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19.02.22

Ultimate Guide to the Princess Cut Diamond

By Stephanie Dore

Despite it’s royal nomenclature, the princess cut diamond is actually rather approachable. In fact, it’s the second most popular diamond shape (rounds are first, obviously), so the masses seem quite smitten. While some might say the shape’s heyday has come and gone, don’t go writing this early-aughts fave off as a fashion faux pas, darlings. The princess cut diamond is here to stay and if you’re into them, we’re here to help you get the most stunning one for your money. Whether that’s big and bold or something a bit more subtle. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a princess cut diamond.

Princess Cut Diamond Basics

A relative newcomer to the diamond scene, having been conceived in the 1960s and perfected in 1980, the princess cut diamond is basically the square version of a round brilliant cut. It’s got sharp, pointed corners and brilliant facets that radiate outwards from a center point. But it won’t say “princess cut” on a diamond grading certificate, instead look for “square (or rectangular) modified brilliant”. And yes, they can be rectangular, though rectangles are definitely less popular. Princess cuts also happen to make the most out of a raw diamond’s natural octahedral form, thus there is less rough diamond waste, thus saving you a pretty penny.

Symmetry is a hallmark of the princess cut.
Opting for a custom bezel? Look for a lower depth percentage and higher table percentage!

The Pro(portion) Tips

Now, unlike round diamonds, the princess cut (along with every other fancy shape) doesn’t have an industry-wide cut grade. But there are some parameters that can still help you narrow down your search so you find brilliance instead of a big dull rock. A depth percentage between 68%-75%, along with a table percentage in the same 68%-75% range will give you a nicely balanced and brilliant diamond. And like other shapes, look for excellent polish and symmetry for a well finished stone with even light distribution. For a square stone, 1.00 to 1.05 length-to-width ratio is key. Any higher and you’ll have a rectangle. Which is fine if that’s your thing.

Sizing Matters

Now, here’s the one big bummer about princess cuts — they look small for their carat weight. Unlike some other fancy shapes like ovals or soft, elongated cushions, a princess cut doesn’t really have any visual “spread”. Where a 1 carat round diamond measures approximately 6.4mm diameter, a 1 carat princess will measure only about 5.5mm across the top. However, they do have a ton of sparkle, which can make up for some of that smaller size in visual impact.

Stacking a princess cut clutch is a symmetrical dream.
Yellow gold will always add warmth to your diamond, so you may want to flex your color if you are opting for all yellow!

Princess Cut Diamond Color

If you’re looking for something super icy with a natural sharpness, a high color grade princess cut is definitely a good choice. It’s all sparkle and angles and edge. But as you go down in color grades, know that princess cuts do tend to show more color in their shallower corners. It’s a bit like a vignette photo effect, where the stone might look bright and colorless in the center but appear darker in the points. Now, some of this can be disguised by prongs, but if you’re particular about color, just good to know going in. On the other hand, you can also play this up with a warmer colored diamond and save serious cash. 

Clarity For Days

Princess cuts are actually pretty fantastic at hiding clarity characteristics, just like round diamonds. Because, unlike other square shapes like Asschers, princess cuts have brilliant facets that help hide tiny imperfections. These facet patterns are so bright and flashy that they distract the eye rather than acting like big windows to the center of your stone. So take advantage of this and look to lower clarity grades that are still eye-clean (meaning you can’t see any inclusions with your naked eye) to make the most of your budget. If you’re researching stones online, make sure you zoom out of those photos and video, too, since most of them are magnified significantly larger than their real life size!

It is so important to protect every point on your princess cut!
The sharp corners and brilliant faceting are the hallmarks of the princess cut shape.

The Best Setting for a Princess Cut Diamond

One of the most important things about purchasing a princess cut diamond is choosing a secure, protective setting. Why? Well, those sharp points are precious. And seriously prone to damage and chips. If you’re choosing a classic prong setting for your princess cut diamond, it should have wide, v-shaped prongs that protect both edges of each corner so that the stone won’t shift or risk a point being exposed. We also love, love, love (emphasis on love) a bezel set princess cut engagement ring. While this requires a bit more care in craftsmanship, because it needs to be perfectly customized to your individual stone, it’s definitely worth the effort for the modern, minimal, and most importantly: protected style.

Ready to Pop The Question?

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. 

If you find one you like, make sure to scoop it up, because in all likelihood, you won’t find one similar again. Not finding what you want? 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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