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Cushion Cut Diamonds Explained

Cushion cut diamonds, sometimes called pillow cut diamonds are a rounded square shape, reminiscent of a pillow or cushion, hence the name. The cushion shape has been around for at least 200 years. In the past, cushion cut was referred to as 'old mine cut'. Modern versions have been updated as the result of new cutting techniques and mathematical analysis to improve brilliance and fire.

Cushion cut diamonds are the 3rd most popular diamond shape after the round brilliant and princess cut. Cushion cut gems are becoming increasingly popular giving rise to demand-led price increases.

Modern and Antique Cushion Cut Compared

The original version of the cushion cut, developed centuries ago, had a large culet (a point at the base of the diamond) a relatively small table (the top flat facet) and steeper angles than used today. The old mine diamond was attractive in appearance, had an engaging, somewhat blocky, flash of light but lacked the brilliance and sparkle of more modern designs.

The modern cushion cut based, in part, on research by the famed diamond cutter Marcel Tolkowsky during the 1920s improves the sparkle and brilliance to a level demanded by modern diamond buyers. With a smaller tablet, smaller, or absent culet, and flatter angles, the modern cushion cut can look quite similar to the round cut brilliant.

A version of the modern cushion cut called the cushion modified brilliant-cut has an extra row of facets giving a crushed ice effect quite different to the older cushion cut versions. This version brings a level of fire to the light performance that can even exceed that from round brilliant diamonds.

The original style of cushion cut diamonds is still very popular with lovers of antique jewellery.

How To Choose Your Cushion Cut Diamond?

To get the best brilliance and sparkle from a cushion cut diamond, the quality of the cut is paramount. The GIA (Gemological Inspection Association) does not assign a cut grade to cushion cut gems. To get past the grading issue, there are several key indicators that you can consider when inspecting a cushion cut diamond to avoid buying a poorly cut stone.

Look out for the following information on the report. The final point is not on the GIA report but is a subjective point.

  • Depth between 59-70%
  • Table between 56-70%
  • Polish/Symmetry GOOD or better
  • Length to width ratio between 1.00 to 1.35
  • Look out for a girdle that is either too thick or thin

Choose The Right Shape For Your Cushion Diamond

Cushion cut diamonds can range from square to rectangular. Squared diamonds are the classic shape and still very popular; if that is your preference, then look for a length to width ratio of around 1:1. A more modern look is slightly rectangular and a length to width ratio in the region of 1.20:1 to 1.30:1 will give pleasing results.

The Clarity Of Cushion Cut Diamonds

Colour and clarity are always a matter of personal preference; there is no magic grade for either that guarantees perfection. As long as the diamond does not have visible flaws when you look at, that is good enough. The sparkle and reflections within the gem will often mask small inclusions making it unnecessary to have a perfectly clear gem. On the other hand, a high-grade gem might have an inclusion in just the wrong place. As a guideline, if you guy a VS1 or VS2 gem, then you are likely to be entirely satisfied with the appearance of a well-cut diamond.

Get The Best Colour For Your Taste

Colour is, again, a matter of preference. If you want a very white gem or are very sensitive to colour, then a diamond rated as G or better is likely to be very satisfactory. Many buyers of cushion cut diamonds like how the cut tends to enhance colour and choose a slightly warmer, more yellow grade than they would for a round cut brilliant diamond. If you are one of these people, then look at G, H or I graded gems.

The colour of the metal used in the setting can further enhance the whiteness or warmth of the diamond. Choose a white metal setting where an icy white appearance is what you want; or use yellow metal to enhance the warmth of the gem.

Choose The Setting Well

As the cushion shape is an elegant style, it looks good in a plain solitaire setting where the diamond is the absolute centre of attention. Smaller cushion cut diamonds need fewer prongs; just four will be enough to hold the diamond securely without hiding the gem under metal. A larger diamond can use a six-prong setting. Fewer prongs will tend to make a diamond look larger.

Halo settings have become very popular for cushion cut diamonds. The surrounding of smaller diamonds tends to make the central gem look larger at a much lower cost than buying a larger diamond of equivalent diameter. The smaller diamonds will also give a ring more sparkle than the central diamond on its own.

Modern cushion cut diamonds are an elegant choice with sparkle and fire to rival the best of round cut brilliant diamonds. The shape gives a connection with the past, but modern cutting and design provide the best of modern performance.

As with other fancy cut diamonds, proportions and grades can only be a guide to help you choose the right diamond for you. Make sure that you either see the diamond in person or look carefully at high-quality online images and videos.

In a well-chosen setting, the cushion cut diamond you choose will delight the owner for a lifetime!

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