Shape refers to external form, contours or outline. As humans, we love shape and symmetry because they evoke certain feelings and emotions, hold meaning from our cultural conventions and connect us to forms in nature. Studies even suggest that shapes have meaning beyond the surface, and can even influence our minds and reactions. It’s said that our preferences for certain shapes match up to our personalities.
Shapes and symmetry are also directly associated with beauty, which perfectly segways us to diamonds.
From their external outline to the individual facets that are placed by a master cutter, diamonds are miniature geometric works of art; at their essence, they are combinations of shapes and angles.
And it all starts in the ground: natural diamond crystals formed in nature come in countless morphologies (forms). Because they are so rare and unique, diamond cutters often work to balance their beauty while not losing too much of the rough. Each final shape is planned carefully in order to bring out a stone’s fullest potential.
It’s worth noting that just like people, diamonds are not “one shape fits all”; some types of rough diamonds are better suited to particular shapes than others. Luckily, polished natural diamonds come in all shape variations and facet arrangements, and so there is something for every individual taste, whether you gravitate towards curves, angles, straight lines or beyond.
That being said, the most popular diamond shapes are consistently round, princess, emerald, oval and pear.
Visually stunning, usually
Humans are hardwired to like curves because in nature, shapes are curvilinear. In short, we tend to find circles more comforting. With no beginning nor end, the round diamond symbolizes eternity, completion, wholeness and harmony. The round brilliant cut, known as the “RBC” is the most popular diamond shape and cut because it has been carefully engineered over centuries to produce maximum brilliance, fire and sparkle.
Why Go Round?
Round brilliant-cut diamonds account for almost 75% of all diamonds sold. This is because everyone loves the round brilliant’s ability to maximize the proper return of light to the eye, enhancing the diamond’s brightness, balance of sparkle sizes and overall beauty.
The round brilliant is for those with classic taste that love elegance, simplicity and traditional all in one. American Vogue said it best: “This cut is for someone who is drawn to a classic and timeless style. A round brilliant is perfect for someone who wants a traditional look that will last through the ages…”
Look around and you will see that squares and rectangles are the most used shape in everyday things. They represent strength, courage, security and reliability.
The princess cut is usually square with pointed corners (sometimes rectangular), and features intricate facets that are modified from the standard round brilliant. The princess cut, although a relative newcomer in terms of diamond cut (it became popular in the 1980s), is the second most popular shape and style of diamonds purchased.
With more tiers of smaller facets, the princess cut has about 76 facets compared to the round brilliant’s 57. This means lots of small, dynamic sparkles that dance when the diamond is moved. The princess cut has smaller sparkles in larger amounts compared to other brilliant-cut shapes. A bonus is that all those facets that can help to hide inclusions.
The princess cut suggests a flirty and lively personality, not afraid of the spotlight. The sparkle and movement of the princess cut appeal to someone who may be spontaneous and fun. The princess cut balances spectacular glitter with the clean lines of the square or rectangular shape. Because of its straight sides, princess cuts can be set side-by-side, or in a variety of ways to create interesting and unique jewelry designs.
The emerald cut draws its name from the stone most often cut in this rectangular shape, the emerald. Gem cutters realized that the emerald cut, initially used for emerald gemstones, also maximized the brilliance of a diamond. It became popular in the 1920s when the Art Deco period when clean lines and symmetry were admired. Emerald cuts are step cut, with their long facets and layered corners that subtly resemble a hall of mirrors.
Why the Emerald?
The familiarity of squares and rectangles makes us feel safe and contained, and evoke feelings of trust, strength, and assurance. This popular style is best known for its beauty and precision because the long lines of the stone accentuate its sophistication. Not intended to rival brilliant or other cuts, the emerald trades extreme light-play and sparkle for subtle gleam with a clean, open look.
Distinguished by beveled corners and step facets, the emerald cut is more transparent than other shapes because it does not have the interplay of all the kite-shaped facets. It offers play between light and dark planes and flashes of white light, and works well with simplistic jewelry designs that show off its true elegance. Those that prefer the emerald may tend to be straightforward, strong, and quietly confident, and join the ranks of famous emerald cut owners such as Beyonce and Grace Kelly.
