A glittering descendant of the old mine cut diamond and the soft, feminine princess cut diamond, cushion cut diamonds have a long, romantic history. They come in third place as the most popular diamond cut for an engagement ring, after round cut diamonds and princess cuts.
Shopping for these soft-featured shapes can be a challenge, though – the terms “cushion cut” or “cushion diamond” actually encompass a pretty wide range of shapes and faceting styles. Let’s look at some of the things to explore when shopping for a cushion cut diamond.
What is a Cushion Cut Diamond?
A cushion cut diamond is a shape that hovers in between worlds: not quite a round diamond nor a square cut one, something with aspects of both brilliant and radiant style diamond cuts that also manages to be something entirely unique.
Generally, a cushion cut is described as a square diamond with gently rounded corners, much like a pillow (hence the name). The sides will often be gently curved as well, adding to its softness while still retaining a little of that geometric shape. Most cushion cuts are more or less equal by length and width, but some are more rectangular — these are called “elongated cushions”.
You might recognize this rounded square shape from its predecessor, the old mine cut (which later became the old European cut, and then finally the classic round brilliant as we know it today). The cushion and the round brilliant are two sides of the same coin – two paths taken by diamond cutters who were looking for ways to improve their craft and create a gem that showed all the glittering potential the rough stone had to offer.
Contrary to the round brilliant, the cushion cut diamond more closely follows the natural outline of a diamond in the rough. This gives it a more intimate, natural appearance while keeping the price more affordable since less of the stone is lost during the manufacturing process. The cushion cut diamond may be simply faceted or given extra facets to improve its sparkle.
Tips for Buying a Cushion Cut Diamond
Before looking at quality considerations such as the 4Cs (more on those a little farther down), you’ll want to have a clear idea of what sort of cushion cut diamond engagement ring is perfect for you. When shopping for these unique gems, you’ll hear a lot of terminology being thrown around: standard cushion cut, modified cushion cut, brilliant cut, chunky cut, and crushed ice cut, among others.
Different Cushion Cuts
Standard Cushion Cut/Brilliant Cushion
Standard cushion cuts most closely resemble the beauty of round brilliant cut diamonds, in that their faceting arrangement is brighter and more distinct. These are sometimes called “cushion brilliants” or “chunky cuts”. You’ll be able to see light bouncing off the bright and dark areas of the stone, forming a beautiful pattern of light and shadow.
Modified Cushion/Crushed Ice Cut
A modified cushion cut is one that’s been cut with extra facets, usually in the pavilion (the lower half of the diamond). The pavilion main facets (those are the long, arrow-like ones that extend all the way from the girdle to the very bottom) might be shortened to make space for more glittering little windows. There are a few different arrangements that diamond cutters can use depending on the potential they see in that particular rough stone, but all of them give the diamond a fantastic sparkling effect called “crushed ice”.
Sometimes called “crushed glass” or “broken glass” (which doesn’t sound quite as nice), these diamonds sparkle with an array of tiny pinpoints of light. Contrary to the standard brilliant cushion cut, this pattern of light and shadow is not as distinct. It resembles the soft way light plays across moving water.
Some people — both jewelry retailers and consumers — have very strong opinions about whether the brilliant cushion cut or the crushed ice cut is a better value. The truth is that it’s simply a matter of what is most beautiful to you. Both are stunning in their own way.
Cushion Cut Diamond Grading
Once you’ve decided what sort of cushion cut diamond you want to look for, let’s see how the 4Cs can help you find the most beautiful diamond possible for the best value.
In the past, we’ve talked about how important it is to choose a shape, or cutting style, for your diamond. Once you’ve gotten to know the difference between standard and modified cushion cut diamonds, you’ll need to examine how expertly the gem cutter put together this particular design.
An ideal length to width ratio for a square cushion cut diamond is between 1:1 and 1.05:1. If you want an elongated cushion cut diamond, look for ratios between 1.15:1 and 1.20:1. Be wary of the “grey zone” between 1.05 and 1.15. These diamonds tend to look a bit awkwardly shaped, not quite square but not quite anything else, either.
When evaluating the cut of a cushion cut diamond, look at the outline of the diamond. Make sure the corners are neither too sharp nor too blunt, that the sides curve gently without bulging, and that each side is perfectly symmetrical. You’ll also want to check that the table (that’s the large facet on top) is centered right in the middle of the stone and is even on all sides and that the lower facets sparkle in a pleasing, consistent manner. Facets that are uneven will affect the way the light passes through the stone, making the whole diamond look distracting and unfinished.
