When it comes to jewelry buying, selecting the proper gem cut is extremely important. Depending on your gemstone of choice, what gem cuts you select will determine the brilliance and shine of your jewelry piece.
Gem cuts are intended to bring out a gem’s natural color, reflection, and brilliance, so depending on how it’s cut, the gem will reflect light differently. You can become a more informed jewelry buyer by recognizing the characteristics of different shapes and cuts for your gemstone.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the jewelry counter and give you 3 of our expert tips for choosing your gemstone cut that every buyer or admirer should know.
What Are Gem Cuts?
A gemstone cut refers to the shape and style of a gem’s facets or the flat planes cut into a gem that shows face-up on a piece of jewelry.
Gem cuts have a two-fold purpose: One, to bring out a gem’s natural color, reflection, and brilliance. Two, creating gemstones in standardized shapes helps streamline the design, configuration, and styling processes.
Gem cuts can either be faceted or non-faceted. They’re usually angled to help transparent gems better reflect light off their surfaces, increasing their sparkle and adding interesting or complex patterns.
There are four main parts of a faceted stone that are cut to help redirect the light passing through a gem in different directions:
- Pavilion – The bottom half of the gem
- Girdle – The midsection of the gem
- Crown – The top section of the gemstone
- Table – The flat surface of the crown located at the top and usually the largest facet
Non-faceted gemstones are usually cut with a cabochon cut. A cabochon cut is a smooth, domed gemstone with a flat bottom. This style is reserved for softer gemstones that might be damaged in the faceting process as well as gems with unique features that can shine sans facets.
#1 Know the Types of Gem Cuts
Gem cuts are a combination of different gem cuts and gem shapes. The gem cut is the number, style, and arrangement of facets cut into the gem. When shopping for gem-laden jewelry, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the types of gem cuts available to you.
There are three main types of cuts: brilliant, step and mixed.
- Brilliant cuts – These are ideal for giving a gem the most sparkle and brilliance possible. Brilliant cuts include triangular and kite-shaped facets that spread outward from the table of the gem. The brilliant cut gives off the most scintillation, or sparkle, of any gemstone shape. For these reasons, they tend to be the most expensive cut.
- Step cuts – These are popular because they allow for a subtle sparkle, but they usually have a smaller face-up size. A step cut is made up of rectangular facets that ascend the crown and descend the pavilion in steps. The step cut shows off the color and clarity of the colored stones, producing a softer gleam.
- Mixed cuts – Mixed cuts combine step and brilliant cut styles. They usually contain brilliant facets on the crown and step facets on the pavilion—or vice versa. More intricate designs can even combine cabbing and faceting techniques.
#2 Consider Your Desired Style
Thanks to advancements in technology, faceters can take any of the above main three cuts and combine them with almost any shape. These artful marriages between cuts and shapes come together to design endless style possibilities for your jewelry.
When choosing a gem cut, you can explore these unique combinations to find a stone that performs the way you want it to. Here are a few examples of some of our favorite round, square, rectangle, and uniquely shaped cut styles.
Round Cut Styles
These classic round brilliant cut styles are found often in jewelry spanning from gorgeous engagement rings to celebrity-worthy earrings. They’re sought after for their soft precision and timeless grace.
- Brilliant – The brilliant cut is, as its namesake suggests: brilliant. This style of gem cut gives gems and stones a unique radiance thanks to its precise cuts. Typically you’ll find brilliant cuts combined with a round shape, and it’s used most often for diamonds since it’ll lead to the most sparkle.
- Cushion – This is a softer cut, that’ll give your chosen colored gemstone a more vintage appearance. It’s a square cut with beveled corners. But, because it’s a cut that was created before modern-day faceting machines, it doesn’t have the same reflecting properties as modern cuts.
- Rose – Rose cut is another vintage diamond cut that has been formulated since the 16th century. Gemstones with rose cuts look like roses with two layers of facets unfolding like petals. They won’t have the same brilliance as more modern cuts, but they contain a natural, feminine appearance entirely on their own.
Square and Rectangular Cut Styles
If your style is akin to romantic period dramas and heirlooms that withstand the test of time through generations of jewelry boxes, one of these four-sided gemstone cuts might be for you.
- Princess – The princess cut is a very popular cut, second to the brilliant cut. The princess cut is characterized by rounded corners, and it can look similar to the cushion cut. However, it’ll be more sharp and angular thanks to its square cut.
