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Whatever You Do, Don’t Buy This Diamond Shape

The foolproof way to discovering your perfect diamond shape without leaving the house.

Each diamond shape has its own merits. Emerald cut diamonds are elegant. Asscher cut diamonds are sophisticated. Oval diamonds are modern and classy. But, round brilliants are perfectly engineered, and mathematically guaranteed to out-sparkle their fancy-shaped competitors.

For this reason, and this reason alone, the round brilliant cut has dominated the engagement ring market for as long as there’s been an engagement ring market. But, as times change, so do tastes, and more recently, trends have been shifting away from the round brilliant in favor of other cuts, each with their own personality. If you’re considering a solitaire, the biggest question you’ll want to answer is, which diamond shape is right for you?

Sadly, most local jewelry stores don’t have much in the way of fancy cut diamonds. The popularity of fancy cuts is still a fraction of rounds, and they need to focus their inventory on what sells.

The diamond district has limitless options in a range of shapes and sizes, but you may find yourself vexed by high-pressure sales tactics designed to confuse even the most researched diamond buyer.

Let us not forget the luxury jeweler. The home of hundred thousand dollar baubles. With security guards and glass vitrines, you may see fancy shape diamonds, but, they will most certainly remain out of reach. The luxury jeweler is for admiring novelties, not trying them on. It is most likely not the right place to decide which shape is for you.

THE CASE FOR THE ROUND DIAMOND

The round brilliant shape has been engineered to perfection. Its artistry is not the result of inspired vision, but, mechanical precision. Six centuries of experimentation, research, and precision have gone into perfecting this diamond’s design. Today, the round brilliant has been researched so thoroughly that it’s the only diamond shape the GIA will assign a cut grade.

Over time, round brilliants have changed in shape as tools have improved. Their tables have become larger and their culets smaller. The modern round brilliant is a more characteristic cone shape rather than the plump shape of the round brilliants predecessor, the old European cut, which displays a blockier play of light and dark.

Round brilliants are the little black dress of engagement rings. They go with everything. They can be dressed up or dressed down, and look great in smaller and larger carat weights. They’re perfect on their own or paired with others. There’s a reason that they account for more than 75% of diamond sales while being 25% + more expensive than other shapes.

A round brilliant diamond shape set in an 18K yellow gold band — Parker No. 7 by Frank Darling

Is a round diamond right for you?

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love the round brilliant. Perhaps a better question is, “am I willing to pay more for several centuries of engineering?” You might ask yourself, “would I be happier with a larger, fancy cut diamond that is arguably more unique?” Only you, darling, can decide.

What to watch out for when purchasing a round diamond.

Round diamonds do come with one notable advantage — they are experts at masking their color and clarity. You’ll pay more on a per carat basis, but you’ll usually be able to purchase a lower clarity and color grade without concern. We recommend value-oriented shoppers start their search in the SI clarity and H-I color range. More discerning buyers can focus in the VS / G-H ranges. If you’re choosing a setting with multiple stones you’ll want to be sure to color match the center and side stones. D side stones paired with an H center stone will be noticeably whiter. If you want a complete checklist for finding the perfect round brilliant, make sure to read our definitive guide before taking the plunge.

Round brilliant solitaire in platinum from Frank Darling
Harper No. 1
Harper No. 6 round halo pavé in platinum
Harper No. 6
Round bezel solitaire in platinum - Parker No. 7 by Frank Darling
Parker No. 7

THE CASE FOR AN OVAL DIAMOND

Oval diamonds excel at two things — looking larger than their size and being extra sparkly. A well cut oval diamond will look more than 8% larger than a round diamond of the same carat. Ovals also seem visually larger than rounds because of their elongated shape.  

While an oval’s shallow profile is an advantage when it comes to their visual impact, it can cause an issue with their sparkle. The pavillion of an oval (it’s pointy faceted lower half) has steeper facets near it’s midsection than at it’s narrow ends. This changing inclination of the facets makes it very difficult to optimize light return, and results in light leakage. Light leakage is what it sounds like, less sparkle. 

Is an oval diamond right for you?

Ovals are a dramatic, sophisticated and elegant cut. They’ve grown increasingly popular in recent years, with a parade of celebrities opting to adorn their ring fingers in this slender shape. They’re an ideal choice if you are looking for a diamond shape that’s both classic and unique.

Ovals ebb and swell in popularity, but, they are unlikely to go out of style. They’re an excellent choice for long, slender fingers (and for those of us who wish we had them). They wear well dressed down in a simple prong or bezel solitaire or dressed up on a pave band or accented by a halo.  

What to watch out for when purchasing an oval diamond

The number one hallmark of poor quality when purchasing an oval diamond is its hallmark bowtie. You’ll want to see a video of your oval before purchasing to ensure it is bowtie free. Check out our guide to the oval diamond bowtie to learn more.