Ovals with their rounded edges are soft, feminine, and often represent the universe, or eternity. The oval brilliant has a similar fire and brilliance to round brilliant, and their elongated shape can have a lengthening effect if worn on the finger. Invented by famous diamond cutter Lazare Kaplan in 1957, it has grown in popularity since.
The “Manami Star,” an 88.22-carat flawless oval diamond. Courtesy Sotheby’s
Why the Oval?
The oval has an 8% larger face-up area than a round cut, so this shape tends to look larger and accentuate longer fingers with the same fire and brilliance of the round brilliant cut.
The choice of the oval shape suggests creativity and individuality, with a nod to the traditional. Ovals are for those that want to stand out. The great thing about ovals is they complement a wide variety of settings and can be set in any direction for an added element of originality.
Natural shapes resemble things created by nature. They become a source of inspiration and specific meanings to each person. They can evoke feelings of unity with the natural environment and can symbolize originality and balance.
The pear shape has a rounded bottom, soft-sided curves, and a narrow point at one end. It resembles a sparkling drop of water, and symbolizes “tears of joy”, yet can also resemble other things in nature like a leaf or the namesake pear.
The first pear-shaped diamonds trace back to 1458 and a famous Flemish diamond polisher who was meticulous about absolute symmetry in the placement of the facets on the stone.
Since then, this diamond shape has been known throughout history from the flawless 530.20 carat pear shape Cullinan I in the crown jewels to Elizabeth Taylor’s 69.42 carat pear shape Taylor-Burton diamond.
Why the Pear?
The pear shape is one of the few diamond shapes that presents a unique asymmetrical design. Personalities that want to have something different gravitate toward the pear shape, and suit people that are adventurous and vibrant. Of the fancy shape diamonds, it is one of the least common cuts for engagement rings so it does appeal to those who are truly original. The pear brilliant-cut keeps the fire and brilliance of the round brilliant but adds some sparkle toward the point and offers a variety of sparkle sizes.
Like the oval, the pear shape gives the finger an elongated look. Traditionally the point of the pear goes toward the heart of the wearer but can be worn in a variety of orientations with many unique jewelry design opportunities. Right now, the trend is to set elongated shapes in the east-west orientation; the length-to-width ratio means the pear shape can come in many variations to suit any taste or design.
The cushion cut does a lovely job bridging the gap between rounded and square shapes. With rounded corners and softly curved sides, the cushion can be rectangular or square, and is a soft, classic shape. The cushion cut has been around 200 years and was as popular in the 18th century as the round brilliant cut is today. Many historic diamonds are cushion shapes, hence, the cushion cut diamond is the shape of royalty. The most famous cushion cut is The Hope Diamond, a 45.52 carat diamond that boasts a rare blue color created by the trace element boron.
The cushion cut originated from the “old mine” cut, which was a cut from the 1700’s named after the “old mines” in Brazil where the shape and cutting style had a squarish shape, high crown, small table, deep pavilion and a large culet in order to preserve as much weight from the rough as possible. As diamond cutting advanced, the cushion cut came along for the ride.
Why the Cushion?
The cushion has the most versatility in appearance. The cushion cut can accommodate a variety of cutting styles to suit any preference because of its history and evolution. Depending on how the cushion is faceted, it can maintain its “antique” style cut with larger facets and broader flashes of light (sometimes called the “chunky cushion”), have a “crushed ice” appearance with smaller pin-fire bursts of sparkle or maintain the classic styling with a balance of sparkle sizes and movements with the brilliant faceting arrangement.
There really is a cushion for every diamond-lover!
The cushion shape is soft, classic, and romantic. The person that has a preference for the cushion shape probably has a vintage flair and appreciates tradition and timelessness. The cushion cut diamond is sought after due to its enduring sophistication. It pairs well with vintage-inspired settings and can contrast well with more modern designs.
Shape is beautiful and our preference is determined by meaning, symbolism, taste, personality and beyond. When it comes to natural diamonds, there is no one perfect shape; after all, real beauty comes from the variations in nature. So choose the best shape and facet arrangement for what means the most to you. There is a shape of diamond for everybody.