Marquise cut diamonds, with their rich history rooted in the French royal court, are a testament to timeless romance and sophistication. Known for its elongated form with pointed ends, the marquise cut offers the impression of a larger size than its carat weight might suggest and a silhouette that can elongate and flatter the finger. Whether you're captivated by their historical allure or their distinctive shape, marquise engagement rings hold a special appeal. Welcome to our guide to marquise cut diamonds, where we'll delve into its storied past, explore its anatomy, and provide expert insights to help you select the perfect stone.
What is a marquise cut diamond?
Like all diamond cuts, the marquise cut is defined by its shape and its faceting pattern:
- Shape: The marquise cut diamond has an elongated shape with pointed ends, reminiscent of a boat, and indeed, it is sometimes called a "navette" cut, from the French word for "little boat."
- Faceting pattern: The marquise is a brilliant cut fancy shape, usually cut nowadays with 57 facets, though sometimes there are 58 facets if the culet is faceted rather than pointed. This faceting pattern of marquise cut diamonds generates considerable light reflection and brilliance.
Anatomy of a marquise cut diamond
From above, the boast-shaped outline of the marquise cut has three components:
- Belly: This is the widest part of the marquise diamond, situated in the centre. The curvature and width of the belly play a crucial role in determining the overall shape and proportions of the diamond.
- Points: Marquise diamonds have two pointed ends. These points should be sharp and perfectly aligned with each other to ensure symmetry. Given their delicate nature, the points are often protected by prongs when set into jewellery to prevent chipping or breakage.
- Wings: These are the curved sections between the belly and the points. The shape of the wings can significantly influence the overall appearance of the marquise diamond. The diamond can appear unbalanced if they are too shallow or too deep.
Viewed from the side or front, like all brilliant cuts, the marquise is composed of the following, from top to bottom:
- Table: The table is the flat surface at the very top of the diamond, which forms its largest facet. In a well-cut marquise diamond, the table should be symmetrical and centred.
- Crown: This is the top portion of the diamond, above the girdle, including the table as well as the following facets:
- Eight star facets – located around the table;
- Eight kite or bezel facets – radiating from the table towards the girdle; and
- Sixteen upper girdle facets – forming the outer edge of the crown.
- Girdle: The girdle is the outer edge or perimeter of the diamond and forms the boundary between the top of the diamond (the crown) and the bottom (the pavilion). The girdle can range from extremely thin to very thick. In many cases, it's slightly thicker at the points to add some protection to these vulnerable areas. It may be polished, bruted (rough) or faceted. However, we do not include any facets in the girdle when counting the total facets of the diamond.
- Pavilion: This is the bottom portion of the diamond, located below the girdle. It's cone-shaped, and its depth and angles are vital for the diamond's brilliance as they determine how light is reflected back through the crown. It is composed of the following facets:
- Sixteen lower girdle facets – forming the outer edge of the pavilion.
- Eight pavilion main facets – radiating from the culet towards the girdle.
- Culet: The culet is the tiny facet at the very bottom of the pavilion. The culet can be pointed or very small in many modern marquise cuts. Still, it's always essential that it's centred to ensure a balanced appearance.
View from the bottom, you can see the boat-shaped outline, with the culet at the centre and a ridge formed along the length of the pavilion by the pavilion facets, which is known as the keel line.
Development of the marquise cut
The marquise cut diamond has a rich history and intriguing evolution that intertwines with European aristocracy and the development of diamond-cutting techniques.
The marquise cut diamond can trace its origins back to the French court during the 18th century. Legend has it that King Louis XV of France commissioned a jeweller to create a diamond shape that resembled the lips of his mistress, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour. Hence, the diamond was named "marquise," a hereditary title ranking above a countess and below a duchess.
The term "navette," which means "little boat" in French, is also used to describe the marquise cut because of its boat-like shape. The term is often used in the context of other jewellery items like brooches or rings, which also utilise this boat-like form.
The marquise cut's evolution was influenced by older diamond shapes, such as the "old mine cut," a precursor to today's round brilliant cut. As diamond cutting techniques advanced, cutters began experimenting with elongated versions of the old mine cut, eventually leading to the marquise's distinctive shape.
