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30.11.21

The Ultimate Guide to Emerald Cut Diamonds

By Stephanie Dore

The chiseled beauty and long, lean shape…we’re all about the emerald cut diamond, darling. And we’re not alone. Emerald cut diamonds are, frankly, one of the most sophisticated, drool-worthy, celeb-toted shapes around. While they might not rock the blazing brilliance of a classic round diamond, emerald cuts have, shall we say, je ne sais quoi. They can go from old Hollywood glamour to modern minimalist in a heartbeat, or dash your engagement ring dreams with strange proportions and obvious inclusions. Obviously, we’d prefer you experience the former. So let’s talk everything emerald cuts — what to look for, what to avoid, and how to buy one without breaking the bank.

The Name of Things

First of all, the name “emerald cut” really does come from the emerald gemstone, as this shape was often (and is still) used frequently to accentuate the color of this deep green stone. Due to the emerald’s crystal structure, this cut design also lent itself to fewer breaks and chips during the manufacturing process. While the shape itself has been around for hundreds of years, it didn’t really become a popular diamond cutting shape until the early twentieth century when the emerald cut’s strong, clean lines and symmetry lent themselves perfectly to Art Deco jewelry designs.

There is nothing more timeless than an icy clean emerald cut.
frank darling custom emerald cut diamond three stone ring
While emerald cuts can pair well with any shape, we’re biased to the Art Nouveau look of step cuts paired with step cuts.

Throwing Shape

If only choosing a diamond shape were as simple as circles, squares, rectangles…if only. Since it’s not, let’s talk about what an emerald cut actually looks like and what it doesn’t. First of all, an emerald cut is rectangular. If you see something listed as a “square emerald cut” that’s, well, an Asscher. Now, this rectangle has a few unique properties. First off, cut corners. Call them clipped, cropped, what have you, but they’re not pointed. Which is actually great because pointed corners (like on a princess or marquise cut diamond) are super fragile. 

Now, there’s also the radiant cut diamond, which does have a similar outline to the emerald cut, however they have a totally different look. An radiant cut has a brilliant or mixed faceting pattern, giving it that flashy, sort of shattered glass look. The emerald’s concentric rows of elongated facets instead create a hall of mirrors effect that’s totally mesmerizing. This faceting pattern is known as a step cut, and it’s quite stunning. 

Sizing Up the Competition

Now, let’s talk a little about size. Because it does matter (to many of us, at least). Emerald cut diamonds have an elongated shape that makes them appear naturally larger than, say, a round cut diamond of comparable carat weight. But are they actually larger? Not really. Because they’re also cut quite deep, which means some of their carat weight is hidden in the pavilion instead of a larger visual spread from the top view. For instance, a 1 carat round is about 6.5mm in diameter, and a 1 carat emerald averages about 6.5mm length x 5mm width. In contrast, an oval is elongated (and cut shallower) and can look nearly 25% larger than a comparable weight round. An emerald cut just gives you a slightly elongated look without actually much measurable size. So really, their big look is somewhat an illusion.

Cut and Cry

When it comes to the big Cs, we’re always telling y’all to put cut first. Why? Because it has the most impact on the visual beauty and sparkle of your diamond. And it’s not wrong advice. But guess what — only round diamonds actually have cut grades. This is because it took a lot of work to land on those round cut grades and rounds are easy because they have a sort of agreed upon cut. Every other shape, though, has so much variation from one diamond cutter to the next that determining an industry-wide cut grading system is just like, light years away. So if you’re looking at a website and see cut grades listed for fancy shapes, those are the particular retailers parameters for what makes a well cut stone. Yes, there are sort of general parameters that you can use, but ultimately you have to do a little more work. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as spilled milk.

Frank darling emerald cut diamond half bezel platinum ring
Clarity and symmetry are so key to a knockout emerald cut/
frank darling custom flush set emerald cut diamond ring
Table measurements are particularly important if you plan to bezel or flush set your emerald!

