27 May 2022 6 min read
We all know that gemstones don’t come out of the ground (or in our case - a lab), looking like this…
In fact, they start out as ‘rough’ stones.
To transform them into the sparkly gems we love, they have to be cut to shape.
When it comes to finding a piece of jewellery you or a loved one will cherish for years to come, there’s plenty of different cuts to choose from - each with their own unique flair.
So, with that in mind, here’s your ultimate illi guide to gemstone cuts and their meanings.
When grading a stone, gemologists look at four factors - known as the 4 Cs. These are colour (the hue, saturation and tone of the stone), clarity (the purity of the stone), carat (the weight of the stone) and last but not least - cut. A stone’s ‘cut’ refers to how the stone is fashioned. Out of the four grading factors, cut is the only one that is ‘man made’. The rest all depend largely on how the stone formed in nature.
First, a few terms you might find helpful…
Facet - a facet is a geometrically arranged flat surface on a gemstone. They reflect light.
Note: a faceted gem has three key areas. The crown is the top or face of the stone. The girdle is the widest part of the stone, thinner than the other sections, and the part that helps set the stone in jewellery. The final area - the pavilion - is the bottom of the stone, below the girdle.
Inclusion - inclusions occur where other minerals are trapped inside a stone when it was being formed. Like mined gemstones, lab-grown stones also come with inclusions. Find out more in our guide to lab-grown diamonds.
Fire - when talking about gemstones (particularly diamonds), the term ‘fire’ means the colour dispersion within the stone, i.e. the rainbow of colours you can see running through the gem.
Lapidaries - professional gem cutters. Lapidaries will examine a rough stone, checking for any flaws or imperfections. Their goal while making the cut is to preserve the biggest possible size stone while cutting away significant flaws, while increasing the amount of light that flows through the stone. Modern gemstone cutting uses mathematical calculations to determine the angles needed to form the gem’s final cut.
Fancy cut - ‘fancy cut’ refers to any cut other than round.
There are three cutting styles. Brilliant is the most common, typically featuring 56 triangle and kite-shaped facets. Step cuts are also popular, with large, straight facets running parallel in square or rectangle-shaped stones. The final style - mixed - combines both brilliant and step cut.
Physical characteristics: Round shape, brilliant
Meaning: Undoubtedly one of the most popular styles (accounting for more than 75% of all diamonds sold) the round cut gemstone is timeless and traditional. It’s a classic. Incredibly versatile, it’s perfect set in both modern, simple style jewellery, as well as more classic, elaborate pieces. Ideal for someone who never goes out of style.
Famous examples: Queen Elizabeth’s engagement ring, given to her by Prince Phillip in 1947, features a 3-carat round cut diamond, flanked by an array of smaller diamonds. The diamonds were originally set in a tiara, owned by Princess Alice of Greece (Philip’s mother), gifted by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
We’ve got a stunning selection of breathtaking ethical round-cut gemstone jewellery. View our range now.
Physical characteristics: Square shape, with four beveled sides ending in a point, brilliant
Meaning: A more modern style cut, the princess cut was invented in the 1960s. It’s fun, dazzling and contemporary. It has additional facets, making it extra sparkly, and any flaws less noticeable. A great choice for someone who is the life and soul of the party and loves to dazzle.
Famous examples: Supermodel Emily Ratajkowski’s engagement ring features a princess cut diamond next to a pear-cut diamond, set in a yellow gold band.
Physical characteristics: Rectangular (occasionally square) shape, step cut
Meaning: The elegant emerald cut is effortlessly glamorous, with its step-cut style showcasing alternating lines of light and dark, giving off a ‘hall of mirrors’ effect. Edgier than a round-cut, the understated emerald cut is perfect for art deco lovers. Its clean lines and fewer facets show off the stone’s clarity beautifully.
Famous examples: Glamorous actress turned royalty, Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco wore a Cartier emerald cut engagement ring, featuring an emerald cut diamond (thought to be over 10 carats), flanked by baguette-cut diamonds
Physical characteristics: Square shape (sometimes rectangular) with curved corners, large facets, brilliant
Meaning: The cushion cut gemstone’s curved corners give it a soft, feminine appeal. Also known as the pillow cut, this stone is synonymous with romance. Popular in the early 1900s, the stone’s large facets add to its brilliance and sparkle, adding a vintage feel.