Oval diamonds, like all fancy shapes, show their color more than rounds. But, if you’re looking to optimize for value, as most of us are, you’ll be relieved to learn that oval diamonds mask their imperfections very well. So you’ll want to go lower in clarity, comfortably down to an eye-clean SI1, and spend more on color, especially if you’re choosing a heavier carat weight. Larger carat weights show their color more prominently. Think about it like a lake. They’re clear when shallow, and murkier when deep, even though the water is the same clarity throughout.

Oval solitaire with pave in white gold showing an oval diamond shape
Harper No. 4 Pavé
Oval halo in platinum showcasing an oval diamond shape
Harper No. 3 Pavé

THE CASE FOR AN EMERALD DIAMOND

The emerald cut diamond is refined, classic, and sophisticated. It has a bold and orderly pattern of facets that says I have important places to be (but don’t I look stunning). Larger carat weights can pack a serious punch. Unlike the round brilliant and the oval, emerald diamonds are what’s known as a step cut. Instead of having smaller triangular-shaped facets, emeralds have elongated parallel facets that flash in direct sun. Diamond cutters cut less than 3.5% of rough diamonds into emeralds. Their scarcity makes them unique. This shape is reserved for the most discerning of diamond buyers, willing to trade sparkle for elegance.

Is an emerald diamond right for you?

While emeralds have grown in popularity, they lag behind most of their sparklier cousins. Many find the engineered perfection of a round brilliant too sparkly to pass up. If considering the emerald, we recommend seeing this shape in person alongside our other solitaires to understand the look and light return better. Choosing an emerald says you’re bold, confident, and appreciate the timeless modernity of this geometric cut.  

Harper No. 2 — a prong set solitaire in 18K yellow gold showing an emerald diamond sahpe.

What to watch out for when purchasing an emerald diamond.

An emerald’s clear and large flat table make your choice of clarity and color extremely important. While emeralds are cheaper by carat weight than round brilliants, you’ll want to put at least some of those savings towards clarity and color.

vIf the emerald is being set in white gold or platinum, Value-oriented shoppers will want to search in the VS / G-H range. For yellow and rose gold settings, color is less important. H – I is a better choice. The color of the metal will be reflected throughout the diamond, so, going higher in color gets diminishing returns. More discerning buyers should consider going as high as a VV to ensure a flawless eye-clean finish. The type and color of inclusions are just as important as the stones clarity grade, and we recommend working with a gemologist to search for your perfect stone.

Emerald solitaire with pave in platinum. Harper No. 2 by Frank Darling.
Harper No. 2 Pavé
An emerald diamond shape in a yellow gold bezel setting
Parker No. 5
An east west emerald diamond shape in a yellow gold bezel setting
Parker No. 6

THE CASE FOR AN ASSCHER DIAMOND

Asscher’s are having a moment. They’re bold, they’re elegant, and a welcome alternative to the other square option. The princess cut ruled the 90’s and early 2000’s, but has fallen out of favor in recent years. Asschers are known for their mesmerizing hall of mirrors effect and trademark windmill facet pattern. The Asscher is sure to mesmerize whoever is lucky enough to see one.

Is an Asscher diamond right for you?

We’ve already told you the five reasons you shouldn’t buy an Asscher. Asscher’s are fickle, and a good one is hard to find. They’re also expensive — not because of their price per carat — because of their design.

Asscher’s are more affordable than round brilliants on a price per carat basis. But, their step-cut design means you’ll want a higher color and clarity grade to match the look of a round or oval. Even emeralds benefit from a narrower form, and can be more forgiving on color. If you’re not easily intimidated, and you’re looking for an engagement ring that is modern and undeniably unique, an Asscher diamond could be right for you.

Parker No. 1 — a bezel set solitaire in 18K yellow gold showing an Asscher diamond shape.

What to watch out for when purchasing an Asscher diamond.

Color and clarity are where things can go wrong with Asschers. Most of the rules of emerald cuts apply. One feature that’s unique to the Asscher is the point where it’s pavilion facets converge. You’ll want to pay specific attention to diamond symmetry as the four points of the windmill should kiss in the middle. Poorly cut are Asscher’s are easy to spot by their lack of detail.

An Asscher diamond shape in an 18K yellow gold bezel.
Parker No. 1
An Asscher solitaire set in 18K yellow gold.
Parker No. 3
An Asscher diamond shape set in a 18K yellow gold pavé solitaire
Parker No. 3 Pavé

WHICH DIAMOND SHAPE YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY AVOID

The only diamond shape you should always avoid is the one you haven’t seen in person. Each shape has it’s own personality, and it’s best to see them each in person before making a decision. Selecting a diamond shape can come down to your taste, style, budget, and even your level of patience.

The most important thing to do before selecting a diamond shape is to make sure to try them on. Diamonds look different online than on your finger, and our free try at home service is a great way to see how each shape looks on you, without leaving the comfort of home. Just take the quiz to get started and build your perfect box.