Cushion cut diamonds tend to show off colors more readily than round cut diamonds, so it’s advisable to choose one that’s higher on the D-Z color scale. White gold, in particular, will show more yellow, brown, and grey tones in the diamond, so when choosing a white gold setting it’s recommended you pair it with a colorless diamond (D-F). If you’ve chosen a setting in yellow or rose gold, you can go down to a near-colorless diamond (G-J) and it will still look bright and clear.
While cushion cuts aren’t the best at hiding off colors, they are great at hiding clarity characteristics such as blemishes and inclusions. This is particularly true of crushed ice diamonds, whose tight, watery facets will render most clarity characteristics invisible. When choosing a standard cushion cut diamond, the best value is between VS1 and SI1. For a crushed ice diamond, VS2 to I1.
It can be difficult to see the final effect from a plotted diagram though, so if you’re considering a diamond in a lower clarity grade, it’s best to see it in person if you can. Otherwise, request detailed, high quality photos and videos from multiple angles to see the effect the clarity characteristics have on the stone.
While carat weight is an objective unit of measurement (one carat is equal to 0.2 grams, or a fifth of a gram), as we’ve seen, cushion cut diamonds are not a standardized cut. This means that you can have two cushion cut diamonds with exactly the same carat weight that look like slightly different sizes face up.
In general, cushion cut diamonds are cut a little bit deeper than round diamonds and so appear smaller for their carat weight. It doesn’t help that our eye naturally examines shapes by their longest direction. On a square shape, this is the diagonal. Because the corners of the cushion cut are blunted, it will appear smaller to us than, for example, a princess cut.
Many modified cushion cuts are a little heavy for their size because their faceting arrangement uses more of the rough stone. However, the lower amount of wasted material translates into a lower per-carat price for the consumer. This, in addition to the lower demand, means that cushion cut diamonds are usually around 25% cheaper per carat than comparable round brilliant diamonds.
Cushion Cut Diamond FAQ
Like other fancy shapes, cushion cut diamonds sell at a lower price point than round brilliant diamonds. In addition to being the most popular diamond shape on the market, round brilliants aren’t a particularly efficient use for the rough gem — more rough stone is lost in the cutting process than with any other shape. Cushion cuts, on the other hand, use the natural octahedral shape of the diamond to its best advantage.
While cushion cuts are well-loved and remain in fashion year after year, they’re more specialized than round brilliants and so don’t sell as reliably in jewelry stores. Depending on the quality, cushion cut diamonds can sell for 20-40% less than comparable round diamonds. A 1ct. cushion cut diamond of fine quality ranges from about $2000 – $6000, while smaller cushion cuts between thirty and fifty points (0.30 and 0.50 carats) range from $500 to $1500.
Cushion cut diamonds look great in both vintage and contemporary settings. Their soft, antique-inspired edges are a natural match with halo, pavé, and filigree styles. However, they’re just as stunning in prong set solitaires that make the sparkle and fire of the cushion cut the center of attention. Whether you choose a classic brilliant cut cushion or a “crushed ice” diamond that glitters like sunlight on the sea, you’ll want a setting that elevates its unique beauty and helps it light up a room.
The cushion cut symbolizes effortless elegance, the gift of carrying the traditions of a more romantic age into a bright new future and making them look like they belong there — much like red lipstick, or a little black dress.
A well cut cushion diamond does sparkle immensely, though it’s the stone’s colored fire that really commands attention. Cushion cut diamonds are known for displaying more multicolored light dispersion or “fire” than any other diamond shape. This makes it a favorite with women who want to carry a little pizazz with them in their day-to-day life.
They are actually, having been recently seen on celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Leighton Meester, and Priyanka Chopra and gaining more and more attention worldwide. However, when choosing your forever diamond, we recommend focusing less on the latest headlines and more on finding a timeless, elegant design that fits your personality and will always be in style.
Because of their soft lines and rounded edges, cushion cuts are actually one of the most durable diamond shapes available. They’re a great choice for everyday wear and for very active women. They’re not completely indestructible, however, so choose a setting that offers some protection from any impact.
It’s also very important to keep your cushion cut engagement ring clean — all those glittering facets won’t reflect any light if they’re covered in dust. Use a soft, clean cloth or a baby toothbrush to keep your diamond ring sparkling.
Cushion Cut Diamonds: A Vast Array of Choices
You can see why cushion cuts have been such a popular choice throughout history, from their early inceptions as the old mine cut through to the brilliant cut, and then later to the extraordinarily magical “crushed ice” look.
Because there’s such a wide range of cushion cuts, they do require a little more patience when shopping, and it might take you a while to settle into the gem that’s truly right for you (not so unlike looking for the perfect partner…). But when you do, it’s undeniable that cushion cuts are a timeless, unique, and versatile thing of beauty.