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The Definitive Guide to The Cushion Cut

By Lead Gemologist, Erica Hirsch, GIA GG

Cushion-shaped diamonds are really an homage to the Old Mine cut.  In the 1700’s diamonds were cut very closely to their natural crystal shape, the octahedral.  Amidst the relentless forces of time, science, and the need for more sparkle, the modern brilliant cushion cut blossomed. Standing the test of time, the cushion has seen every era of jewelry including modern, art deco, Victorian and every other epoch. Popular in the Fancy Shape category, the cushion cut diamond is coveted for its value over rounds. It is less expensive and appears larger carat for carat.

How do you find the cushion cut diamond that’s right for you? We have assembled our best intel here. Using our education and experience, we hope to assist you on your journey to find the diamond you will adore.  

The 4 C’s for Cushions

Color in Cushions

Cushion cut diamonds, like most fancy shapes, show their color. Compare a cushion cut to a round. Both are H color, have no fluorescence, and are the same carat weight. The round will appear to have less color.

H color round w/o fluorescence

H color cushion w/o fluorescence

Quick tip — if considering a setting with multiple stones, make sure they are “color matched.”.

Read up on the science behind fluorescence if you are so inclined. In person, you will find it undetectable to the naked eye. Fluorescence does not affect a stone’s integrity. Diamonds with fluorescence typically cost 10% to 20% less. In addition to cost savings, fluorescence can improve the appearance of a diamond’s color by up to two shades in color grades H through K.  We suggest allowing up to medium fluorescence in grades E-G, and up to very strong fluorescence in color grades H-K.

Diamonds are graded for color with their top side facing down. Because of this, you may come across the term “face up.” This is used to explain that a stone’s color may appear different than it was graded.

Example: An I grade diamond can appear as light as H face up, and even closer to G if it has strong fluorescence.  In the J, K, and onward grades the recipe is less dependable.

Quick Tip — yellow gold can actually make a warmer, more yellow diamond  appear whiter.

The same J colored diamond set in yellow gold appears whiter.

Clarity in Cushions

Cushion cuts hide the naturally occuring flaws in diamonds, called inclusions, pretty well. Within the diamond trade, a stone may be described “eye clean” to which most gemologists would inquire, “who’s eyes?”  The industry defines “eye clean” as “free of inclusions visible with normal vision from a distance of 6-12 inches.”

Diamonds are reflective by nature, hence the sparkle. This also means a single inclusion can be reflected, like a hall of mirrors. Not great news, we know, but try your best to detect this using the certificate and your eyes.

Clarity grades are based on the size, location and number of inclusions.  Inclusions can disrupt light interaction. Think of them as roadblocks. With cushions, try to avoid black crystals on the table. Too many small black crystals can also make a diamond look gray. Feathers are colorless and acceptable if they do not reach the girdle. Twinning wisps are no problem when there are just a few.  Pinpoints are fine, as long as they appear in small numbers. Needles are typically small and undetectable.

Avoid any diamonds with the following: cavity, knot, chip, laser drill hole, etch channel, pit, indented natural and certain feathers. Not sure what you’re looking at? Check out our inclusion guide.

These inclusions could impact the integrity of the diamond, leaving it vulnerable. Diamonds are hard, not tough. You wouldn’t think twice about cutting something with a sharp knife on a ceramic plate, but think how careful you are when placing it in the sink.

Occasionally, we are able to hide an inclusion under a prong — it would be our secret.   

Bottom line, it may take some hunting to find the perfect oval, but it’s what we love doing, and we are here to help.

Carat and Cut for Cushions 

No one should pay for carat weight they cannot see. Understanding the relationship between carat and cut is essential. The girdle and the pavilion areas are prone to unnecessary bulk, adding to the total depth. Since diamonds are sold by weight the practice of leaving extra behind to increase cost without any benefit to performance has been one of the industry’s best-kept secrets. Our reference guide will help you avoid this.

Most diamond grading laboratories do not grade the cut of fancy shapes. If you see cut grades online, it is likely they were estimated by the seller. When choosing a fancy shape stone, it is best to have help. With our guidance and references, you can be assured your diamond will look fantastic.

Cushion Ratio’s & Faceting

You’ll find a few options for the look of your cushion — slender, square, or somewhere in between.

A diagram depicting the three main cushion cut diamond ratios: square, rectangular, and slender.
A diagram of the different faceting patterns for cushion cut diamonds.

You’ll find a few options for the look of your cushion — slender, square, or somewhere in between.

If you get to frustrated, there might be an alternative.  An Oval cut (shape) can appear similar to a cushion shape at the 1.25 ratio. This may translate to more choices and oval shapes typically do not have a “crushed ice” appearance.

Diagram of a diamond depicting the girdle. The long thin piece that divides the top from the bottom.

Girdle

Accept: Thin – Thick

Avoid: Very Thin & Extremely Thick

Why: Very thin girdles can chip or crack. Very thick means you are paying for weight you can’t see.

Diagram of the table of a diamond. The flat long part on top.

Table

Accept: 59 – 68

Avoid: < 59 or > 68

Why: Light should bounce off the table like sun off of a window.

Diagram depicting a diamonds overall depth. The point from the top of the diamond down until the culet or bottom of the diamond.

Total Depth

Accept: 58-65

Avoid: < 58 or > 65

Why: You are paying for weight you can’t see.

It’s a lot to keep in mind, we know. When you’re ready, we’re here to help. We do the digging for you — it’s our humble contribution to your special story — and it’s our pleasure to lend a hand.

Ready to get started? See that window in the bottom right? Send us a note and while you’re waiting, check out these oval cut styles from our collection. No pressure, diamonds have enough of that.

Selected Style

Harper No. 3 Pavé

Cushion Three Stone with Pavé

 This glittering three stone setting features a timeless, cushion cut diamond accented by paired rounds. Delicate, rosette prongs maximize brilliance.