- Emerald – This cut was specifically created for emeralds, which have unique inclusions, or jardins, that require a specific amount of facets to prevent the stone from being damaged. The result is a rectangular step cut with a small number of facets.
- Baguette – This style of gem cut employs a step cut with few facets on a slender rectangle with straight or tapered sides—not unlike the toasty bread that inspires it. Baguette-cut gems are often used as accent gems that are stacked side-by-side.
- Asscher – Asscher cuts are gems that are given step cuts and shaped into an octagon that has the appearance of a square when mounted on jewelry. Similar to the emerald cut, this cut has a cross in the center of its table, and fewer facets in the crown increase the stone’s overall clarity.
Uniquely Shaped Cut Styles
Hoping and wishing for a jewelry piece that is as unique as your distinctive style? Turn to one of these lesser-seen cut shapes that exuberate novelty and history all at once.
- Trilliant – This triangular cut is most often used for accent stones. Gems with trilliant cuts will appear convex, or slightly curved on the sides, giving them a softer look compared to some of the more angular, classic cuts.
- Checkerboard – This style of cut is characterized by its square-shaped facets covering the gem’s surface, making it look like a checkerboard. The checkerboard cut helps increase the luster of more opaque gems.
- Drop – The drop cut style has become increasingly popular in recent years. Similar cuts include the pear, the tear (like a teardrop), and the Briolette. It is one of the oldest-known gemstone cutting styles and is faceted to resemble a water droplet.
#3 Match Your Gem to the Jewelry
As you can see, there are so many exciting gem cuts to choose from. Mixing and matching different cuts can open a world of possibilities to bring out beauty in all kinds and colors of gems.
But you’ll also want to consider what kind of jewelry you’d like your gem to be added to if you’re selecting a cut for a custom piece. Certain gem cuts will work better on different gems, which will also work better on certain pieces of jewelry.
For Rings: Round, Square, or Rectangular
Some experts will swear by round cut styles when it comes to rings—especially the engagement variety. That’s because round cuts are some of the most proficient at retracting the light for maximum sparkle. However, square and rectangular shapes also make fantastic gem cuts for rings, especially on varieties like emerald and sapphire.
For Necklaces: Round or Unique Shapes
If you’d like to show off your gemstone on a beautiful necklace that you can wear with any outfit, either a round or a unique gemstone shape works best. Round-cut gems are easy to layer or stack in a design if you want to add several gems, while unique shapes make for an eye-catching centerpiece.
For Earrings: Round or Unique Shapes
You can’t go wrong with a round, oval, or pear-shaped gem in a pair of sparkling earrings. The dainty round style adds just enough glimmer while remaining classy and elegant. But if you want to turn heads, drop-cut and triangular gems add sophisticated flair to any ear embellishment.
Choose A Cut Above the Rest at Diamond Nexus
No matter what kind of jewelry piece you’re in the market for, the type of colored gem (whether it is white, sapphire, emerald, canary, or ruby) and its gem cut will be an important consideration. Regardless, working with reputable jewelers who care about quality should be your top priority.
Making Diamond Nexus™ your jeweler of choice for your next piece is an excellent way to ensure that your jewelry delights and dazzles for years to come. Along with offering diamond alternatives that cost up to 90% less than mined diamonds, we also include free U.S. shipping, 30-day free returns, and a Lifetime Stone Warranty for moissanite and our Nexus Diamond™ alternatives.
See their catalog today, or start a conversation with our customer care team about a custom design.
Gem Society. A Guide to Gem Cutting Styles. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/gem-cutting-terms/
Blue Nile. An Intro to Gemstone Cut. https://www.bluenile.com/education/gemstone/cut
Antique Jewelry University. BRILLIANT CUT. https://www.langantiques.com/university/brilliant-cut/
Gem Society. Radiant-Cut Diamonds Buying Guide: Modern & Durable. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/radiant-cut-diamonds/
Gem Society. Emerald Cut Diamonds vs Asscher Cut Diamonds: A Guide. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/emerald-asscher-cut-diamonds/
Gem Society. Cushion Cut Diamonds: A Complete Buying Guide. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/cushion-cut-diamonds/
Gem Society. Princess-Cut Diamonds: the Ultimate Guide. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/princess-cut-diamonds/