Confession time: emerald cuts are absolutely my favorite style of diamonds!
I find the decisive geometric lines and elongated shape of emerald cuts a flattering contrast with my petite features. I have yet to see anyone who didn’t look stunning with an emerald-cut engagement ring on their finger!
Plus, those same sharp layers and angles bring to mind the architecturally-inspired art deco styles of the 1920s. They’re exactly the sort of jewels you’d imagine adorning the throats of grand dames and freewheeling flappers as they stroll through the Ritz Paris.
Emerald cuts are not without their drawbacks, however, and when shopping for an emerald cut diamond there are some extra considerations you might want to keep in mind. From evaluating color to clarity to how to wear your diamond every day, let’s discover the triumphs and tribulations of emerald cut diamonds.
What is an Emerald Cut Diamond?
Let’s start off with what an emerald cut actually means. An emerald cut stone — be it diamond, emerald, or any other gem that this shape has been chosen for — will be an elongated, rectangular design.
Just as important are the step cuts — that is, facets that run parallel to each other like an elegant staircase. The step cut was originally developed for emeralds, as the name would suggest.
Emeralds are particularly fragile stones that naturally grow in long, rectangular crystals. Using this emerald shape helped protect the gem from breaking, and was a more efficient use of the rough stone. It gained popularity with diamond cutters as it wasted less rough diamond than other popular shapes of the time.
In the 1920s, when the art deco movement inspired a new appreciation for clean lines and symmetry, emerald cuts became a beloved mainstay of the fine jewelry industry.
Shop For an Emerald Cut Diamond
When shopping for diamonds of any shape, size, or color, one term you will hear over and over again is “the naked eye”. This stone has SI1 clarity, which means it has small fractures or inclusions invisible to the naked eye. This brilliant cut diamond is a near colorless J color, which means it has a slight yellow tint imperceptible to the naked eye.
When shopping for an emerald cut diamond, the first thing you need to know about this unique arrangement of facets is that your “naked eye” will perceive more from your stone than almost any other diamond cut.
Diamonds such as the timeless round brilliant are cut in such a way to maximize its beauty, but also to subdue its flaws. Facets are aligned in a way so that included minerals or natural variations in growth are hidden from the onlooker, and they reflect and refract light in a manner that gives the stone a brighter appearance, dimming any off-white tints.
A diamond cutter does not have these options with an emerald cut. There is nothing to hide behind, no tricks of the light, no slight of hand. An emerald shaped diamond walks into the room being nothing but itself, head held high and stripped down for the world to see. Any clarity characteristics such as inclusions, fractures, or growth variations as well as off-colors will be more perceptible to the onlooker.
What this means is that when shopping for an emerald cut diamond, more than any other, it is essential to prioritize the highest quality stone you can afford, even if it means going a bit smaller.
What to Look For in a Quality Emerald Cut Diamond?
Generally, when shopping for a diamond it is recommended that you find one in the low near colorless range for best value, between G and J. At most you might see a slight warm tint to the I-J stones, but you would have to look very closely to see any difference between these and a colorless diamond side by side. In an emerald cut, these hints of color will be more readily apparent so it is recommended that you find one in the D-G color grade range.
Clarity grades can look a little scary when comparing diamonds on paper, but the reality is that most people won’t be able to see anything in a diamond over SI1 without a microscope. When shopping for a classic round brilliant, the best value is usually found around VS2, which will have slight inclusions imperceptible to — you guessed it — the naked eye. In an emerald cut, however, this same stone will look much more crowded and distracting.
When shopping for an emerald cut diamond it is best to purchase something no lower than a VVS2, or VS1 at most. This will ensure that your stone looks bright and clean to the viewer.
The good news is that emerald cut diamonds tend to be about 20% cheaper per carat than comparable round diamonds. This is due to both the more efficient cutting process (less rough stone is wasted) and the fact that round cut diamonds are constantly in high demand. The amount you save by choosing this unique rectangular shape can be put towards getting a spectacular stone of even higher quality.
Got it. So What About Cut Grading?
Things are going to get a little funky when we talk about the cut grade of emerald cuts, starting with the fact that emerald cut diamonds don’t actually have one. Major gemological laboratories like the GIA do not include a cut grade on reports for emerald cut diamonds, because so much of what gemologists look at when evaluating cut is not present in this particular style.
As we briefly discussed above, round brilliant diamonds are cut in a way that is intended to manipulate the way light passes through the stone. It reflects and refracts and glitters and breaks up into the rainbow colors that we in the industry call dispersion, or fire. This gives us the diamond’s trademark sparkle.
Emerald cuts, on the other hand, have facets of different shapes, proportions, and relationships to each other. They reflect light and shadow one by one, side by side, and this gives us what we call a “hall of mirrors effect”. It is sublimely beautiful, but it is a very different look and a very different skill on the part of the cutter.
In an emerald diamond, you won’t find the same glittering multicolored effect as in a standard round cut diamond, but you will get a sharp, clean, elegantly monochrome play of light instead. It is up to the individual to decide what they find most appealing.
Cut-graded stones such as round brilliants have very specific parameters of what is considered the perfect or “ideal” cut. Diamond graders record minute measurements of depths and angles, recorded in degrees, percentages, and micro millimeters. The “ideal” emerald cut is a little more subjective because what is most aesthetically beautiful and most flattering on the hand can vary from one individual to another.
Emerald shapes are presented as a length to width ratio. A lower ratio, such as 1.30, will appear more square while a higher ratio, such as 1.60, will appear more elongated. Generally, the most popular emerald cuts fall around 1.40, but the perfect shape for one person might not be the perfect one for you. The only way to know for sure is to try it on and choose the one that feels like the right fit.
Which Setting is Best For an Emerald Cut Diamond?
Emerald cut diamonds are timeless and endlessly versatile. They look beautiful on their own as a solitaire or as a center stone accented with complimentary side stones. Three stone emerald cut diamond rings are particularly popular.
When choosing a setting, the most important thing is to make sure that the corners — the most fragile and the most susceptible to breakage — are protected. A substantial prong setting, such as this diamond ring from Blue Nile, will keep your diamond safe while still giving it a bare, minimalist look. You could also go with something like a bezel setting, which will give your ring a bold look while keeping it fully protected. For vintage lovers (*raises hand*), emerald cut diamonds are a natural fit with art deco inspired styles like this one.
Exude Timeless Elegance with an Emerald Cut
Choosing a diamond engagement ring is a big decision. You want to be classy, tasteful, timeless, and trendy, all while being true to yourself and proudly championing a personal style that is uniquely you.
An emerald cut is a deceptively simple diamond shape – slick and streamlined and unapologetic and carrying with it a legacy of design. Its “hall of mirrors” effect given by the play of light within its step-by-step facets is wonderful to behold and quite unlike anything seen in the more mainstream round brilliant diamonds that we see every day.
If you’re looking for something original without being ostentatious that will be just as fashionable in a hundred years as it was a hundred years ago, consider an elegant emerald cut diamond.
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