Emerald Cut Pro Tips

This is where good ol’ measurements come in handy. When looking for your ideal emerald cut diamond, start with the table percentage (how much of the top view does that table facet take up) and the depth percentage (the diamond’s total height divided by its total width). The chart below has some dependable numbers you can reference, and you’ll see that the tighter the parameters, the better the cut. Also, check that the polish and symmetry of the stone are very good or excellent, as this is a measure of how well aligned and finished all those tiny mirror-like facets are. A little something off can be a major boo-boo when it comes to a diamond’s appearance.

Square Cut or Long Shape

As we said up top, emerald cut diamonds are rectangular, not square. And everyone has a different preference as to how chunky or elongated they find fit. This is measured as length to width ratio. If you’re aiming for middle of the road, you’re going to be somewhere in the 1.5 range, but emeralds can be longer, shorter, wider, taller…shapes of all sizes. Just not square. Remember, that’s an Asscher. You can really do no wrong here, though, as it’s totally personal preference. The more elongated the ratio, however, the higher the price per carat, so if you’re looking to maximize value, you’ll want to look for a chunkier stone. One additional consideration is how you’re planning to set your stone. Traditionally emerald cuts are set north to south, parallel to the finger. But today, we’re all about the east to west, horizontal setting. Keep this in mind when visualizing your stone choice.

Frank Darling custom emerald cut three stone rings
Length to width ratios are a major consideration for emeralds. Want chunky? Look in the 1.35-1.45 length to width. Elongated? Over 1.5 is what you’re looking for!
Frank Darling yellow gold emerald cut bezel
Clean and clear emerald cuts are key to the look, so don’t dip below VS2 unless you want to see an inclusion!

Hide and Seek

Emerald cuts are really the worst at this game, y’all. They just stand around looking pretty and giving away all their secrets. Really tho, emerald cuts are just terrible at hiding inclusions. Why? Because their giant open table (that big flat facet on top) and elongated facets are basically just windows. Windows to see inclusions through. What does this mean for you? Well, unless you want to find yourself constantly distracted by some bitty little crystal or feather, you’ll want to stick to a higher clarity grade. Really folks, spend your money here. While a VVS1 or VVS2 will all but guarantee an eye-clean stone (meaning you can’t see anything with your naked eye), you can probably go down to VS1…maaaaaybe VS2, to save cash. But anything lower and you’re probably going to see stuff in there.

Rainbow Bright

Besides showing off their clarity characteristics, emerald cut diamonds have a tendency to also show off their body color. Whereas brilliant cut diamonds can disguise some of their color with, well, brilliance, the emerald’s deep cut (remember how we said this cut was created to showcase a gemstone’s color…), major table, and wide open facets show it all off. If you’re looking for a super colorless emerald cut diamond, you might have to stick to the higher ranges. But if you don’t mind a little warmth, then we say go all out and shop some yummy champagne diamonds. Set them in yellow gold to accentuate their dreaminess.

Frank darling fancy yellow emerald cut diamond half bezel ring
Love color? Why not go fancy yellow with your emerald cut!
Custom emerald cut east west diamond engagement ring
Cut proportions and symmetry are critical to a quality emerald!

Window Into the Emerald Cut

One thing to beware of when shopping emerald cut diamonds is that they can have what are literally called “windows” and we’re not talking about just any old facets here. Windows, when it comes to gem cutting, are areas where light return totally drops out of the bottom of the diamond creating, well, a black hole for lack of a better analogy. No one wants a diamond with a black hole in it. The best way to judge this is, frankly, with your eyeballs. That means get photos and video (so you can see the diamond in motion).

The Real Real

While emerald cut diamonds will, in general, save you some money in comparison to comparable round diamonds, if you’re really looking for a good deal, consider a lab grown diamond or moissanite. Lab grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds — at about half the cost. And while moissanite is a totally different gemstone (and has a slightly different sparkle, with more rainbow fire), it’s even more affordable and most folks can’t tell the difference.

Custom Frank Darling emerald cut diamond rings
Whatever direction you decide to go with your emerald cut, you can count on the look being bold, daring, and timeless.

Ready to Rock

Check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds and compare diamond clarity grades, 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 hello@frankdarling.com. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.

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