Princess cut diamonds have been a popular choice in engagement rings since the 1960s, and for good reasons. Princess cut engagement rings have an elegant, timeless look, but with so many different diamond shapes to choose from, it can be challenging to understand what sets one shape apart from the other.
In this guide, we explore everything there is to know about princess cut diamonds, including what they are, their key characteristics and their advantages and disadvantages compared to other diamond shapes.
What is a princess cut diamond?
Princess cut diamonds are described by gemologists as square modified brilliant cuts and combine the stepped faceting seen in emerald cuts and Asscher cuts with the triangular facets of a brilliant cut. But unlike the emerald cut and Asscher cut, princess cut diamonds have right-angled corners, and their brilliant faceting produces more sparkle.
Anatomy of princess cut diamonds
A princess cut diamond has four sides and resembles an inverted pyramid when viewed from the side.
While diamonds come in all shapes and sizes, the basic anatomy remains the same for each of them, and has five main components:
- Table - the large facet at the top of the diamond.
- Crown - the area between the table and the girdle. A princess cut will either have french or bezel corners. French corners have a star-shaped facet pointing towards the crown, whereas bezel corners have diamond-shaped facets. French corners are more prone to chipping than bezel corners.
- Girdle - the widest part of the diamond, connecting the crown and pavilion.
- Pavilion - the area between the girdle and the culet.
- Culet - the bottom of the diamond and can form either a point or a small facet (a smooth surface).
The pavilion of a princess cut diamond is made up of four large triangular facets and a row of pavilion main facets that run from the cutlet to each corner.
Each pavilion main facet has adjacent facets, usually two, three or four on each side, making a total of five, seven or nine sets of splintery facets that run from each corner in a fan-shaped pattern. These are called chevron facets, and although there is no limit to how many chevron facets one stone can have, there are usually more facets applied to bigger stones and fewer to smaller stones.
Development of the princess cut
The first princess cut was produced by Arpad Nagy in 1961 but was based on the French cut, which is very much older, having been developed in the 15th century. Compared to the French cut, this first princess cut had more faceting on the pavilion, resulting in more sparkle, but it was much flatter and less sparkly than the modern princess cut.
The princess cut evolved significantly when Basil Watermeyer developed the 'Barion' cut in 1971, which had a polished and faceted girdle, a central cross pattern that could be viewed through the table, created by the pavilion facets, and crescent-shaped facets on the pavilion.
Finally, in 1979, Israel Itzkowitz made further modifications to create the modern princess cut: a square stone from the girdle up, but with faceting similar to the round brilliant cut from the girdle down.
Characteristics of princess cut diamonds
The common characteristics of princess cut diamonds include:
- Square cut in shape but can also be rectangular (this is a less popular choice).
- Contain chevron-shaped facets.
- Lower cost than comparable round brilliant cut diamonds of the same carat weight.
Princess cut diamonds typically retain about 80% of the original rough diamond crystal compared to about 50% for the round brilliant cut, and as a result, tend to be priced more competitively than comparable round diamonds. However, princess cut diamonds typically have a larger proportion of their weight in the pavilion relative to a round brilliant cut diamond, meaning they tend to appear slightly smaller when viewed from above than a round diamond of the same weight.
How many facets does a princess cut diamond have?
The number of facets on a princess cut diamond ranges from 50 to 58, but the most common pattern has 57 facets: 21 on the crown, 33 on the pavilion and four on the girdle.
Princess cut diamond facets include a unique chevron pattern that gives the cut its very distinctive look and high brilliance. Princess cuts can contain two- or four-chevron patterns; two-chevron patterns reflect more flashes of white light, whereas four-chevron patterns create more scintillation, which is generally more sought after.
Ideal proportions for a princess cut diamond
There is no consensus on the optimal proportions for a princess cut diamond, so they are not given a cut grade by the GIA or other reputable gemological laboratories.
That said, when choosing a princess cut diamond, there are a couple of key things to look out for. The first of these is the length-to-width ratio (LW ratio). If you want a perfectly square princess cut, the length and width would be exactly the same, meaning a length-to-width ratio of 1. In practice, an LW ratio between 1 and 1.05 looks square enough to most people. However, an LW ratio above 1.05 will look rectangular, and increasingly so the higher the LW ratio.
The depth percentage is the second thing to look out for when judging if a princess cut diamond is well-proportioned. This is measured as the distance from the top to the bottom of the diamond divided by the length of the stone (or the average of the length and the width if the stone is not perfectly square). For good light performance, you should look for a depth between 65-75%; the lower the depth within this range, the better.