Over time, the facet structure of the marquise was refined to optimise its brilliance and fire. The traditional 57 or 58 facets found in the modern marquise cut are designed to maximise light reflection and refraction. This transformation paralleled advancements in the round brilliant and other fancy diamond shapes.
The marquise cut saw peaks and troughs in popularity over the centuries. In the 20th century, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, the marquise cut experienced a resurgence in demand, partly driven by celebrities and high-profile individuals sporting marquise diamond jewellery.
With the advent of modern diamond cutting equipment and technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, precision in shaping and faceting the marquise cut improved significantly. Cutters were better able to ensure symmetry, optimise light performance, and reduce the prevalence of unwanted visual effects like the bowtie.
While the marquise cut may not be as universally popular as the round brilliant, it has carved out a distinctive niche in the world of diamond jewellery. Its unique shape and historical connection to royalty make it a favourite for those seeking something different from traditional diamond forms.
Today, many jewellers and designers incorporate marquise diamonds in both vintage-inspired and contemporary jewellery pieces, appreciating their ability to elongate the appearance of the finger and its distinctive, eye-catching silhouette.
Pros and cons of marquise cut diamonds
The marquise cut, with its distinctive elongated shape and pointed ends, offers a range of advantages and disadvantages compared to other diamond shapes. Let's explore the pros and cons of marquise cut diamonds in detail.
|Perceived size: Due to its elongated shape, a marquise diamond can appear larger than other diamond shapes of the same carat weight. This can give buyers more "visual bang for their buck."||Bowtie effect: A common drawback of many marquise diamonds is the visible "bowtie" effect. This shadowy area across the width of the diamond can vary in intensity and is caused by light leaking due to the diamond's cut. It can be minimised with excellent cutting techniques, but it's challenging to eliminate entirely.|
|Flattering the finger: When set in a ring, the marquise cut can make the wearer's fingers appear more slender and elongated, a quality many find flattering.||Vulnerable points: The pointed ends of the marquise cut are susceptible to chipping or breakage. While setting the diamond in prongs can offer protection, it's still something to consider, especially for daily-wear pieces like engagement rings.|
|Brilliance: When well-cut, a marquise diamond exhibits impressive brilliance and fire thanks to its facetting pattern. The light reflection and dispersion can rival other popular shapes like the round brilliant.||Sensitivity to symmetry: The marquise shape requires perfect symmetry to look its best. Even slight deviations or misalignments in the shape, especially at the points, can make the diamond appear off-balance.|
|Versatility: The marquise shape lends itself to various jewellery settings and styles, from vintage to contemporary. It can be set vertically or horizontally, used as a centre stone, or featured as a side stone.||Colour and inclusion visibility: The elongated shape can sometimes make inclusions or colour tints more visible, especially towards the points. Buyers might wish to opt for higher clarity or colour grades compared to other shapes.|
|Distinctive: The marquise cut stands out from more common diamond shapes, making it a choice for those seeking something a bit different.||Absence of a cut grade: Like all fancy cut diamonds, marquise diamonds are not given a cut grade. This means the buyer must make their own assessment of the quality of the cut of a marquise diamond|
|Cost per carat: Due to its shape, there's often less wastage when cutting a marquise diamond from rough compared to round cuts. This can sometimes translate to slightly lower prices per carat, depending on other factors like clarity, colour, and overall demand.|
Comparison with other diamond shapes: pear and oval cuts
If you considering a marquise engagement ring because you like the look of an elongated diamond or because you want something a little bit unusual, the two other diamond shapes you're most likely to be attracted to are the oval cut and pear cut. So here we've summarised a comparison between these three fancy cuts.
- History: The marquise cut is a more recent invention than the pear cut, which has been around for about 500 years but pre-dates the modern brilliant cut oval diamond that was only created in 1957.
- Faceting and brilliance: All three cuts are variations of the round brilliant cut in terms of faceting. Therefore, they all have the potential to exhibit excellent brilliance and fire. However, the exact light performance will depend on the quality of the cut.
- Size appearance: Due to their elongated shapes, all three cuts can appear larger than round diamonds of the same carat weight.
