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Guide to Sparkle: The Diamond Cut Scale

Curious about diamond cut? Learn everything you need to know before purchasing an engagement ring to make sure you pick the perfect stone.

Diamond cut is one of the most important factors of a stone’s grade and will dramatically influence its price and quality. Preference of diamond cut grade will vary from person to person. While some may want a stone that’s as sparkly and fancy as possible, others may want a more modest and less glitzy style. It’s important to understand every aspect of a diamond’s cut before deciding if it’s right for you, as well as all of the factors that contribute to a stone’s overall quality. Learn these simple facts before beginning your search for engagement rings.

The 4Cs of Diamond Grading

Lab diamonds, mined diamonds and the Nexus Diamond™ alternative are all graded on quality using the same scale: the 4Cs of Diamond Quality. This universal method was created by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) in the early 1940s, by founder Robert M. Shipley. He created this grading scale to provide training and knowledge to jewelers. Before this universal system was adopted, there was tremendous inconsistency between the technical terms merchants would use to describe colorless diamond characteristics. The 4Cs include: color, clarity, carat weight and cut.

Text that outlines the 4Cs: Color, Clarity, Carat Weight and Cut.


The D-to-Z diamond color scale is used to describe how much hue can be seen in a stone. It actually measures the lack of color, since diamonds are more valuable the clearer and less yellow they are. The color grade scale ranges from (D) colorless, to (Z) light, which appears as a prominent yellow color. A chemically pure stone will have absolutely no hue, which is rare to find in the earth or create in a lab. Many of the color variations are so subtle that they appear invisible to the untrained eye. This is why many people opt for slight color, such as (G) or (H), because it is much less expensive and looks almost colorless.

A graphic showing how stones get more yellow the lower the grade is.


This refers to the amount and placement of inclusions or blemishes that are seen in a stone.

There are six categories in the diamond clarity scale:

  • Flawless
  • Internally Flawless (IF)
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)
  • Included (I1, I2 and I3)
A graphic showing more inclusions the lower the grade is. Many inclusions and blemishes cannot be seen by the average consumer. To the naked eye, a VS1 and a SI2 could look exactly the same. Some inclusions can be hidden by prongs or other metalwork, resulting in a nearly perfect stone for much less money. Inclusions are caused when small crystals become trapped during a diamond’s formation. This is why they are seen in both mined and lab, because they are produced under the same conditions of heat and pressure.


Diamonds are measured by their apparent size. A metric “carat” is defined as 200 milligrams, and all stones are measured on the diamond carat chart. Price increases with carat weight because larger stones are more rare and desirable. Size is not the only determiner of value, as each of the 4Cs play an important part in determining price.

Oval cut Nexus Diamond alternatives positioned on a hand to show various carat weights.


A diamond’s cut is arguably the most important of all the 4Cs and shouldn’t be confused with the shape of a stone. Cut refers to how well a diamond’s facets interact with light, resulting in their level of sparkle. A stone’s facets will be measured to examine brightness (internal and external white light reflection), fire (the scattering of white light into the colors of the rainbow) and scintillation (the amount of sparkle a diamond produces). So what is the best diamond cut?

The Cut Scale is measured by six categories:


The ideal cut diamond has an incredible level of craftsmanship. They emit the most brilliance and light dispersion possible. This type of cut will cause the price of a stone to increase dramatically.


Stones with this cut have an excellent level of craftsmanship. They emit a great amount of brilliance and light dispersion. This type of cut will also cause a stone to be high in price.

Very Good

Stones with this cut have a very good level of craftsmanship, and disperse a good amount of brilliance and light. This is the most commonly sought after cut due to its low price point and high quality.


A good cut diamond has a good level of craftsmanship. They disperse a good amount of brilliance and light. This is also a fairly sought after cut due its low price and good quality.


Stones with this cut have an average level of craftsmanship. They only disperse a fair amount of brilliance and light, which make them a much less expensive choice.


Stones with this cut have a poor level of craftsmanship. They disperse light and brilliance at the lowest possible rate, and are by far the cheapest cut option.

A graphic showing the depths of a diamond's cut.

A Closer Look at Cut

Although a diamond’s cut does not refer to its shape, the shape of the stone does have an impact on how well light is reflected and refracted. This is due to how many, and the position, of a stone’s facets. It is well known that the classic shape, Round Brilliant, has the ideal facet pattern for the most light return.

Round Brilliant cut is the most classic stone shape and is made up of 58 facets. Round engagement rings are by far the most popular of all the shapes as they’re the diamond cut that sparkles the most. Facets are the many flat surfaces you see that make up a stone’s geometric pattern. This shape follows the natural crystal shape of a rough diamond. The particular pattern of a Brilliant cut diamond was first developed by Marcel Tolkowsky, who came from a family of diamond cutters. This cut was precisely calculated to have maximum brilliance and dispersion of light.

