Jewelry Guide

Choosing the Perfect Emerald Cut Diamond

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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.

The name of this cut comes from the fact that it was originally used just for emeralds. Since being adapted for diamonds, the emerald cut has grown to become one of the top ten diamond cuts. 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.

Emerald cuts 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 an emerald cut diamond every day. Here’s what you should look out for if you decide to buy an emerald cut diamond.

Tip 1 – A Different Kind of Sparkle

Emerald shape engagement ring

Most diamond shapes, such as the princess, round and radiant, are brilliant cut, which is what gives off the sparkle and fire of the diamond. They have a certain 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.

Emerald shape diamond

Emerald shape diamond. See it here.

As you can see, 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 truncated and make up smaller sides, also cut with steps to protect the diamond. While emerald cut diamonds 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). Retailers don’t give you the option to choose your cut criteria as there is none.

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.

Emerald shape diamond proportion

James Allen provides diagrams of the cut proportions of all their diamonds. This allows you to make an informed decision about the cut.

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 percentage, the larger the diamond will appear. However, a diamond that is too shallow will not have the same light performance of a deeper diamond.

 

  • The 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 the

Tip 3 – Watch Out For Windowing and Extinction!

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

Windowing is found in ill-proportioned and badly cut emerald shapes. It results in large empty spaces, like a window, which allows you to see right through the diamond. 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. If you’re purchasing online, then ask a customer representative about the windowing of the diamond. They should be able to tell you how the diamond reflects light. Some retailers, such as James Allen, offer Diamond Expert advice, where you can ask your questions from an expert. They even share their screen with you and walk you through the evaluation process.

Extinction is when there are darkened areas in your diamond, especially when viewed straight up. This usually occurs in diamonds that have been cut with high depth percentages. Such stones have little reflection, resulting in a stone that is not aesthetically pleasing.

extinction windowing in emerald shape diamonds

Extinction and windowing are quite common in emerald cut diamonds, as these randomly selected listing of emerald cut diamond show.

Tip 4: Pick Your Color Grade

Due to the clean and clear lines of the the shape, emerald cuts can tend to show color, unlike the brilliant cuts. However, when deciding on the right color grade, it’s important to know that there is no right or wrong choice.

In general, all else being equal, the lower you go down on the diamond color scale, the more you can save on your diamond. The most popular grades are D-E-F (colorless) diamonds and customers are happy to pay a premium for these grades. This is also why they are the most expensive grades.

Diamond color chart from perfect colorless to noticeable color

However, why pay for something that you will not be able to see? The difference between two grades can be negligible but the price difference can be considerable.

Compare these two diamonds with similar specifications. The D color diamond and the H color are very similar in appearance, but there is a considerable difference in price between the two.

H color grade radiant shape diamond

D color grade radiant diamond

The larger the diamond is, the more it tends to show color. Here’s our recommendation for color grades for emerald cut diamonds based on the size of the stone:

Color Grading

Diamonds with a carat weight less than 0.50 carat

D-E-F-G-H-I

Diamonds with a carat weight more than 0.50 carat

D-E-F-G

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, unless you want a warm toned diamond. Bear in mind that the difference between these grades are minimal. The price difference can be substantial though.

Tip 5: Choosing Your Clarity Grade

Clarity is especially important when it comes to emerald cut diamonds, due to the large open table and long, clear facets of the cut. It’s much easier to notice any flaws or inclusions that may be present. The beauty of an emerald cut diamond can be undermined by large, unsightly flaws in a visible location. Also, one flaw can appear like multiple flaws because of the way the facets reflect light.

GIA diamond clarity chart

Pay careful attention to the clarity of your diamond. The general recommendation based on the size of the stone is:

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 right has visible flaws and is not eye-clean whereas the diamond on the left has fewer visible imperfections. If you went just by the grading report, you would not be able to pick out the better stone.

Emerald shape diamond clarity

Source   

Tip 6: Decide On The Length-to-width Ratio

Emerald cut diamonds can be either rectangular or square. 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

Emerald cut diamonds are quite versatile and look great with almost all settings.

Emerald shape diamond in halo setting engagement ring

See this engagement ring here.

A halo setting looks stunning for emerald cuts as the sparkle of the halo contrasts beautifully with the clear facets of the emerald shape. This adds that extra brilliance for a glamorous and classy piece of jewelry.

Emerald shape diamond in solitaire setting engagement ring

See this engagement ring here

For a more minimalist look, a simple solitaire setting emphasizes the emerald cut and keeps the focus on the diamond.

Emerald shape diamond in vintage setting engagement ring

See this engagement ring here.

Emerald cut diamonds go great with any ring style, like this vintage style ring.

Tip 9: Emerald Cuts Are Less Expensive

By now most people will be shaking their heads. A diamond that requires high color and clarity grading 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.

Tip 10: Where to Buy Radiant Cut Diamonds Online

Whether you buy online or in-store the rules remain the same. However, it goes without saying that taking your search online is more convenient and will give you access to more options as well as competitive prices.

Ensure that the retailer you choose is reputable and are specialized in what they do. Ask for certification and make sure that the certifying lab is recognized – such as GIA, AGS and EGL.

As mentioned above, be sure to check for cut, color and clarity and carefully evaluate your stone. Also check the after-sales policies, especially the returns policy. It is best to choose a professional retailer like James Allen, who have high quality photos and special Diamond Display Technology, that will allow you to inspect your diamond closely and make an informed choice.  For colored diamonds, Leibish.com are the industry experts and leading retailer.

Check out our quick comparison of the Top Online Engagement Ring Retailers for more information.

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