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The buyers' guide to emerald cut diamonds

Emerald cut diamond

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Emerald cut diamonds are a distinctive and elegant choice, favoured by many for their unique geometric appearance. The cut's clean lines and symmetry became hugely popular during the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s, and despite the rise of other fancy diamond cuts since then, the emerald cut has remained a classic choice, beloved for its understated elegance and vintage charm.

Emerald cut engagement rings are hugely popular to this day, so here's a definitive guide to help you understand the key things to think about if you're considering choosing one of these stunning stones.

Anatomy of an emerald cut diamond

An emerald cut diamond

Emerald cut diamonds share some of the same basic elements of their anatomy with other diamond shapes, including:

  • Table: This is the flat top facet of the diamond, and it's one of the most important parts in terms of reflecting light. Because the emerald cut has a larger table, it often provides a clearer window into the diamond, making clarity a key concern.
  • Crown: This is the section of the diamond that is between the table and the girdle. It consists of several facets, and the angle of these facets can affect how light is refracted within the diamond.
  • Girdle: The girdle is the perimeter or the widest part of the diamond. It's the dividing line between the crown on top and the pavilion below. It can be smooth, polished, or faceted.
  • Pavilion: Located below the girdle, the pavilion is the bottom part of the diamond. The depth and angle of the pavilion facets play a significant role in the diamond's brilliance.

However, two important aspects of an emerald cut diamond structure make it very distinctive, specifically:

  • Shape: Viewed from above, the emerald cut is rectangular with cropped corners. The only other diamond cut to share this shape is the radiant cut, but the faceting of emerald cuts and radiant cuts makes them quite different in appearance.
  • Faceting: The emerald cut is known for its "step cut" faceting (something it shares with Asscher cut and baguette cut diamonds). This means that the facets run parallel to the girdle, creating a series of steps. The step cut faceting of the emerald cut produces a unique visual appeal, with long, broad flashes of light and a "hall of mirrors" effect. This is distinct from the scintillating sparkle of brilliant cut diamonds, which have facets designed to maximize sparkle. Instead, the step cut emphasizes clarity, depth, and lustre.
  • Keel: Emerald cut diamonds, unlike brilliant cut diamonds, do not come to a point (called a culet) at the bottom of the pavilion. Instead, there is a long edge along the bottom of an emerald cut diamond, called the keel, where the two sides of the base of the diamond meet. The keel runs parallel to the longest edge of the stone
emerald cut diamond plots
The emerald cut diamond step cut faceting pattern shown from top view and front view

An emerald cut diamond typically has 57 as follows:

  • 1 x table facet – This is the large flat facet on the top of the diamond.
  • 8 x crown facets – This includes the 4 larger bezel facets and the 4 smaller corner facets.
  • 24 x pavilion facets – This includes the 8 main pavilion facets, 8 girdle facets, and 8 pavilion corner facets.
  • 24 x girdle facets – This comprises the facets on the edge of the diamond, separating the crown from the pavilion.

Development of the emerald cut

The emerald cut diamond's roots stretch back several centuries, with its development intrinsically tied to the evolution of diamond cutting techniques since the 14th century.

1. Early Diamond Cutting

Before advanced cutting techniques were developed, diamonds were often worn in their natural, rough state. The table cut, one of the earliest diamond cutting techniques developed in the 14th century, laid the groundwork for the emerald cut. It involved removing the uppermost point of the diamond, creating a flat surface (table).

2. Step Cut Evolution

The emerald cut belongs to the family of "step cuts". Step cuts are characterized by facets that run parallel to the girdle.

The step cutting technique started with the table cut and evolved into the emerald cut we know today. Other step cuts include the baguette cut and the Asscher cut.

3. Named for Emeralds

Interestingly, the emerald cut was originally developed for emerald gemstones, not diamonds. Emeralds are often prone to inclusions and are softer than diamonds, making them more likely to chip or break. The emerald cut's cropped corners and step facets reduced these risks.

Eventually, this cutting technique was adopted for diamonds, and it showcased a different kind of beauty in the diamond, emphasizing clarity, lustre, and depth rather than sparkle or brilliance.

4. Popularity in the Art Deco Period

The emerald cut surged in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s, particularly during the Art Deco movement. The cut's clean lines, symmetry, and geometric look perfectly aligned with the era's aesthetics.

5. Modern Improvements and Popularity

Modern technology has allowed diamond cutters to achieve more precise and symmetrical cuts, enhancing the beauty and appeal of the emerald cut.