A graphic showing how a diamond's cut can affect its overall appearance. Although Round Brilliant returns the ideal amount of light, other shapes disperse light in a more unique way. Step-cut shapes, like Emerald and Asscher, show long flashes of sparkle that resemble a staircase pattern. Other shapes, like Oval and Trillion, don’t have the extensive amount of brilliance that a round does but feature a much more modern silhouette.

The Difference Between Cut and Shape

Cut is often confused with shape, although there is a big difference between them. Before you begin your diamond engagement ring search, learn the important facts to differentiate the two.

The type of cut a stone has refers to how well it returns light. The amount of light return has to do with the geometric facet pattern of a particular stone. The closer it is to an Ideal standard, the more sparkle it will emit. Stones are often more valuable and desirable the more light they return.

Diamond shape refers to the general silhouette of a stone when viewed face up. These are the common terms you hear such as Round Brilliant and Princess. Shapes are created to suit a variety of needs and continue to become more modern and unique. There are dozens of different styles, but only around 11 that are the most well-known.

Graphics of 11 of the most popular stone cuts: Round, Oval, Princess, Emerald, Pear, Cushion, Heart, Marquise, Asscher, Trillion and Radiant.
  • Round Brilliant

    This is by far the most popular diamond shape because it returns the most amount of light due to its Ideal facet pattern. The Round Brilliant diamond resembles a simple circle, which makes it extremely versatile.


    Although similar to the shape of Round Brilliant, the Oval cut diamond is much more modern. The Oval cut diamond returns a great deal of light, almost to the extent of a Brilliant cut.


  • As the second most popular shape, the Princess cut diamond also returns light in a similar fashion to a Brilliant. Due to their square shape, their versatility is endless.


    The Emerald cut is referred to as a step cut because it features long, open facets that resemble steps. This shape is similar to a rectangle, and is featured in vintage designs.


  • The pear shaped diamond is a modern style that is often seen in halo settings. It is known to have a slenderizing effect on fingers due to its tapered end.
  • Cushion

    The Cushion cut diamond shape is a modern interpretation of Princess. It features a similar square silhouette, but has rounded corners which give it a pillow-like appearance.


    The unique shape of Heart is feminine and romantic. It is commonly seen in studs and engagement rings in a solitaire setting.


    Similar to the Pear shaped diamond, the Marquise shape also has a slenderizing effect on the fingers, only more so due to tapered edges on both sides.


    Also known as a step-cut, the Asscher cut features longer facets which give it a staircase appearance. It flashes long lines of sparkle, instead of the typical all-over sparkle.


    Although it looks similar to the shape of a triangle, the Trillion shape features rounded edges that give it a smooth finish, popular in modern designs.


    The radiant cut diamond closely resembles the shape of an Emerald, but has a brilliant facet-pattern applied to the pavilion and crown which makes it shine with much more brilliance.

Finding the Perfect Stone

To find the perfect stone, take into account all 4Cs and shape. When looking around, you’ll want to know each of the categories to make an educated buying decision. Buying online sometimes makes it easier to know this information, as it’s usually listed next to, or close to, the stone itself. Purchasing in-store from a jeweler may be harder as you’ll have to memorize the features of each stone you look at.

A tip to finding the perfect engagement ring is to first extensively research the company you’re thinking of buying it from. Aspects like what center stone you want and the price point you’re looking for, are good decisions to think about before you begin your search. If you have a stance on which stone you’re looking to buy, such as lab grown diamonds or mined, you’ll want to first find companies that offer those stones. Once you narrow that down, you can go on to your next decision, such as the maximum price you’re looking to spend. You can cross companies off your list that don’t fit your budget, and with each initial decision you’ll begin to narrow your search before you even dive in. Ask yourself a few questions before heading into the purchasing decision.


There are multiple stone options in the market today, which consist of mined diamonds, lab grown diamonds and diamond alternatives. Stone types may come from different origins and differ in composition, which is why it can be helpful to do some research. By finding the answer to the question, how are diamonds made, you will learn how distinctions in composition can have a large impact on quality, appearance and price. This can help you decide which option is right for you.


Start by creating a range. The average one carat mined solitaire engagement ring is around $6,500*, but the same ring set with a lab grown diamond could cost between 20-30% less. It may be helpful to push the high end of your budget, as you don’t want to rule out the perfect diamond ring just because of a minor price difference. Plus, most companies today offer different payment and financing options to help accommodate your budget.


This is an especially important one because every company differs. If you know you would like a grace period after buying to ensure you made the right decision, research the return period of the company or jeweler you’re thinking of purchasing from. 30-days is the average period for online retailers, which will allow you the option to see it in person before deciding if it’s the right one or not.


Although this may be insignificant to some, the diamond business can be a brutal one, which is why this is such an important question. If you choose to buy mined, research the ethical and environmental factors your buying decision will contribute to. The same goes for lab grown diamonds. Not all companies have the same ethical standards, and you should be confident in your decision since your diamond jewelry purchase will be cherished for a lifetime.

*Diamond Nexus strives to provide valuable information, while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab created diamond simulant that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a mined diamond, with two exceptions – it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting out blog: blog.

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