Battle of the Shapes: Round v Cushion Engagement Rings
By Stephanie Dore
Stuck between a rock and, well, another rock trying to decide whether you want a cushion engagement ring or a round brilliant diamond? You’re not alone! In fact, this is one of the most frequent shape conundrums folks find themselves in. Cushion is often sold as an affordable alternative to the round cut diamond, and for good reason. It’s got sparkle, softness, and a pretty stellar price tag to boot. But when it comes down to brass tacks, is a round engagement ring better? Or a cushion diamond more your thing? Let’s break things down a bit to see which diamond shape wins out.
The Shape Off
Let’s talk about visuals first, as in, what shape does the diamond look like. And we’ll start with round because, obviously, it’s simply round. Everyone knows what this looks like, it’s the most classic of classic shapes and has been perfected by generations of diamond cutters to sparkle brilliantly. Not much confusion here, unless we’re talking poorly cut round diamonds, which you should just plain stay away from.
Cushion cut diamonds, on the other hand, have loads of variation, so no two will ever be exactly the same. Cushions come directly from the old mine cut diamond, so the shape has been around for more than a hot minute. They are basically the softest of the square or rectangular cut diamonds, unlike the emerald, Asscher, princess, or radiant, they have rounded corners and curved sides. Depending on the length-to-width ratio you prefer, the stone can either be squared or more elongated, but they really do look, well, cushion-like!
There’s really no “winner” here per se, because the shape you choose should ultimately be personal preference, but round diamonds are the most popular diamond shape for a reason, so let’s explore why…
Sparks are Flying
As we said up top, round diamonds have been painstakingly perfected for the ultimate sparkle. They’re the only diamond with an official cut grade because they’re more uniform than other shapes and have been studied the most. Their 57 (or 58 if there’s a culet) facets radiate out from a center point, creating incredible brilliance with light bouncing everywhere. Rounds are, by most measures, the most purely brilliant diamond shape, as long as you get a well cut one. And that’s where cut grade comes into play. Cut grade is the most important of the 4 Cs because it’s what determines a diamond’s sparkle. And excellent sparkle can do all sorts of other good too, including hiding inclusions, making your diamond color look brighter, and even making a diamond appear larger than its carat weight. So don’t skimp.
Cushions, like every other fancy shape diamond, don’t have a standardized cut grade, and have much more variation in their faceting patterns. They also tend to have larger, more open facets instead of the tiny triangular facets of a round diamond. This results in cushion diamonds having more rainbow fire than the black-and-white scintillation of a round cut. But that doesn’t mean they’re not sparkly. There are also two different types of cushion cuts, the standard and then the modified brilliant cut cushion, also known as “crushed ice”, which is a cut that breaks up some of the cushion’s larger pavilion facets to lend it a bit more sparkle.
The winner here, for obvious reasons, is the round diamond, because it’s just plain easier to know what you’re gonna get when it comes to bling.
The Long and Short of It
Rounds are round. And when it comes to their size variation, you pretty much just pick based on carat weight. More carat, more visual stone. Let’s move on. Cushion cut diamonds have a lot more to choose from. And knowing what look you like will really help you out. Do you like a squared stone? A more elongated one? Here’s what you need to know. As someone who’s seen their fair share of cushion diamond engagement rings, if you choose a square stone, or 1:1 length-to-width ratio, a cushion will, in passing, look like a round diamond. Especially under 1 carat in size. This is also why the industry often recommends them as a round diamond alternative, because it’s the closest you can get in looks with a lower price tag.
On the other hand, elongated cushions (the higher you go in length-to-width ratio, the more elongated the stone) will give you a totally unique look and, frankly darling, this is where the real fun starts. We love an elongated cushion cut set east-west across the finger, which is super modern and gives you major finger coverage, making the diamond look bigger. And you can just really make it more your own if you try out different ratios to find your perfect fit. So, cushions win here for personality.
Diamond color is really a measure of how colorless a diamond is. And while we’re big fans of colored diamonds around here, let’s talk about the sort of standard colorless range first. In the D-J diamond color range, folks are usually looking for a diamond to not show its color. And round diamonds are very good at that. Even down to J color, if you have a high cut grade (remember, major sparkle), you won’t have noticeable color.
Cushion diamonds, however, do tend to show a bit more body color than rounds, especially standard cut cushions, with their bigger tables and wider facets. The fact that cushion cut stones show more body color is actually why you’ll often find colored diamonds and colored gemstones in this shape. If you want something that truly appears colorless, you might only go down to, say, H. If you’re going for a yellow gold engagement ring, though, you can go lower and the stone will appear a bit whiter.
Round diamonds take this round.
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
When it comes to diamond clarity, things are pretty similar to color between these two stones. A well cut round diamond can really help disguise internal inclusions so you can still easily find an eye-clean diamond in the SI range. This is a bonus.
Not to worry though, most modern cushion cuts do the same, especially if you choose a modified cushion brilliant cut, aka crushed ice, which has smaller facets. Again, this breaks up the pattern of the stone more, which helps disguise some of what’s happening inside. Either shape you go with, we suggest not paying for a super high clarity grade (because you shouldn’t pay for what you can’t see!) and instead looking for something that’s eye clean.
We’re calling this one a draw. But if you need help determining whether a diamond (of any shape) is eye-clean, our team of gemologists can totally help with this. Just ask!
Ok, so we’re down to the nitty gritty. Diamond price. This is what everyone really wants to know, right? Well, round cut diamonds are the most popular diamond shape in the world. They’re also, all other things being equal, by far the most expensive. Why? Well, this shape has been perfected, there is unstoppable demand, and there’s a lot of rough stone weight lost in the cutting of the round. Hence, they command top dollar.
How much will a cushion cut diamond cost you? Well, anywhere between 25-50% less, my friends. Again, that’s with all other qualities being equal. And not a typo. While cushion cuts are definitely super popular, and have been for years, they offer much more variation and therefore flexibility in their cutting, which means that you can save some serious cash.
Cushions take this category by a landslide, if we still have to say that.
Fulfilling Your Round or Cushion Cut Diamond Dreams
In the battle of cushions against rounds, we have a total draw. But hopefully now you know a bit more about what to look for and why you might side with one over the other. When it really comes down to it, these are two unique diamond shapes that should be appreciated for their own brilliant qualities.
To explore what they really look like (yes, with your own two eyes), check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds and don’t forget to zoom out (because size can be deceiving), or book a virtual or offline appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person.
Not finding what you’re looking for? Email us with what you’re looking for at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.