Characteristics of emerald cut diamonds 

Emerald cut diamonds possess a unique set of characteristics that distinguish them from other diamond shapes:

  • Rectangular shape: Although emerald cut diamonds are predominantly rectangular, they can have varying proportions, from almost square to very elongated. This is measured as the length-to-width ratio, the length divided by the width. For a perfect square, the length-to-width ratio would be 1. The classic emerald cut, however, has a length-to-width ratio ranging from 1.3 to 1.5.
  • Cropped corners: Emerald cuts are not strictly rectangular since they have cropped or clipped corners, giving them an octagonal outline. This not only lends a unique aesthetic but also reduces the risk of chipping on the corners.
  • Step cut faceting: Emerald cut diamonds are characterized by facets being arranged in parallel lines, much like the steps of a staircase, and the absence of brilliant cut facets.
  • Hall of mirrors: The emerald cut diamond typically has a large and open table (the flat top facet), which, combined with the stepped facets, creates a "hall of mirrors" effect when looking into the stone from above.
  • Flashes of white light: The long and linear facets of the emerald cut produce broad, bold flashes of light rather than the twinkling sparkle of brilliant cut stones.

Pros and cons of emerald cut diamonds

For those considering whether to choose an emerald cut diamond, we've summarised the main pros and cons for you to consider:

Elegant simplicity: The emerald cut's clean lines and step-cut faceting provide a sophisticated and timeless appearanceLess sparkle: Due to the absence of brilliant faceting, emerald cut diamonds exhibit less light dispersion and scintillation (sparkle) than brilliant cut stones.
Larger Appearance: Due to their elongated shape and large table, emerald cut diamonds often appear larger than round diamonds of the same carat weight.Visibility of inclusions: The large table and open facets make inclusions and blemishes more noticeable than in brilliant cuts. As a result, a higher clarity grade is required for an emerald cut diamond to appear clean to the naked eye.
White Flashes: The step-cut facets of emerald cuts produce broad and bold flashes of light, which are different from the sparkle of brilliant cuts.Showing colour: The large table and open facets can also make any tint within the diamond crystal more noticeable. As a result, a higher colour grade is required for the diamond to appear bright white than is the case for brilliant cuts
Cost-Effective: Emerald cut diamonds tend to be less expensive than round brilliant cuts of the same carat weight. This is partly because the emerald cut retains more of the rough diamond during the cutting process.Bow tie effect: Though more commonly associated with oval cuts, all elongated diamonds, including emerald cuts, may exhibit a bow tie effect, whereby the reflection of light within the stone creates the appearance of a darker stripe across the centre of the diamond
Versatility: The geometric clarity of the emerald cut suits a range of jewellery styles, from vintage to contemporary.No cut grade: none of the more reputable diamond grading authorities gives an overall cut grade to emerald cut diamonds, leaving buyers to judge for themselves how good the proportions of the stone are.
Pros and cons of emerald cut diamonds

What to consider when buying an emerald cut diamond

When purchasing an emerald cut diamond, there are specific considerations to keep in mind, given the unique characteristics of this cut. Here are the key factors to consider:

  • Clarity: Due to the open and large table of the emerald cut, inclusions and blemishes are more visible than in brilliant cut diamonds. We recommend you go for a clarity grade of VS! or higher to ensure the diamond appears clean to the naked eye.
  • Colour: The emerald cut's faceting can also make colour differences more noticeable. We recommend choosing an F colour or higher if you want to avoid any noticeable tint within the stone.
  • Cut: While there isn't an industry-standard cut grade for emerald diamonds as there is for rounds, the quality of the cut will significantly impact the diamond's appearance. Pay attention to the symmetry, polish, and overall proportions.
  • Length-to-width ratio: A classic emerald cut typically has a length-to-width ratio of between 1.3 and 1.5. However, personal preference plays a significant role; some might prefer a squarer appearance (less an 1.3) while others a more elongated look (greater than 1.5).
  • Depth %: This is calculated as the depth of the diamond (measured from the table to the culet) as a percentage of its width. It determines how big the diamond will appear when viewed from the top as well as how well it will reflect light. The larger the depth %, the smaller the diamond will look from above for any given carat weight. However, while an emerald cut with a very small depth percentage may look bigger from above, it may not be optimal for light performance. Depth can significantly influence the diamond's brilliance and appearance, and while the emerald cut isn't as brilliant as some other cuts due to its step facets, the right depth can help maximize its unique reflective qualities. Typically, an optimal depth percentage for emerald cut diamonds ranges from 60% to 68%. However, this is a general guideline, and slight deviations can still result in beautiful diamonds.
  • Table %: This is calculated as the width of the table facet as a percentage of the width of the diamond. For emerald cut diamonds, the optimal table percentage is typically considered to be between 58% and 69%, though this can vary based on individual preferences and other diamond proportions.
  • Bow tie effect: Some emerald cut diamonds can exhibit a dark area in the centre resembling a bow tie. A slight bowtie effect can be acceptable and might even be desirable to some, but a prominent one can detract from the diamond's appearance. Always review the diamond visually to check this.
  • Certification: Always ensure the diamond comes with a certification from a reputable gemological lab such as the GIA or IGI. This will verify all the diamond's characteristics and ensure you're getting what you pay for.