Pros and cons of princess cut diamonds
Choosing a preferred diamond shape can be difficult, with so many options to pick from. Below, we summarise the pros and cons of princess cut diamonds to help you make a well-informed decision if you're considering purchasing one.
|Excellent light performance||The unique faceting pattern of princess cut diamonds results in high levels of brilliance (reflected white light), fire (refracted light, split into component colours) and scintillation (sparkle).|
|Hide inclusions well||The highly faceted nature of princess cut diamonds means that inclusions are less noticeable in princess cuts than in shapes with fewer, larger facets such as emerald cuts.|
|More diamond for your money||The high weight retention when cutting a rough diamond into a princess cut means that these stones are typically priced at a lower cost per carat than most other diamond shapes, including the round brilliant cut.|
|Show colour||The relatively large table facets of princess cut diamonds mean that they tend to show colour more than round brilliant cuts, for example. This may mean that you might want to choose a princess cut with a higher colour grade than you would with some other shapes.|
|Corners vulnerable to chipping||The pointed corners of princess cut diamonds are vulnerable to chipping. However, this risk can be significantly reduced by setting the stone in a way that protects the corners.|
What to consider when buying a princess cut diamond
Like with all diamonds, it's essential to consider the 4Cs of colour, clarity, cut, and carat when purchasing a princess cut diamond.
It's also important to consider what metal the diamond will be set in. If you choose a diamond that shows some colour, this will be more noticeable when set in white gold or platinum and less perceptible when set in yellow gold or rose gold.
What is the best setting for a princess cut diamond?
The princess cut diamond is a versatile shape which works well with several different setting styles, making princess cut engagement rings a popular choice. Here are some of the most popular setting styles:
Princess cut solitaire engagement rings spotlight the dazzling, modern geometry of the princess cut diamond, allowing its brilliance to take centre stage without any distractions.
Characteristics and appeal
- Understated elegance: The solitaire setting's simplicity emphasizes the diamond's natural beauty, allowing the stone's clarity, colour, and cut to be the focal point.
- Modern aesthetics: The princess cut is a modern favourite with its sharp angles and contemporary design. Its geometric precision makes a bold statement, especially when placed in a solitaire setting.
- Versatility: While the concept of a solitaire ring is straightforward, a wide range of design tweaks are available. From the style of the band (plain, tapered, or knife-edge) to the type of setting (prong, bezel, or tension), there's room for customization.
- Durability: With fewer diamonds, there's less worry about stones becoming loose or falling out, especially if the princess cut is secured with a four-prong setting.
- Timeless appeal: Solitaire rings have a timeless quality regardless of the diamond cut. They never go out of style and remain a popular choice across generations.
- Highlighting the diamond: Without other stones to distract, all the attention is drawn to the central diamond. This makes it essential to choose a high-quality princess cut diamond since it will be the star of the show.
When selecting a princess cut solitaire engagement ring, it's crucial to ensure that the diamond's corners are well-protected, as they can be prone to chipping. A four-prong setting works best to both showcase and protect the stone.
A princess cut shoulder set engagement ring offers a balanced blend of modern and classic design elements. The central diamond remains the star, but its brilliance is elevated by the carefully chosen and set stones on the ring's shoulders. This design is an excellent choice for those seeking an opulent and tastefully balanced ring.
Characteristics and appeal
- Amplified brilliance: By adding diamonds or other gemstones on the shoulders of the ring, the central princess cut diamond's radiance is enhanced, creating a cascading sparkle effect.
- Harmonious balance: The shoulder set diamonds offer a visual balance, accentuating the centre diamond without overshadowing it.
- Flexibility in design: The shoulder stones can be set in various ways, allowing for personalisation based on individual preferences.
- More Visual Impact: Shoulder set diamonds can increase the ring's overall sparkle and width, making the central diamond appear more substantial and the entire ring more lavish.
- Protection: In some designs, the shoulder set stones can provide a level of protection to the centre diamond, especially if they are placed in a way that they act as a buffer against potential impacts.
When selecting a princess cut shoulder set engagement ring, consistency is crucial. Ensuring the shoulder stones are of similar quality, colour, and clarity as the centre stone is essential, providing a seamless and harmonious sparkle across the entire piece.
Princess cut halo engagement rings artfully combine the contemporary allure of the princess cut diamond with a vintage-inspired halo of smaller diamonds that give the illusion of a larger centre diamond and magnify its sparkle.