- Flattering the finger: All three shapes can make the finger appear more elongated when set in rings. The choice between them often comes down to personal preference regarding the presence (or absence) of points.
- Bowtie effect: All three shapes can exhibit the bowtie effect to varying degrees. The visibility and prominence of this effect depend on the diamond's proportions and facet arrangement.
- Popularity: Oval diamonds have grown in popularity in recent years, especially for engagement rings. Pear and marquise cuts are more niche but can stand out due to their unique shapes.
- Versatility in settings: All three shapes work in various settings. However, due to their pointed ends, protective settings are particularly crucial for marquise and pear cuts.
What to consider when choosing a marquise cut diamond
Choosing a marquise cut diamond involves several considerations to ensure you get the best possible stone for your preferences and budget. The elongated shape, unique facets, and pointed ends of the marquise present both challenges and opportunities when selecting a stone.
Set a budget beforehand and look for the best diamond within that range. Remember, it's important to balance the four Cs (carat, colour, clarity and cut) based on what's most important to you. However, there are also some other important factors to consider, which we’ve detailed below. Also, ensure the diamond you choose comes with a certificate from a reputable gemological authority, such as the GIA or IGI, so that you can rely on the information about the diamond you used to make your decision.
The Four Cs
- Carat weight: Since the marquise shape is elongated, it can appear larger for its carat weight than round or square cuts. Focus on the diamond's dimensions (length x width) to understand how big it looks.
- Colour: The pointed ends of the marquise cut can sometimes show colours more intensely. It's not uncommon for the tips to appear slightly darker or more tinted.
- Consider this when selecting the colour grade, keeping in mind that setting the diamond in yellow or rose gold can make slight colour tints less noticeable.
- Clarity: Given the elongated shape, inclusions or flaws towards the ends or centre of the marquise can be more visible than in more compact shapes. Depending on the size of the diamond and the location of the inclusions, you might need to opt for a higher clarity grade to ensure they aren't easily visible to the naked eye.
- Cut: Fancy cut diamonds, such as the marquise cut, are not given a cut grade, so you will need to assess the quality of the cut yourself. You can do this to a large extent by judging how much the diamond sparkles. There are also a couple of measurements you can use as a guide:
- Table percentage: The table percentage is the width of the table expressed a percentage of the width of the diamond as a whole. The optimal table percentage can vary based on the overall proportions and desired look of the diamond, but as a general guideline, a table percentage between 53% and 63% is recommended for marquise diamonds to maximize brilliance.
- Depth percentage: The depth percentage is the depth of the diamond from the table to the culet, expressed as a percentage of the width of the diamond, and influences how light reflects and refracts within a diamond. For marquise diamonds, we recommend a depth percentage between 58% and 65% since this provides a good balance between maximizing brilliance and not making the diamond appear too deep or shallow.
- Length-to-width ratio (L/W ratio): This ratio is a key consideration for marquise diamonds. It's calculated by dividing the length of the diamond by its width. A traditional L/W ratio for marquise cuts usually falls between 1.75 and 2.25. Still, personal preferences might lead buyers to choose diamonds outside this range.
- Symmetry: Symmetry is particularly important for a marquise cut. The diamond's left and right sides should mirror each other perfectly. Any deviation can make the diamond look off-balance.
- Bowtie effect: This isn't a structural element but rather an optical effect. Marquise diamonds exhibit a darker region in the centre, resembling a bowtie. It's caused by light shadowing in the centre and is influenced by the diamond's cut and proportions.
- Girdle thickness: The girdle should ideally be even, and its thickness can vary. A very thin girdle can be prone to chipping, especially at the points. In contrast, a very thick girdle can add unnecessary weight.
- Setting: The pointed ends of the marquise are vulnerable to chipping or breaking. Ensure that your chosen setting protects these points, typically with V-shaped prongs.
The best engagement ring settings for a marquise cut diamond
Marquise cut diamond engagement rings offer a special allure, where timeless elegance meets distinctive flair, elongating the finger and capturing hearts with their distinctive silhouette. Here we set out some of the most popular setting styles for these unique gems.
