All you need to know about the princess cut

When it comes to engagement rings, the princess cut has emerged in a relatively short time as one of the most popular choices out there and is the undisputed runner up to the round diamond in terms of popularity. The cut was first introduced around the 1960s but it was only in 1979 that the Princess cut was created and named as we know it today.

The princess cut is the square equivalent of the round cut. From the top view, it is square or slightly rectangular, while the underside is a 4-sided pyramidal shape. It contains 57 or 76 facets and, due to its exceptional distribution of light, the princess cut is the most brilliant of all the square shaped diamonds. No wonder it is highly sought after for engagement rings! While the round diamond is more traditional, the princess cut appears more dramatic and modern, making the wearer stand out. Read on for the pros and cons of choosing the princess cut for your engagement ring.

  1. The princess cut is great value for money

A main advantage of the cut is that while it is comparable to the round diamond in terms of brilliance and beauty, it is invariably cheaper than the round cut. This is due to the cutting process. Rough diamonds are generally a cubic shape, which means that diamond manufactures are able to create two princess cut diamonds from one rough diamond. This results in a lot less wastage of the rough diamond.

A princess cut can use about 80% to 90% of a rough diamond while the round brilliant uses only about 40%. That’s twice the amount that the round shape uses! No wonder then that the princess cut is a highly economical choice. When the yield is greater due to less wastage, this converts to lower prices for shoppers.

Tip: Blue Nile has a page where they do a price comparison of different diamond cuts. While the round brilliant comes with a hefty price tag, the princess cut is several hundred dollars cheaper. Princess shape engagement ring in a box

  1. The princess cut looks bigger

The princess cut can give you the optical illusion of appearing bigger than a round brilliant of the same carat weight. This is because the square shape has a larger diameter when measured from corner to corner. It is about 15% greater than the diameter of a round brilliant. However, if the stone has not being cut expertly and the light does not reflect off the diamond as it should, it can appear smaller. This is why it’s important to a stone with a high quality cut.

  1. It’s awesome at hiding flaws

The princess cut is a forgiving stone. Due to its many facets and shape, it is great at hiding flaws, by dispersing light throughout the diamond. This means that you can drop down a couple of grades in terms of clarity and color and still have a perfect-looking stone.

  1. Choosing color – Grade I or better

When picking the color of your diamond, go with your preference. The D-F (colorless) diamonds are the most popular choice, and therefore the most expensive. Consumers are willing to pay a higher price for these grades. However, the difference between these grades are very slight and can hardly be noticed by the naked eye. As mentioned above, because princess cuts disperse light so brilliantly, you can drop down on the color grade scale.

You can go down to grade H or even grade I for the best value for your stone. The image below shows a J grade princess cut diamond. As you can see, the tint is very minimal.

Tip: Choosing yellow, rose or green gold metals for your engagement ring setting will allow you to drop further down on the color scale. You can choose a tinted stone because it will complement the metal.

  1. Making things clear – Clarity VS2 or SI1 for your princess cut

Unlike square cuts such as asscher, emerald and baguette, the princess cut hides inclusions fairly well. For a small stone, you can drop down to VS2 and still have an excellent clarity grading, while for a larger stone, VS1 will still give you excellent clarity.

Because the princess shape is often cut from top quality diamond rough, it is not often that you will find low clarity grade (SI1-I) stones. However, you may be able to find an eye-clean lower clarity grade stone, which would be good value for money. James Allen makes it easy to check for inclusions with their Diamond Display Technology.

Tip: Remember that while the clarity grade is important, what is more critical is where the inclusions are located on the stone.  

  1. Protect the edges

The princess cut has sharp points (unlike most other square shapes like emerald which are actually 8-sided). These points are susceptible to being chipped and need to be placed in a protective setting. A 4-prong V-shaped setting will hold the diamond securely in place and ensure that the edges are safe. Also be aware that if there are inclusions near the edges, this can weaken the stone and make it vulnerable to chipping.

  1. Settings that work with the princess cut

The princess cut is very versatile and works well with most settings, from simple to elaborate. As a solitaire ring, the stone looks amazing and stands out elegant and classy. It also looks stunning with accent diamonds (just ensure that these are the same grade or just a grade apart as the main diamond).

Tip: The princess cut makes for gorgeous eternity bands as the shape tessellates beautifully without any gap.

  1. Square or rectangular – which works better for the princess cut?

There is a lot of variation in the length to width ratio of princess cuts, even though they are generally thought to be square-shaped. For a square look, choose a length to width ratio of 1 to 1.10. For a more rectangular appearance, go over a length to width ratio of 1.10. It all depends on personal preference. 

Princess shape diamond width to length ratio

  1. Evaluating the cut of the diamond

You will notice that evaluating the cut of the princess shape can get tricky. Most gem labs do not provide cut grades for fancy-shaped diamonds (this category includes all shapes except round diamonds!). Only the American Gem Society (AGS) has a cut grade for fancy diamonds. The AGS grades the cut according to the light performance of the stone.

All other diamond dealers have their own cut grades and standards, which can make it confusing when trying to evaluate the cut quality of your princess cut stone. Below is a comparison of the cut grade scale of the AGS with 5 diamond vendors.


Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent, Ideal

Blue Nile

Good, Very Good, Signature Ideal

James Allen

Good, Very Good, Ideal, True Hearts

White Flash

None, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent, Ideal

Brilliant Earth

Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Ideal, Super Ideal

When doing your own evaluation, here are the parameters that are recommended:

Table: 67% - 72% is generally considered excellent. If you prefer a small table, go below 66%, while for a bigger table go over 73%. Bear in mind that smaller tables are harder to find.

Depth: 65% - 75% is excellent

Length to width ratio – 1.0 – 1.04

Polish/Symmetry – Good, Very good or Excellent

Culet – None to very small

Where to buy online

There are many online vendors that offer high quality princess diamonds. 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. The report should be complete with information on clarity, color, carat and cut.

Prior to buying, ensure that your diamond is eye-clean and passes all your checks.  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 if worse comes to worst, you can still return the diamond after your purchase for a full refund if you aren’t satisfied with it).