Characteristics and appeal
- Magnified brilliance: The halo of smaller diamonds reflects light onto the central stone, making the princess cut diamond appear more radiant.
- Perceived larger size: The halo setting can make the central princess cut diamond seem larger than it is, giving you more visual impact for your investment.
- Vintage charm with modern flair: While halo settings often evoke a vintage or antique feel, the geometric lines of the princess cut offer a modern counterpoint, making the ring a beautiful blend of old and new.
- Additional protection: The halo of diamonds can provide an extra layer of protection to the edges of the central stone, reducing the risk of chipping or damage.
When selecting a princess cut halo engagement ring, it's essential to ensure that the halo diamonds compliment the centre stone in terms of colour, clarity, and quality. This provides a consistent sparkle and avoids any colour mismatches or disparities in brilliance.
Princess cut vintage engagement rings offer a wonderful blend of the modern and the traditional. A princess cut diamond's square or rectangular geometric precision is seamlessly integrated into designs that draw inspiration from past eras, creating luxury designs that are both unique and timeless.
Characteristics and appeal
- Modern meets timeless: The contemporary lines of the princess cut diamond paired with vintage settings, such as Art Deco, Edwardian, or Victorian, create a harmonious and distinctive blend that's bold and elegant.
- Intricate details: Vintage rings are known for their meticulous craftsmanship, often featuring intricate engravings, milgrain detailing, filigree work, and sometimes even coloured gemstone accents. The princess cut's simplicity complements these details beautifully.
- Romantic and historical: There's an inherent romance in vintage designs, a nod to past love stories. Combined with the modern princess cut, it tells a story of a love that appreciates both the past and the present.
- Unique settings: Vintage settings can offer unique and detailed basket designs, gallery views, and side profiles that aren't commonly seen in contemporary rings.
When choosing a princess cut vintage engagement ring, it's crucial to consider the overall balance between the centre stone and the setting. The geometric nature of the princess cut should complement the vintage details without overpowering them. Additionally, ensure that the diamond's corners are well protected.
Why choose a princess cut diamond
Princess cut diamonds have maintained their popularity over the years, and for a good reason. Their square shape combines a modern look and feel with a timeless charm.
Because of their highly faceted nature, they sparkle beautifully and make inclusions less noticeable than in many other diamond shapes. And because there is less wastage when cutting a rough diamond into a princess cut, they tend to be priced more competitively than round brilliant cut, for example, allowing you to get a bigger diamond for your money.
Exuding romance and class, a princess cut diamond will age well and bring just as much joy in decades to come as it would today, without feeling dated.
Why is it called a princess cut diamond?
This diamond shape was named 'the princess cut' by London diamond cutter Arpad Nagy in the 1960s. While it's unknown exactly how the creator came up with this name, the term princess has connotations of beauty, power, and femininity, which this shape also evokes.
Is square cut the same as princess cut?
A princess cut diamond is a square cut, and the technical name for the princess cut is 'square modified brilliant' cut. However, not all square cut diamonds are princess cuts! There are other square cuts, including baguette, radiant, emerald, cushion and Asscher cuts.
Is a princess cut a good diamond?
Sleek lines and intense sparkle make a princess cut diamond one of the most popular and sought-after diamond shapes. It needs slightly more care due to the sharp edges of the diamond, but the right setting reduces any risk of damage significantly.
Is colour or clarity more important in a princess cut diamond?
While the perfect diamond would be colourless and have flawless clarity, achieving both is rarely possible! The nature of princess cut diamonds is that they are good at hiding inclusions, but prone to showing colour. So with a princess cut diamond, you may choose to be a little more relaxed about the clarity grade and a little more focused on the colour grade instead.
Are princess cut diamonds more expensive?
As much as 80% of a rough diamond is retained during the cutting and polishing of princess cut diamonds, resulting in princess diamond cuts tending to offer better value for money than more wasteful shapes such as the round brilliant cut.
The princess cut diamond, characterized by its sharp, angular lines and modern geometric form, is one of the most popular diamond shapes in the jewellery world. Known for its square to slightly rectangular silhouette, this cut boasts both brilliance and versatility. Its unique faceting pattern offers a luminosity that rivals the classic round cut, while its distinct shape makes a bold, contemporary statement. With its combination of elegance and modernity, the princess cut has become a favourite for engagement rings and other jewellery, appealing to those who seek a touch of tradition blended with avant-garde design.
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