The best settings for an emerald cut diamond

The choice of setting can greatly complement the diamond's unique features and enhance its elegance. Here are some of the best settings for an emerald cut diamond:

  • Emerald cut solitaire engagement rings: This classic setting allows the emerald cut diamond to be the focal point. A simple band with a four-prong setting can showcase the clean lines and length of the diamond, offering a timeless and elegant look.
73 Dolcissimo Emerald White Pics 00004
Emerald cut solitaire engagement ring
  • Emerald cut halo engagement rings: Surrounding the emerald cut diamond with a halo of smaller diamonds can add extra brilliance and make the centre stone appear larger. The geometric shape of the emerald cut lends itself beautifully to a rectangular halo.
90 La Stravaganza Emerald 0.5ct Plain shoulders Yellow Pics 00004
Emerald cut halo engagement ring
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Emerald cut three-stone engagement ring
74 Dolcissimo Emerald 0.50ct with st in shoulders White Pics 00004
Emerald cut engagement ring with diamond shoulders
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Art Deco sapphire ring with emerald cut diamonds

When choosing a setting for an emerald cut diamond, keep in mind the lifestyle of the wearer. Some settings offer more protection, making them suitable for those with active lifestyles. Additionally, consider the metal type and colour, as they can influence the diamond's overall appearance. For instance, white metals like platinum or white gold can accentuate the stone's clarity and brilliance, while yellow or rose gold can add warmth and a vintage touch.


Do emerald cut diamonds sparkle less?

Yes, emerald cut diamonds do generally sparkle less than round brilliant cut diamonds or other brilliant-cut shapes. The reason for this difference lies in the faceting and the intended visual effect of the cut.

Emerald cut diamonds have stepped rather than brilliant facets, which run parallel to the girdle in a series of steps. This creates long, open planes that offer a "hall of mirrors" effect. The reflections in an emerald cut are broader and more like mirrored glass, producing fewer but larger flashes of light. By design, they lack brilliant facets because they are intended to showcase clarity and create a sophisticated play of light and dark planes. The emerald cut is more about depth, lustre, and a clean reflection, unlike the scintillation-heavy round brilliant cut.

Are emerald cut diamonds more expensive?

Yes, emerald cut diamonds are generally less expensive than round brilliant cut diamonds of similar carat weight and quality. This price difference arises as a result of:

Cutting yield: The shape of the emerald cut allows for a higher yield from the rough diamond compared to many other shapes. This means that less of the diamond is wasted during the cutting process, leading to a lower cost per carat.

Simpler faceting: The emerald cut has less intricate cutting and shaping than brilliant cuts, which reduces the time it takes to cut and polish the diamond.

Supply and demand: Round brilliant diamonds are the most popular shape and have the highest demand, which can drive up their price. The demand for emerald cuts, while still significant, is less than that for rounds, which can result in slightly lower pricing.

However, although emerald cut diamonds may be less expensive than a brilliant cut of the same carat weight and quality, it should be noted that emerald cuts show inclusions and colour more easily than brilliant cuts, so you may wish to choose an emerald cut of a higher colour and clarity grades than you would with a brilliant cut.

How many facets does an emerald cut diamond have?

An emerald cut diamond typically has 57:
1 x table facet: the large flat facet on the top of the diamond.
8 x crown facets: 4 larger bezel facets and 4 smaller corner facets.
24 x pavilion facets: 8 main pavilion facets, 8 pavilion girdle facets, and 8 pavilion corner facets.
24 x girdle facets: the facets on the edge of the diamond, separating the crown from the pavilion.

Is a one-carat emerald cut diamond a good size?

A one-carat emerald cut diamond is a popular size for many individuals, but whether or not it's considered a "good" size depends on personal preferences. Some may prefer daintier diamonds, while others might want something more substantial. It's essential to choose a diamond that fits the wearer's style, the budget, and the desired overall look of the piece. Also, while the carat weight is often a focus, remember to consider the quality of the diamond (clarity, colour, cut) as well. A slightly smaller diamond of higher quality may be more beautiful and valuable than a larger diamond with visible inclusions, a less desirable colour, or poor light performance.


The emerald cut diamond offers a unique combination of simplicity, elegance and history that appeals to a wide range of tastes. Its elongated, geometric shape particularly suits Art Deco and modern designs but is versatile enough to work across a wide range of engagement ring settings. That said, emerald cut diamonds are not for everyone. For one, they sparkle less than brilliant cut diamond shapes, and some people will prefer the more curved outline of rounds and ovals, for example. It also important to be aware that emerald cut diamonds show inclusions and colour more readily than brilliant cuts, and because of this require a higher colour and clarity grade for them to look flawless to the naked eye.

If you have any questions about emerald cut diamonds, please feel free to get in touch.

Tim Ingle
Together with David Rhode, Tim created Ingle & Rhode to offer a better alternative to the traditional luxury brands. Since 2007, we’ve provided our customers with genuinely ethical engagement rings, wedding rings and fine jewellery – free from conflict diamonds, dirty gold and child labour. With more than 16 years experience in the jewellery industry, Tim has deep expertise in diamonds, gemstones and jewellery design and manufacturing.