Solitaire marquise engagement rings
Solitaire marquise engagement rings showcase the marquise diamond as the sole centrepiece, allowing its unique shape to take centre stage. Given the marquise diamond's pointed ends, the setting usually has prongs that securely hold the diamond. V-shaped prongs are often used at the tips of the diamond to protect them from chipping.
Marquise engagement rings with diamond shoulders
Marquise engagement rings with diamond shoulders combine the elegance of the marquise centre stone with the brilliance of smaller diamonds set on the ring's band. This design adds extra sparkle and enhances the overall appearance of the ring. They're perfect for those seeking a balanced design that emphasises the unique marquise shape and the brilliance of multiple diamonds.
Marquise halo engagement rings
Marquise halo engagement rings spotlight the central marquise diamond encircled by a "halo" of smaller diamonds, adding a layer of brilliance and protection. They're perfect for those seeking a ring that makes a statement and maximises the perceived size of the centre diamond.
Vintage marquise engagement rings
Vintage marquise engagement rings capture the charm of past eras while showcasing the marquise diamond's distinctive and elegant shape. These rings often feature intricate details, craftsmanship, and design elements reminiscent of specific historical periods.
What is a marquise cut diamond?
A marquise cut diamond is an elongated diamond shape with pointed ends. Its boat-like shape is sometimes called a "navette" cut, which means "little boat" in French.
What is the history behind the marquise cut?
The marquise cut traces its origins back to the French court in the 18th century. Legend says that King Louis XV of France commissioned a jeweller to create a diamond shape that resembled the lips of his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour.
What makes a good marquise cut diamond?
A well-proportioned marquise diamond should have excellent symmetry, with both pointed ends aligning perfectly. The typical length-to-width ratio is between 1.75:1 and 2.25:1, but this can vary based on personal preference.
Are marquise diamonds more expensive than other cuts?
Marquise diamonds can be more cost-effective in terms of cost-per-carat than round diamonds because their elongated shape can maximise carat weight, making the diamond appear larger for its weight.
What settings work best with marquise diamonds?
Due to the pointed ends, protective settings like prongs (especially V-shaped prongs) are recommended. Marquise diamonds can be set vertically for a traditional look or horizontally for a more contemporary east-west setting.
What should I be cautious about with marquise diamonds?
The pointed ends are vulnerable to chipping, so they should be protected. Symmetry is also crucial; if one end is slightly off, it can make the diamond appear unbalanced. Additionally, marquise diamonds can exhibit a "bowtie" effect, a dark area in the middle, which can vary in prominence.
How does the marquise shape compare to other diamond shapes in terms of size appearance?
Due to its elongated shape, a marquise diamond can appear larger than other shapes of the same carat weight, providing more surface area.
Do marquise diamonds sparkle as much as round diamonds?
When well-cut, marquise diamonds exhibit a high level of brilliance and fire. However, the exact sparkle can vary based on the quality of the cut and the diamond's proportions.
How do I choose the right length-to-width ratio for a marquise diamond?
While the typical ratio is between 1.75:1 and 2.25:1, the right ratio is subjective and depends on personal preference. Some might prefer a longer and slender look, while others may opt for a shorter and broader appearance.
Can I use a marquise diamond for other jewellery besides engagement rings?
Absolutely! Marquise diamonds are versatile and can be used in various jewellery pieces, including earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.
The marquise cut is a unique and stylish choice that stands out from more traditional shapes like round or princess cuts. When choosing a marquise cut diamond, always consider its cut, clarity, colour, and carat weight, as with any diamond shape.
In the realm of diamonds, the marquise cut stands out with its regal heritage and unparalleled design. Its boat-shaped contour, which offers an illusion of grandeur and elongates the wearer's finger, is a testament to both artistry and historical allure. Beyond its captivating aesthetics, understanding the intricacies of its cut, symmetry, and setting nuances is crucial for making an informed choice. Whether you're drawn to its romantic backstory or its distinctive form, the marquise diamond offers a blend of tradition and individuality. With the insights from this guide, you're equipped to appreciate and select a marquise diamond that resonates with both value and personal appeal, but please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. We'd be delighted to help!