The History of Gem Cuts and Shapes
The Invention of Diamond Cutting
Uncut diamonds first made their way from India to Europe in the 4th century BC. At that time, diamonds were still considered too sacred to alter, and it was widely believed that attempting to cut them would result in bad fortune. In that vein, diamond polishing and cutting didn’t become commonplace until the 1300s. However, since diamond is the hardest substance on Earth, creating sophisticated results was nearly impossible until the industrial revolution occurred in the 1700s. It's then that old mine cut diamonds—the first iterations of the round brilliant-cut we know today—were created with 58 facets and an eye-pleasing, cushion-like shape.
Step-Cut versus Round Brilliant-Cut Diamonds
Step-cuts, such as emerald- and Asscher-cuts, are known for their sophisticated and refined appearance and feature parallel rows of straight, linear facets. The elegant effect is often referred to as a “hall of mirrors,” and is especially suited to showing off impeccable quality diamonds with excellent clarity.
Brilliant-cuts, on the other hand, are perfect for those who are looking for maximum fire and scintillation and want their diamond to exhibit as many flashes of spectral colours as possible. Their facet shapes are designed to optimize light reflection, allowing for ultimate brightness and sparkle which can also minimize the appearance of certain inclusions. Due to this versatility, the round brilliant-cut is by far the most popular shape for a diamond, and approximately eighty percent of the world's supply are cut as such. They also offer the peace of mind that while trends may come and go, a round-cut gem will never go out of style.
When it comes to coloured gemstones, they're often cut to maximize their most important value factor: colour. Shapes that mimic their own natural crystal structure are also common. For example, tourmalines and emeralds tend to grow in long, tubular crystals, so they're often cut into elongated shapes, such as emerald- and oval-cuts.
Any gem that isn’t round is automatically deemed a “fancy-cut” and they usually have a combination of brilliant and step-cut facets. The oval shape, for example, features a brilliant-cut crown, while the lower half, known as the pavilion, is step-cut. When looking for the perfect fancy-shaped diamond or coloured gemstone for your next jewel, the first thing to look for is one that appears to have excellent symmetry and eye-pleasing proportions. Here are some alternative shapes we can help you consider for your next piece:
One of the most popular choices in recent years, the oval is a twist on the classic round brilliant with the benefits of a more elongated shape. Like other long and narrow cuts, such as the emerald and marquise, it’s very slimming on the finger, and can also give the stone the illusion of being bigger than it is.
This is a stylish shape that offers the versatility of being worn point up or down. The tapered effect is very flattering on the finger, and can be a particularly great choice for large carat weights that can otherwise look quite heavy on your hand. For rings that are worn on a regular basis, bezel settings can be ideal to ensure the point of your pear is always protected.
Said to be named after the Marquise de Pompadour (a.k.a. the mistress of Louis XV), this unique eye-shaped cut was supposedly created after the King requested a diamond in the shape of the Marquise’s lips. This dynamic look can make any jewel a conversation piece, regardless if it’s worn traditionally with the points facing north-south, or east-west, as is popular at present. A bezel setting makes this cut extra-wearable for everyday, as it ensures a snag-proof finish that also protects the points from any possible chips.
The Princess cut is a brilliant-cut that offers spectacular fire and sparkle, all within the classic and modern shape of a square. A consistently popular choice for rings, it’s also a sophisticated option for earrings, eternity bands and tennis necklaces and bracelets.
Known for its refined look, the emerald shape is a step-cut diamond that is guaranteed to give any piece a glamorous look. Featured in some of the most famous engagement rings of all time, including Grace Kelly’s 10.48 carat diamond solitaire and Elizabeth Taylor’s sizeable engagement bauble from Mike Todd, the elongated shape is very flattering. For a variation of this style, you can also consider the Asscher-cut. Created by the famous Dutch diamond cutter Joseph Asscher (he originally cut the legendary 3000+ carat Cullinan diamond) in 1902, this shape is a square step-cut with more dramatically cut corners, which can make it ideal for an octagon-shaped setting. The Asscher-cut was particularly popular during the Art Deco period when modern, geometric lines were favoured.
For those that are attracted to the rectangle shape but prefer the sparkle of a brilliant-cut, the Radiant-cut may be a perfect choice. Created in the late 1970s, the Radiant is not as common as many other fancy shapes, but is much-loved for its incredible versatility. It has all the benefits of incredible sparkle thanks to brilliant-cut facets on both the crown and pavilion, an elongated shape and attractive cut corners.
The cushion cut has always been a favourite as it strikes a happy medium between the classic round and emerald shapes. This cut will always look fashionable and as it's reminiscent of the very first old mine cut diamonds, tends to give jewellery a very luxurious and heirloom-like feeling.
First created in the 1960s (and sometimes also referred to as a “Trilliant”), this shape has brilliant facets with the benefits of a very modern triangular shape. Often used for side stones, it’s also becoming increasingly popular to add a dynamic and eye-catching effect to centre stones, as well as pendants and earrings.