Choosing the diamond for your engagement ring is a big decision. You want the right style, brilliance, and the right price. Classic and timeless shapes are among the best choices for your diamond and two of the most popular types are round cut and cushion-cut diamonds.
These shapes are both elegant in their own way and have several differences that might not be obvious right away. The cushion-cut vs. round cut debate has plenty of arguments aside from shape alone. Continue reading to learn about the differences between these beautiful diamond cuts and decide which one is right for you.
Characteristics of a Cushion Cut Diamond
The beautiful cushion cut is a modern version of a diamond cut referred to as the "old mine" cut. This cut of diamond goes as far back as the 1700s to the diamond mines of Brazil. The Hope diamond is a famous example of an old mine cut diamond.
However, cushion cut diamonds got their name from their shape - a square with rounded corners. As these are not round, the cushion cut falls into the fancy cut diamond category instead of the brilliant-cut. Its square shape is similar to that of a princess cut diamond, but the soft edges make it less vulnerable to chipping.
Similar to a round cut diamond, the cushion cut typically has 58 facets. The cushion brilliant diamonds' facets are larger and extend toward the outer edges, creating a star-like shape. Meanwhile, the cushion-modified brilliants have facets that create more of a flower shape and tend to look like crushed ice or sparkling water.
Characteristics of a Round Cut Diamond
The round diamond cut was the first to have 58 facets, as many jewelers throughout the ages tried to find the most striking cut. Round diamonds had been cut before, but in the late 19th century, the bruting machine allowed perfectly circular cuts. Then in 1919, the 58-facet round cut diamonds came into the world thanks to Marcel Tolkowsky.
These diamonds remain popular because of their classic look. Round diamonds have been used for centuries and therefore never go out of style. Because of their high demand and their bright sparkle, they tend to be the most expensive cut.
Today's round cut diamonds have 57-58 facets, which are known for hiding the imperfections of a diamond known as "inclusions."
Cushion Cut vs. Round Cut
Brilliance and Sparkle
Round cut and cushion cut diamonds are both gorgeous engagement ring choices, but they do have a different type of sparkle because of their respective cuts.
What makes a diamond sparkle is the way that light is reflected and refracted in the diamond. The white and colored light reflected by a diamond is called its scintillation or “brilliance”. The fire, on the other hand, is the colored light reflected by a diamond.
Both round and cushion cut diamonds have great brilliance and fire, but round cut diamonds have the most brilliance of all diamonds.
However, cushion cuts have the most fire of all the different diamond cuts. Overall, round cut diamonds have more scintillation.
Even before your first-time diamond shopping, chances are you've heard of the infamous Four Cs or 4Cs. These Cs are all things you need to look for in a diamond worth purchasing. They are the diamond's Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat.
However, the Cs are more complicated than just what they stand for.
Cut doesn’t just refer to the shape of the diamond, it also refers to the cut quality. The color refers to how white the diamond is, the clarity grade refers to the measurement of a diamond's flawlessness, and finally, the carat measures its weight.
If you know your 4Cs well, you can tell if a diamond is of good quality. It also helps to know a few more things when looking for a diamond, such as depth and table percentage, faceting, and length to width ratio.
Depth percentage and table percentage are factors that determine the diamond's quality. For example, a high depth or table percentage generally means that the diamond will not sparkle brightly. For cushion cut diamonds, depth and table percentages under 70% are ideal.
The facet patterns are less to do with diamond quality and more to do with your preference. We know that both cushion cut and round cut diamonds have 58 facets. Still, the facet number for cushion cut diamonds does not have as strict a standard (such as the previously mentioned "crushed ice" look of some cushion cut diamonds).
Finally, the width and length ratio of cushion cut diamonds are different depending on the diamond. Round diamonds, on the other hand, are always perfectly round.
For a perfect square, a ratio of 1.00 is ideal, while anything over 1.10 will appear more like a rectangle. As ratio does not determine the quality, it is also more of a preference question.
Questions to Ask Before Deciding
- What setting style would you like?
- Which cut looks best in your desired setting?
- What is your budget?
At first glance, you might be confused if two diamonds with the same carat weight look as though they differ in size. Usually, this is because of their shape and table surface area. Many diamond cuts appear to be bigger than round diamonds, but it isn't quite apparent with cushion cut diamonds.
A larger table surface and larger facets can make a cushion cut diamond appear bigger. But round cut diamonds have more brilliance, which also tricks our eyes into perceiving that they are large. So you can’t go wrong with either cut.
Selecting a diamond with a Very Good or Excellent cut grade will also help your diamond to appear larger and sparkle well.
Shape and Symmetry
Interestingly, a diamond's symmetry doesn't have to do with how it has been cut but with how it has been polished. Symmetry measures how each facet aligns with the others. If the symmetry of facets in a diamond is poor, it reduces the brilliance because of the misdirected light.
