Jewelry Guide

All You Need to Know About the Princess Cut

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Bride wearing princess shape engagement ring

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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.

From the top view, it is square or slightly rectangular, while the underside is a 4-sided pyramidal shape. The princess cut contains either 57 or 76 facets and, due to its exceptional distribution of light, it 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.

The Princess Cut Is Great Value For Money

Princess shape diamond engagement ring in platinum

A modern shape for engagement rings. See this here.

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

 

Compare the princess and round diamonds below, which have similar specifications. The difference in price is almost $1000. 

princess cut diamond

See this diamond here

Round shape true heart diamond

See this diamond here

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. 

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 find a stone with a high-quality cut.

It’s Excellent at Hiding Flaws

The princess cut is a forgiving shape. 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.

Choosing Color – Grade I or Better

When picking the color of your diamond, go with your preference. The D-E-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 even though the price between grades can be very high.  

princess shape diamond yellow gold engagement ring

Princess cut I diamond in yellow gold setting. See it here.

As mentioned above, because princess cuts disperse light so brilliantly, you can drop down on the color grade scale and still have a stone that sparkles brightly. If the metal you choose for your jewelry is rose or yellow gold, a princess cut diamond with yellow tints would add a touch of warmth to the overall look of the ring.

There is no right or wrong color grade, as this is a matter of preference. Consider dropping down to a 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.

Clarity VS2 or SI1 for Your Princess Cut

Unlike other square cuts such as Asscher, emerald and baguette, the princess cut tends to hides inclusion fairly well. When choosing the clarity grade for your diamond, consider the size of the stone and whether or not there are any visible inclusions. These two considerations are more important than simply focusing on the clarity grade of the stone.

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, finding low clarity grade stones such as Slightly Included or Included stones can be rare. Even so, if you can find an eye-clean diamond with a lower clarity grade, this would give you good value for money. Always ensure that you purchase from a retailer that gives you access to photos and/or videos of the actual diamond, and not simply of a stock photo. This is especially important if purchasing online.

Buying a diamond blind (that is, without seeing the actual stone) can result in disappointment. You may think that relying on the lab report should be good enough, but while lab reports state the clarity grade, they don’t point out where the inclusions are located.

This is a random listing of Included princess cut diamonds. As you will notice, some have more noticeable inclusions than others. On their lab reports, these diamonds would all be very similar. With high quality images you will be able to cherry pick the best of the lot.

Princess shape diamond

Source: James Allen

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

Settings for 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).

One factor to note is that the princess cut has sharp points, unlike most other square shapes like emerald which are actually 8-sided. These points are susceptible to chipping and ideally should be placed in a protective setting.

Princess shape diamond 4 pointed engagement ring

4-pronged setting for princess cuts. See it here.

A 4-prong V-shaped setting will hold the diamond securely in place and ensure that the edges are safe.

You could also consider bezel and halo settings as they surround the entire diamond, protecting all its corners.

Halo setting princess cut diamond engagement ring in white gold

Halo settings protect the princess shape. See it here.

Square Or Rectangular 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

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.

AGS Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent, Ideal
Blue Nile Good, Very Good, Astor 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.

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 make an informed choice.  Also check the after-sales policies, especially the returns policy.

Home Preview Service which allows you to design your ring and try a replica at home completely free of charge. This brides the online and physical worlds, turning out to be the best option if you want to test drive your ring before you commit. Read our review on With Clarity to learn more about it.

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

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