise ring, it’s advisable to check out your loved one’s current jewelry to see if she has any preference for specific shapes – or have a discreet word with her mother or close friend to see if they can find out for you.

To help you get a better understanding of the range of shapes and cuts that your girlfriend may like, here is a brief overview with pictures to illustrate the differences:

Round Cut Stone:

A round, brilliant cut diamond creates great sparkle and is one of the most popular shapes for a solitaire ring.  Look for a “Full Cut Round Brilliant” if you want the maximum amount of brilliance – and make sure that it also has a good Clarity and Color grading.

Princess Cut Stone:

This is another favorite for many girl’s engagement rings.  The princess has a square shape with pointed corners that reflects light beautifully – well, like a princess, you could say.  So, a princess cut engagement ring for your princess may be the perfect choice.

Emerald Cut:

An elegantly cut rectangular shape with truncated corners and facets cut around the outside to reflect light.  The shape is great for emeralds as well as many other gemstones.  However, because it has a large flat surface, it is essential to have a stone with good clarity, or it will look dull.

The Asscher:

The Asscher is becoming an increasingly popular cut.  It has similarities to the Emerald Cut, except the Asscher Cut is square and not rectangular.  An almost octagonal outline help to enhance the brilliance of this special stone.  The famous 33.19 carat Krupp Diamond that Richard Burton bought Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960’s, is an Asscher cut diamond.

The Radiant

Similar to the Princess Cut, the Radiant has trimmed corners that enables it to reflect even more light – hence it’s name.  The Radiant is not found as often as the Princess Cut and can be more expensive.

The Cushion Cut

Also known as “The Pillow Cut”, this is a four sided deep square or rectangle stone with rounded corners and large facets that reflect high levels of light.  It is  one of the most sparkling of the diamond cuts.   A much loved cut that has been around for a long time.  It is often seen in original antique and antique style rings.

The Oval

The advantage of the Oval cut is that it can create an optical illusion of size and make it look larger than it is.  The Oval is a good choice for those on a tight budget who cannot afford a large diamond.  For example, an Oval will look larger than a Round cut stone of the same weight.  The Oval is also a good shape for women wanting to make their hands look longer and slimmer.  Oval stones can be step cut or fancy cut and are an excellent choice for someone wanting a solitaire ring, but with a bit of a difference from the traditional round shape.

The Marquise Cut

The Marquise provides the illusion of increased size, in a similar way to the Oval.  A pretty shape, it will also enhance the length of the wearer’s hands.  The Marquise cut is attributed to King Louis XV of France, who commissioned a ring in the shape of his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.

The Pear Cut

Also known as the “Tear Drop”, the Pear Cut is ideal for someone who wants a ring that’s a little more unusual than a round solitaire.  A classic Pear Cut has a combination of the Round Brilliant and the Marquise Cut and a length to width ratio of 1.5:1.  Because of elongated cut, it has the ability to look larger than it is and provide a hand slimming effect.

The Heart Cut

If you’re looking for a romantic way to show how much you love you girl, then what better way than to give her a Heart Cut ring.  The Heart is a pear shape with an indent at the top and should be perfectly symmetrical.  Containing 59 polished facets this romantic and sparkly ring is a popular shape for an Anniversary or Valentine’s Day gift, as well as for engagement rings.  The Heart Cut is used for both diamonds and gemstones but looks even more romantic when cut from pink diamonds or pink sapphires.

The Trilliant:

The triangular shape gemstone is a wedge of fire that can produce nearly as much light and sparkle as a round brilliant cut stone.  Commonly held in place by a simple prong setting, the Trilliant is an excellent choice for someone who wants a ring that’s a little bit different.  Trilliants can be found in diamonds as well as a range of colored gemstones.

The Rose Cut:

This is a cut that is rarely found other than with antique and antique style rings.  Dating back to the 16th century, this cut went out of fashion during the early 1900’s due to its lack of brilliance.  However, due to an increase in demand for vintage jewelry, these rose cut rings are currently experiencing a renaissance.

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