Famous examples: Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s engagement ring, designed by Prince Harry, features a cushion-cut centre diamond from Botswana, flanked by two round cut diamonds on a gold micro pavé band.
Physical characteristics: Oval shape, brilliant
Meaning: Growing in popularity, the oval cut is modern and elegant. When worn in a ring, the oval shape helps elongate the hand. The brilliant-cut means that oval cut gems have plenty of sparkle and any inclusions are hard to spot. This unique style is ideal for creative individuals.
Famous examples: Perhaps the most famous example of an oval-cut gemstone is the iconic blue Ceylon sapphire set in an 18kt white gold engagement ring worn by Princess Diana. The stone was later set in Kate Middleton’s engagement ring from Prince William.
Physical characteristics: Elongated shape, rounded on one end and pointed at the other, brilliant
Meaning: Also known as the ‘drop’, thanks to its droplet-like shape, pear cut stones are quite rare. The unique shape perfectly lends itself to pendants and earrings. Delicate and quirky, a pear-cut gem is perfect for someone on the lookout for something a little different.
Famous examples: Hollywood royalty Mia Farrow received a pear-cut diamond engagement ring from husband Frank Sinatra.
Physical characteristics: Oval shape with pointed ends, brilliant.
Meaning: Featuring the largest crown surface of any fancy cut gemstone, the striking marquise cut certainly makes a statement. It’s alleged that the cut is named after a mistress of 18th century French monarch Louis XIV. The marquise cut is also sometimes referred to as ‘navette’, which means ‘little boat’ in French, due to its unusual shape. A dramatic cut, the marquise is made for opulence and elegance.
Famous examples: Welsh-born actress Catherine Zeta-Jones wears a 10-carat marquise cut diamond engagement ring, given to her by her husband Michael Douglas in 1999.
Our Oxford Studs feature gorgeous marquise cut lab-grown diamonds set in 14k recycled yellow gold.
Physical characteristics: Rectangular shape (similar to emerald), with four beveled corners, mixed cutting styles (brilliant and step-cut), 70 facets
Meaning: Another lesser known cut, radiant cuts feature a dazzling 70 facets, for some serious sparkle and brilliance. While a rectangular shape, like the emerald cut, the radiant cut’s combination of brilliant and step-cut faceting makes it far more brilliant. Radiant cut stones are not very common and, as such, can be hard to find. They’re perfect for outgoing, stylish and confident wearers who don’t mind a little flash.
Famous examples: Drew Barrymore’s engagement ring from ex-husband Will Kopelman featured a 4-carat radiant cut diamond on a diamond-encrusted band.
Physical characteristics: Square (sometimes rectangular) shape with four beveled edges, step cut Meaning: Asscher cut gems are seeing a resurgence. With their retro charm and old world sophistication, it’s no surprise. Similar to emerald cut, Asscher gemstones give off an art deco, vintage glamour.
Famous examples: The renowned Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (formerly the Krupp Diamond), one of the many gifted to the star by husband Richard Burton, is an Asscher cut 33-carat diamond, which sold for $8.8m after Taylor’s death in 2011.
Physical characteristics: Heart shape, brilliant
Meaning: Not very common, heart-cut stones offer a soft, sentimental appeal for the wearer, while also making a statement. Its brilliant-cut means flaws are well hidden, while providing maximum sparkle.
Famous examples: When engaged to actor Taylor Kinney, Lady Gaga wore a heart cut, 6-carat diamond engagement ring.
Physical characteristics: Rectangular shape, step cut
Meaning: Minimalistic and modern, baguette-cut gemstones feature clean step-cut lines, that offer a vintage, art deco feel. This subtle, elegant cut is ideal for minmalists looking for a statement piece.
Famous examples: Marilyn Monroe wore an eternity ring featuring 35 baguette-cut diamonds in a platinum band, given to her by her second husband Joe DiMaggio.
Our art deco inspired Deauville Studs feature lab-grown baguette-cut diamonds, set in 14k recycled yellow gold.
Which cut is your favourite?
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