Everything You Need to Know When Choosing the Perfect Emerald Cut Diamond

If you’re on the quest for a diamond and are unsure about what shape you should choose for it, definitely consider the emerald cut. Although it is not the most popular choice of diamond cuts (that prestigious status goes to round brilliants) the emerald cut is an elegant and classy shape that has been around for quite a long time. Originally, this cut was used just for emeralds, hence the name but then was adapted for diamonds too. Some people find the emerald cut not flashy or showy enough, but for those who are lucky enough to own one, the diamond’s quiet grace and classic timeless look is what stands out for them. I personally feel that they have a vintage beauty and charm to them that none of the other cuts have. They also make the wearer stand out, more so because you don’t see them every day. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the main points to keep in mind when choosing the ideal emerald cut diamond.Emerald shape engagement ring

Tip 1 – A different kind of sparkle

Most diamond shapes are brilliant cut, which is what gives off the sparkle and fire of the diamond. They have a number of facets that reflect light to the maximum degree and have what is called a ‘crushed ice’ look. Emerald cuts, however, are not brilliant cut but step cut (other step cut shapes include baguette and asscher). The two main aspects of a step cut shape are:

  1. They must be either rectangular or square in shape
  2. The facets of the diamond must be composed of straight lines and these run parallel to the girdle of the stone.

The emerald shape has a large open table and contains 58 facets. These lie in parallel rows like a staircase. The cut appears rectangular, but actually has 8 sides as the four corners are also short sides, also cut with steps to protect the diamond. While they do not sparkle like other diamonds, they have their own unique effect.

What the step cut does is to create an interplay between the light and dark planes known as the hall of mirrors effect. This contrast between the strips of light and darkness within each step is what gives the emerald cut its unique, regal look.

Tip 2 – Cut is crucial

Emerald shape diamonds are not graded by GIA for their cut (they only grade the polish and symmetry). If for example you are choosing your emerald cut on James Allen, you will see that you are not given an option to choose the cut grade for emerald shapes.Emerald shape diamond cut

Blue Nile will give you the option of choosing the cut grade, but this is based on their own grading system and not that recommended by the GIA. This makes choosing the cut of the diamond difficult and it becomes crucial that you view the diamond before you buy it. If you are buying online, HD video and images will help you make this choice.

So what do you need to know to decide on the cut of your emerald shape? The percentages of the depth and the table are the 2 main specifications of the cut.

The depth of the emerald shape is calculated by dividing the depth by the width of the diamond. To get the best look and the best value for your money stick to 60 to 67%. When deciding on the depth, just remember, the lower the depth %, larger the diamond will appear. Table of the emerald-shape diamond is calculated by dividing the width of the table facet by the width of the diamond. We recommend 61 to 68 % for table. Following table shows best cut specifications for the emerald shape diamond.


60 to 67 %


61 to 68 %


Very thin

The culet of the stone is not a critical aspect when it comes to emerald cuts.

Tip 3 – Watch out for windowing and extinction!

When you choose an emerald cut, make sure you check it for windowing and exctinction. This refers to how light interacts with the stone.

Windowing is found in ill-proportioned and badly cut emerald shape. It results in large spaces of diamond, like a window, which allows you to see right through. To test for windowing, hold up your stone and place your finger beneath it. If you are able to easily see your finger through the stone, your diamond is not retaining light.Emerald shape diamond windowing effect

Extinction is when there are darkened areas in your diamond. This usually occurs in diamonds that have been cut with high depth percentages. As you can see, there is little reflection, resulting in a stone that is not aesthetically pleasing.extinction in emerald shape diamond

Tip 4: Pick your color grade

Due to the clean and clear lines of the emerald cut, this shape is not very good at hiding the color of the diamond. If you choose a diamond with a higher yellowish tint, be assured that your emerald cut is going to show this. This is especially true for diamonds larger than .50 carats (as we explained in the 4Cs of diamonds, color difference is more obvious in larger diamonds). So don’t skimp on color when choosing your emerald cut, unless you want your diamond to appear tinted. Choose a stone with a higher color grading. The table below shows our recommendation for color grading of emerald cut diamonds.


Color grading

Diamonds with a carat weight less than 0.50 carat


Diamonds with a carat weight more than 0.50 carat


So for diamonds less than 0.50 carat and larger than 0.50 carat we do not recommend diamonds with color grade less than I and G respectively. Bear in mind that the difference between these grades are minimal. The price difference can be substantial though.

Tip 5: Why clarity matters?

Due to having a large open table, it is easier to notice the imperfections in an emerald cut diamond. Also, one flaw can appear like multiple flaws because of the way the facets reflect light. Therefore, like color, it is very important to choose a diamond with a high clarity grade. Clarity grading is more crucial for larger diamonds. The table below shows the general recommendation for the clarity grading of emerald cut diamonds.


Clarity grading

Diamonds with carat weight less than 0.50 carat

FL – VS1

Diamonds with carat weight more than 0.50 carat

FL – VS2

If your budget allows you, it is best to go with the highest clarity grade but if not, you can go down to VS2 and VVS2 for diamonds less than 0.50 and more than 0.50 carats respectively. Again, it is critical that you see the diamond prior to buying it to ensure that it is eye-clean. While the clarity grading gives you a general guideline, it does not tell you where the imperfections are. To prove this point, have a look at the images below. Both diamonds have a VS1 clarity grading. The diamond on the left has visible flaws and is not eye-clean whereas the diamond on the right has less visible imperfections. If you went just by the grading report, they would both appear the same.

Importance of clarity grading for emerald shape diamond       clarity grade comparison emerald shape engagement ring                                                                    

Tip 6: Decide on the length to width ratio

The length to width ratio is calculated by dividing the length of the diamond by its width. Classic emerald diamonds have the length to width ratio of 1.40 to 1.50, which is more rectangular. Smaller length to width ratio yields a square looking diamond. If you prefer a square looking emerald cut for your engagement ring, then consider asscher shape, which is a square step cut. Generally, the diamonds with a length to width ratio between 1.45 to 1.60 are more attractive.Best length to width ratio for emerald shape diamond

Tip 7: Emerald cut engagement rings can appear larger

Due to its large open table, the emerald cut can appear to be larger than a round stone of the same carat weight. In fact, mathematically, the emerald cut has a surface area that is 5% greater than that of the round brilliant. Couple this with the fact that it is a cheaper stone, and you get a slightly larger diamond for a lower price.

Tip 8: Choose a setting that complements the cut

Choosing a setting depends on each person’s individual taste. Some settings accentuate the beauty of this cut. For example, if an emerald cut diamond is set in a halo setting, the surrounding sparkle will contrast beautifully with the calm and serene appearance of the emerald.

In terms of security, 4 prong settings are the best as they will securely hold the emerald in place. For a larger stone, choose a 6 prong setting.

Tip 9: Emerald cuts are less expensive

By now most people will be shaking their heads. A diamond that requires high color and clarity gradings means a higher price tag as well. Right? Wrong! The emerald shape can be up to 35% cheaper than traditional round diamonds. If you don’t want to follow the tradition of buying a round cut diamond for your engagement ring or you have a smaller allocated budget, then the emerald cut is a great option. It’s unique, you will stand out and save money as well.