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Five Reasons Not to Buy a Cushion Cut Diamond

One of today’s most popular diamond engagement ring shapes—get tips and tricks on how to buy a cushion cut diamond that doesn’t disappoint.

By Stephanie Dore

Buying a cushion-cut diamond is a bit like buying a mattress. Hear me out. Sure, you could buy a mattress online, and it shows up at your door, sleep savior it was meant to be. Right? Wrong. Because really, there’s no standard. What’s too soft for one person is too hard for another. And guess what—it’s pretty much the same with cushion cuts, despite their growing popularity over the last decade.

Cushion cut diamonds don’t even have an official cut grade they’re so unique. No two are alike—and I know what you’re thinking here. Aren’t no two diamonds alike? Sure, but cushion cut diamonds are a whole different story. Despite having some of the best fire (those colored flashes of light some diamonds are rocking) in the game, from length-to-width ratios to faceting patterns to corner shapes, there’s so much variety in how cushion diamonds are cut that there’s no meaningful way to know without seeing it if it’s the one for you. Or really if it’s even that pretty.

It’s for this reason that we wholeheartedly recommend choosing a less complex shape. And if our recommendation isn’t enough, here are five reasons we think might change your mind.

The Shape Up

First, the basics. Evolved from old mine cuts, today’s modern cushions come in endless variations on this slightly squared shape with rounded corners. Some are more “pillowy”, while some have straighter sides. Some have wide, deliciously rounded corners, while some have a tighter, sharper turn around the bend, and then there’s one kind you definitely don’t want to buy. This endless variation can create an entirely different look from one stone to the next, making it literally impossible to know what it looks like without seeing it with your own two eyes. And even harder to perfectly fit the halo engagement ring styles that are uber popular today.

A cushion cut diamond with more square corners
A Modified Cushion with Square Corners

A brilliant cushion cut with round corners
A More Brilliant Cushion w/ Round Corners
Can you tell which kind of cushion custom engagement ring is set with?

Pattern Play

On top of all these shape differences, cushion cut diamonds have a facet issue. See, a diamond’s surface is made up of a lot of tiny little planes—known as facets—that each has the potential to change the pattern of light return of a diamond. Now, certain diamond shapes, especially the round brilliant cut, have standardized faceting patterns that are pretty dependable. But not cushions, despite having been around even longer than the modern round brilliant cut!

Cushions fall into two main categories, cushion brilliant and cushion modified brilliant—and you should always look for this on the certificate, as the visual difference can be surprisingly dramatic. The cushion brilliant has a pattern quite similar to the standard round brilliant cut, with pavilion facets that extend from the point at the bottom (the culet) all the way to the outer girdle edge. Cushion modified brilliants are a variation on this with an added row of facets between the pavilion facets and the girdle. This modified cut can give cushions what’s referred to in the biz as a “crushed ice” look, which is very sparkly, more similar to a radiant cut than a round brilliant. These tend to run less expensive than the standard cushion brilliant. 

Cushion Modified Brilliant vs. Radiant

Cushion Brilliant Diamond

A Radiant Cut Diamond

Cushion Brilliant vs. Round Brilliant

A Round Brilliant
A (Mostly) Cushion Brilliant

As if That Weren’t Enough to Confuse You…

Let’s talk about ratios. Yep. That math class might finally come in handy. In this case, we’re talking length-to-width. And basically this is the difference between a square and a rectangle. Squarish cushions cut diamonds are pretty common, though it’s more rare to find a perfect 1:1 ratio. Elongated cushions can be absolutely stunning, but also nearly impossible to find. It’s definitely something to check for when shopping around, and videos or photos are essential to confirming what ratio suits you best.

An elongated cushion modified brilliant
An Elongated Cushion Cut
A square cushion modified brilliant
A Square Cushion Cut
An antique cushion cut diamond
Note the Large Culet in the Center of This Elongated Antique Cushion

Dusting off Grandma’s Jewels

We get it, cushion cuts are kind of romantic. And they’ve been around for hundreds of years, so the prospect of finding an antique one seems pretty good. But just like your perfect partner, a good antique cushion cut can be hard to find. See, older cushion cuts don’t subscribe to modern ideals. You’ll often find them in lower color grades (and honestly, cushions are a major offender when it comes to retaining color and we don’t recommend anything below a G or H), and with a lot less symmetrical faceting, which means the light return might be meh. Also, they could even look like they have a giant black hole smack dab in the middle. Which is really just a large culet, something antique cushions are kind of known for. And no one wants that.

Internet Fails

Knowing all of the above, our last reason for not insisting on a cushion cut diamond is that sometimes modern conveniences just fail us. Despite the cushion’s endless variables and modifications, you’ll find them bucketed online as, simply, “cushion.” Not helpful. That means you get the pleasure of digging through each and every grading report yourself, checking for cut specifications and ratios and real-time images to make sure there are no surprises except the proposal itself. 

All in all, it’s easy to fall for a combination of factors that just doesn’t exist, and you could spend an eternity shuffling through every website in town. We’d rather you spent an eternity just being in love!

A 4 Carat Elongated Cushion Cut Diamond

How to Buy a Cushion Cut Diamond, if You Still Must

We think cushions are best purchased by working with an expert who can help you find one that’s exactly what you’re looking for. But if you’re going to give it a shot going alone, you can start by throwing the four Cs out the window. Though try not to break anything.

Then, figure out what you like. Modern or antique (and by the way, lab grown diamonds can be custom cut like an antique cushion). What shape? Elongated, square, something in between? Take a look at a few modified versus brilliant cuts. What’s your sparkle type? Do you dig that crushed ice look? Or prefer a more defined, chunky pattern? Then think about cut, color, and clarity—in that order. Finally check out our definitive guide to purchasing this tricky shape.

And remember, every cushion is a bit different when it comes to clarity. Those with a crushed ice look might hide lower clarity better, while those with large, open facets will show off their stuff. As for cut, because there are so many variations, try looking for a depth percentage under 70%, and a table under 70% for best results.

And lastly, if you find a cushion cut diamond you like, grab it. Because you’ll never find one just like it again!

Ready to Find Your Cushion Cut Diamond?

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