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Emerald Cut Diamonds — Beyond the Four C’s

By Lead Gemologist Erica Hirsch, GIA GG

Emerald cut diamonds are modern, bold, and fussy. This definitive guide to emerald diamonds goes beyond the Four C’s to help you shop this glassy cut.

Classic elegance in a traditional setting or trendy chic set east west across the finger, the emerald shape has stayed quite popular and will endure.  Referred to as a Fancy Cut, emerald cut diamonds tend to be less expensive than their round counterparts. Side by side with identical carat weights, an emerald shape will appear larger than round.  Rounds, ovals, pears and other non-step cut diamonds do a better job of; camouflaging inclusions, disguising their color, and even look great with lower cut grades than emeralds.

We won’t mention any famous people who have an emerald cut diamond engagement ring, it wouldn’t be fair.  The reality is, few can afford one large enough to really make that kind of statement, whatever that is.

How do you find the emerald 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.


Color in Emerald Cut Diamonds

Emerald cut diamonds, like most fancy shapes, show their color. Compare an emerald shape to a round, both H color, the round will appear more colorless.

H Color Emerald vs. H Color Round

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.

A photograph comparing a J color round diamond set in a white gold setting to a J color round diamond set in a yellow gold setting. As expected, the diamond set in yellow appears more white.
The same J colored diamond set in yellow gold appears whiter.


The lack of inclusions

Emerald cut diamonds are terrible at hiding inclusions.  Inclusions can stand out like a drip of coffee on a white t-shirt. Therefore, we recommend a VS clarity or better. 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 emerald cut diamonds, 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 emerald cut diamond, but it’s what we love doing, and we are here to help.


How well the diamond reflects light

Emerald cut diamonds don’t sparkle… but rather flash! Almost like a wink. Think of the flash seen when taking a picture. We suggest you select your emerald cut diamond with a grade of Very Good or better in both Symmetry and Polish. This is not an area we recommend you try to economize. Our gemologist is happy to assist because on rare occasions you can find a winner with Good grades.

Quick Tip – The GIA and most other 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.

If you get frustrated, there is an alternative. A Radiant Cut (shape) has the outline of an emerald shape, within the lower ratios offered, with a faceted underbelly. This translate to more freedom with inclusions, symmetry and polish grades. All other rules apply.


How big the diamond appears

No one should pay for carat weight they cannot see. Understanding the relationship between carat and cut is essential. Girdle and total depth (pavilion) areas are prone to unnecessary bulk. 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.

There are several ratio and facet options available for emerald shapes. It comes down to personal preference and the ultimate look you are aiming for.

Ratios of various emerald cut diamonds from squat to more slender.


How the diamond reflects light

Typically, the condition of the original rough diamond will determine the number of facets cut.  Your favorite may or not be available, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. To understand the faceting pattern, you’ll have to look at the diamond certificate.

Faceting patterns for emerald cut diamonds depicting smaller and larger flashes of light.


A diagram of a round diamonds 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.

A diagram of a round diamonds table.


Accept: 61 – 69

Avoid: < 61 or > 69

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

A diagram of a round diamonds depth.

Total Depth

Accept: 59 – 63, 65 Max

Avoid: < 59 or > 65

Why: The less “junk in the trunk” the more weight where it can be seen!