I was under the impression that cuts like the princess, marquise,
pear, oval and the like were all modified brilliants, ie. designed
to maximise the return of light
Having cut stones for 37 years now, I’d like to throw my ten cents
into the ring, in the spirit of education.
The above statement is at least half true, maybe more. As is common,
semantics may lead us down a muddy road.
Before speaking broadly about cuts, we must make or state some
assumptions. For our discussion, let’s assume that when we say
"round", we are referring to what we commonly call the Standard
Round Brilliant with which we are all so familiar. There are many,
many other cuts that can be performed to produce a round shape, but
it’s uncommon to see them in diamond, and let’s stay with diamond
here for this discussion.
The “brilliant” style of cutting refers to the design of the facet
arrangement on the pavilion of the stone, not to how bright the
stone may or may not be. A “brilliant” style is one in which the
"Main" facets reach from the culet to the girdle. The only other
facets on the pavilion are the “Breaks” or “Lower Halves”.
Currently, the fashion is to cut the stone so that the breaks run
about 7/8ths the distance from girdle to culet.
If we take this facet arrangement and simply stretch it in one
direction, we will be creating the “Oval Brilliant”.
If we stretch only one side of the round and bring the facets to a
point, we will have created the “Pendeloque”, commonly referred to
as Pear Shape.
Pulling the fat end of the pear to a point makes a Navette shape,
commonly but incorrectly called a Marquise shape. Strictly speaking,
in cutter lingo, a Marquise is a Navette shape with strict and exact
2:1 proportions (Length is twice the width).
The traditional square shape in diamonds is a “step” or “trap” cut,
all facets running parallel to the girdle. The pavilion may have two
to seven “tiers”, but usually 3-4 and the matching crown has 3,
usually, but not necessarily. The usual practice is to cut the
corners of the square to avoid possible damage to the sharp corners
in handling or setting. Although the corner cuts are usually small,
exaggerating them leads us in the direction of the traditional
Asscher cut, a patented (these days) design when performed in
diamond, but not when performed in color. It’s spectacular in light
to medium colors, by the way.
Princess cuts are another square shape, by definition, with a
pavilion facet arrangement completely unlike any of those mentioned
above. While a true Princess or the similar Quadrillion cut have
very specific facet arrangements, many variations exisst, some of
them quite attractive. As far as performance when compared to a
well-made round brilliant, a well-made Princess or Quad mets or
exceeds the brilliance return of the round. Variations away from
being “well” made are obvious and performance of the stone falls off
rapidly. Performance holds up better for rounds when slight
variations from “ideal” are made. But, to be clear, Princess,
Quadrillions and especially square Barions meet or exceed the
brilliance of rounds.
When the corners are cut on a Princess shape, at least eight facets
have to be added to bring the girdle to a level condition, and,
strictly speaking, a “cut-corner princess” is no longer a Princess.
Radiant cuts are squares with cut corners that have another entirely
different facet arrangement from Princess, and their performance,
too, is as good as a round, when they are cut to the proportions
that bring them to full life.
It’s wise to remember that brilliance is not always the goal. The
most spectacular diamond I have ever seen was very large "Emerald"
cut. In that size, when done properly, the dispersion is absolutely
stunning in sunlight. So, we all have preferences.
It is possible to create a “marquise” or oval shape or even a pear
shape without the noxious “bow-tie” shadow we see in the standard
cuts, but the diamond business is entrenched in tradition,
unfortunately. Fortunately, we who cut color are not restrained by
I have had clients who returned gifts of diamond jewelry. Two stand
out. One was the wife of a very hard working man who had risen from
poverty to multi-millionaire status in real estate acquisition. He
wanted to replace the 0.15 c wedding ring his wife had been wearing
with a 3.8 carat of very high quality. She returned it saying that
it was not what she had gotten married in and nothing was going to
replace THAT ring (!), and, besides, it was gauche and she did not
wish to embarrass her friends with so large a display.
The second was return of a 4c TW apir of diamond earrings (2 c
rounds in each ear), because he client felt they were too
ordinary…larger please, like 4 c each (!). So, who knows?