When choosing a diamond cut, there is no "best style." Whatever your preference is, you can find a beautiful cut and setting for your dream engagement ring. However, each cut's style is different.
As you read earlier, round cut diamonds are the most classic cut. If you are looking for a more traditional ring style, a round cut diamond fits the bill. However, cushion cut diamonds harken back to Georgian and Victorian times, so they have a more romantic feel.
Princess cut diamonds are another popular shape (the most popular among fancy shapes) and fit nicely into any setting. This style is also a more classic look.
Diamond cuts that look more modern or new include things like a heart cut or pear-cut shapes. Heart cut diamonds give you an unmistakable look of modern romance, while the pear or "teardrop" shape is a beautiful choice with an excellent price point.
Other diamond cuts include oval, emerald, Asscher, and marquise. The last of which can look large and yet make your ring finger look slim at the same time.
Now that we know the other similarities and differences between round and cushion cut diamonds, how exactly do they differ in price? The short answer is that cushion cut diamonds are more affordable, as round cut diamonds tend to be the most expensive shape.
What makes them the most expensive?
A few reasons that you might not expect. Because of the excess raw diamond waste when cutting a brilliant round diamond, the cost goes up. These round diamonds are also in constant demand due to their popularity. Diamond companies can take advantage of this popularity and thus raise the price of round cut diamonds, and so jewelers often have to follow suit.
How much of a difference is the price between cushion cut and round cut?
Even if the cushion and round cut diamonds have the same carat weight and equally high quality, the cushion cut will cost somewhere between 25% to 50% less than a round cut diamond.
Cushion cut diamonds' popularity has also increased, but they remain more affordable than a round cut diamond and more than many other shapes, too.
However, you want to be sure that the price isn't the only factor in mind when you are looking for an engagement ring. It's still important to choose a shape and setting that has meaning to you. Your engagement ring is something that you will be wearing for the rest of your life, so how it looks does matter!
Why Are Cushion Cut Diamonds Called "Fancy Shaped"?
We briefly discussed cushion cut diamonds being a "fancy shape," but what does that mean in general? Why don't round cut diamonds fit into this category?
Fancy shaped diamonds are a category that includes many diamond shapes such as princess, emerald, pear, oval, marquise, Asscher, etc. These shapes are less expensive as there is less waste when cutting them. They’re also not as mainstream as the round cut so you can pick up a high-quality fancy shaped diamond for a fraction of what an equally sized round cut would cost.
Cushion Cut and Round Cut Engagement Ring Styles
Classic Cathedral Solitaire Engagement Ring
Two metal arches that resemble a cathedral help to hold up the diamond in the center of the ring. It gets its name from the way it resembles the arches, ceilings, and doorways in Gothic-style cathedrals.
Cushion Plain Shank Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
Halo settings have small accent diamonds that surround the center stone. The plain shank refers to the fact that the accent diamonds do not continue down the ring's sides.
French Cut Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
The French cut refers to small accent diamonds (or, in this case, pave diamonds) and their setting into the ring metal. The metal has V shapes cut into it to hold the pave diamonds, making it look as if the ring is made only out of gems.
Rising Accents Diamond Engagement Ring
Diamond accents are another name for smaller diamonds set beside the larger one; however, these are larger than the pave diamonds and add to the ring's brilliance.
Split Shank Squarish Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
The squarish halo refers to the setting being more of a rounded square shape than the perfect circle of the regular halo setting. The split shank means that the side of the ring splits into two as they go up towards the diamond.
Split Shank Trellis Diamond Engagement Ring
The split shank in this ring setting will have small diamonds on each of the "split" metal pieces that lead to the central diamond on the ring.
Tapered Diamond Engagement Ring
The tapered diamond setting's main point is that it rises from the shank of the ring, with talon prongs to hold the central diamond in place.
Tapered Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
Similar to the above ring setting, but with small diamonds surrounding the main one of the ring.
Twisting Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring
This setting has a twisted band (usually with the look of a twisted split shank) with a prong setting for the central diamond.
Cushion Cut vs. Round Cut Diamonds: The Bottom Line
Go for a cushion cut if you like a square shape with softened edges. It offers beautiful sparkle and fire and is more affordable than your traditional round cut diamond. If you like a style reminiscent of Georgian and Victorian times, or you'd like a choice between a classic or "crushed ice" look, cushion cut is an excellent option.
Go for a round cut diamond if you've had your heart set on a brilliant round cut. It’s a timeless look that will never go out of style. Its sparkling 58 facets and high value will make it a worthwhile purchase for something as meaningful as an engagement ring.
By now, you know that a diamond is an important investment piece in your life. You want to be happy with whatever you end up choosing. Personal preference is really what matters for the diamond and ring because you want to love it at the end of the day.