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The Many Faces of Cushion Cut Diamonds

The only thing most cushion cut diamonds have in common is their name. Unbeknownst to most, cushion cuts come in a wide range of ratios and faceting patterns, which can dramatically alter their sparkle and personality.

Lucky for you, the cushion cut is an incredibly versatile shape. Cushions are one of the oldest diamond shapes still cut today. They’ve been used in jewelry since the 1800’s, and they’ve gone through lots of modifications along the way.  Whether you prefer an elongated, short, square or chunky shape — chances are there’s a cushion for you. If you’re shopping online, finding a specific type of cushion can be tricky. The only way to really know what you’re looking at is to look at the faceting pattern on the certificate or to see it in person. Have something specific in mind? There’s a good chance you’ll need some help finding it. Book an appointment with a Frank Darling concierge to learn how we can help.

WHAT ARE CUSHION CUT DIAMONDS?

Cushion cut diamonds combine the brilliance of a round diamond with the squared silhouette of the princess. They resemble, as their name suggests, cushions. Despite their consistent popularity, cushion cut diamonds are largely misunderstood. While cushion cut diamonds are generally less brilliant than rounds; with their stunning fire, romantic pillowy form, and more affordable price tag — there’s a lot to love about cushions cut diamonds.

If you’ve decided that a cushion is right for you, and you’re about to start your search, prepare to be confused. There’s little to no standardization in the vocabulary dedicated to this vintage cut. You’ll encounter descriptions like modified cushions, classic cushions, chunky cushions, broken glass, crushed ice, old miners, square cushions, and elongated cushions. Next, we’ll break down the traditional cuts and ratios, and some of their variations, so you can find the diamond of your dreams.

ANTIQUE CUSHION CUT DIAMONDS

Cushion cut diamonds have history — lots of history. First developed in the 1800s, this pillowy pile of sparkles was originally called an old mine cut, or a mine brilliant. The mine cut was a square diamond with round corners.

An old miner diamonds — the predecessor to the cushion cut diamond
Fancy Y Brown Old Miner from Perpetuum Jewels

The old mine cut has 33 crown facets and 25 pavilion facets for a total of 58 facets. These chunky, rounded cuts tend to be a bit warmer in color and give off charming flashes of light. While old mine cuts aren’t as optimized as their modern counterparts, they’re very rare, and have a unique personality all their own. There’s a lot to love about the older faceting of these vintage stones.

If you’re shopping for an antique cushion, don’t be surprised to find terms like “good” and “fair” all over the grading report.  Symmetry and polish have improved dramatically with technology. Diamond cutters of old didn’t have the tools to optimize brilliance to the degree that modern diamond cutters do. Antique cushions often have misshapen facets, steep crown angles, too-shallow profiles, poor symmetry, and too-large culets. While all of these things can impact the optical performance and sparkle, the charm and beauty of these antique cuts is unique and appealing.

With time, the old mine cut evolved into the modern cushion cut. With 64 precisely cut facets, the modern cushion is significantly more brilliant than its predecessor, and looks like a hybrid of the old mine cut and the round brilliant.

Today, there are two common types of modern cushions that you’ll encounter; a cushion brilliant, and a modified cushion. You’ll also encounter a lot of confusion about the differences between them.

WHAT IS A CUSHION BRILLIANT DIAMOND?

Cushion brilliants are very similar to round brilliants. If you flip a cushion brilliant over on its crown, the similarities become apparent. Like the round, the main pavilion facets extend from the center of the diamond to the outer edge (the girdle) and form a star. These larger facets form an x shape when viewed from above. Cushion brilliants are less common than modified cushions and are also more expensive.

There are a few different faceting patterns you’ll see with cushion brilliants including 4, 6, 8, or 10 mains. The most common is the “four main” — the number of “mains” corresponds to the number of large facets that intersect at the culet. Cushion brilliants with eight mains are very desirable. They’re also very difficult to find.

Cushion brilliant faceting patterns depicting four, six, eight and ten main pavilion facets.

WHAT ARE MODIFIED CUSHION CUT DIAMONDS?

Modified cushion brilliants are a variation on the cushion brilliant that appeals to diamond cutters because the shape uses the rough diamond more efficiently, resulting in a heaver (read more expensive) cut diamond. Looking at the faceting pattern, you’ll notice an extra row of facets that break up the classic triangular pattern and form a flower shape. There are an endless number of modified cushion brilliants on the market, all of which have a slightly different look. Modified cushions are much more common than cushion brilliants. They’re also generally less expensive.

Cushion modified faceting patterns depicting a brilliant and crushed ice look.

THE CRUSHED ICE VS. CHUNKY LOOK

Instead of getting bogged down in the arrangement of facets, it’s easier to focus on the look you want your diamond to have. If you’re shopping online, you’ll want to see an up-close video of any cushion you’re considering. If one isn’t available, just ask. Cushions tend to have one of two different personality types, sparkly crushed ice appearance, or a chunkier look. Let’s tale a look at the difference.

Crushed Ice Cushions

Certain cushions have what we call a “crushed ice look.” Staring at a “crushed ice” cushion cut is like looking into a pool of sparkling water in the bright sun. The flashes of light are chaotic, disorderly, and you can’t stop staring. Similar to ovals and pears, they don’t have an identifiable faceting pattern.

“Crushed ice” cushions may not have the scintillation or contrast of a chunkier more clearly define cushion, but they are undoubtedly mesmerizing in their own right. While there’s much debate about whether the crushed is look is good or bad, cheap or expensive, the reality is that it’s just a personal preference.

Tips for shopping for a crushed ice cushion

Similar to on oval, these cushions hold their color more than chunkier cushions, and you’ll want to opt for an H color grade or better if you can. When it comes to clarity, the tiny broken up facets are endlessly forgiving and perfect for masking inclusions. SI1 is a good place to start your search, SI2 can be worth a look as well. Both cushion brilliants and modified cushions can display a crushed ice look. If you’re curious about the faceting pattern, you can look at the certification. To learn more ask an expert. Book a consultation with a Frank Darling concierge to guide you through specifics.

CHUNKY CUSHIONS

Certain cushion cut diamonds have what we call a “chunky” look. These diamonds are more similar to a round brilliant. If you look closely, you’ll notice a clearly defined faceting pattern and sharp, contrasting areas of light and dark. These cushions are generally more brilliant and more desirable than their crushed ice counterparts, but considerably harder to find.

Tips for shopping for a chunky cushion

Chunky cushions mask inclusions and color well. You can comfortably search in the I-J SI range without worrying about the diamond being overly yellow or included.

ELONGATED VS. SQUARE CUSHIONS

While cushion cut diamonds get their name from their pillowy form, they come in a variety of ratios. More recently, elongated cushions have become popular as an alternative to the slender look of the oval diamond. Elongated cushions typically have a 1.1 or 1.2 ratio and, like ovals, have the added benefit of lengthening the finger.

A diagram of cushion cut diamond ratios depicting a square, rectangular and elongated cushion.

Thinking about buying a cushion cut diamond? Make sure to read our definitive guide to the cushion cut where we go over color and clarity in much greater detail.