Cushion cut diamonds appeal to many due to their unique shape, vintage feel, and unique watery brilliance. When viewed from above, they are broadly square or rectangular in shape but have slightly bowed sides and rounded corners. The cushion cut emerged over a hundred years ago but evolved from the old mine cut, which dates back more than 200 years.
If you're looking at cushion cut engagement rings, then read this guide to learn about the anatomy of cushion cut diamonds, the development of the cut, their main characteristics, their pros and cons, what to consider when choosing a cushion cut diamond, and the settings that show them off at their best.
Anatomy of a cushion cut diamond
Although it has a unique shape or outline, the classic cushion cut diamond shares the same basic anatomy as other modern brilliant cuts, with 57 or 58 facets arranged as follows.
- Crown: the top of the diamond, from the girdle to the table, consisting of 33 facets:
- One table facet, which is the largest facet. Plays a significant role in how the diamond reflects light.
- Eight bezel facets, which are kite-shaped and surround the table facet.
- Eight star facets help in refracting light.
- Sixteen upper girdle facets.
- Girdle: the dividing line between the crown and the pavilion, the girdle can be polished, faceted, or rough. It forms the cushion-shaped outline of the cushion cut diamond when viewed from above.
- Pavilion: the bottom portion of the diamond, from the girdle to the culet, consisting of 24 or 25 facets:
- Sixteen lower girdle facets.
- Eight pavilion main facets.
- The culet, which is the tip at the very bottom of the diamond, and may be a very small facet or may just come to a point.
However, variations in the facet structure exist. In particular most "cushion modified brilliants" have an extra row of eight pavilion facets that gives them a "crushed ice" appearance.
Development of the cushion cut
Before the 18th Century
Before advanced cutting techniques were developed, diamonds were often fashioned in point cuts or simple table cuts. These were rudimentary shapes without much emphasis on maximising brilliance or fire.
The 18th and 19th centuries: old mine cut diamonds
The old mine cut was a precursor to the cushion cut. This cut was popular during the Georgian and Victorian eras and had a somewhat squarish shape with rounded corners, similar to today's cushion cut. However, it featured a high crown, a small table, and a large, flat culet. It was named after the Brazilian diamond mines, which were the primary source of diamonds during that period.
Late 19th and early 20th century: transition to modern cuts
As diamond cutting technology improved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially with the advent of the bruting machine, diamond cuts became more standardised and precise.
The old European cut became the standard during this time. While it had similarities to the old mine cut, it was rounded in shape.
Meanwhile, the cushion cut began evolving, benefiting from better cutting techniques that emphasised brilliance and fire. The high crowns of old mine cuts were reduced, tables became larger, and culets became smaller, transitioning more towards the modern cushion cut.
20th century and beyond
In recent decades, the cushion cut has seen a resurgence in popularity, especially with advancements that have produced "modified cushion cuts." These feature additional facets and give the diamond a "crushed ice" appearance, leading to a different type of brilliance and sparkle.
Characteristics of cushion cut diamonds
Cushion cut diamonds have distinct characteristics that set them apart from other diamond shapes and which contribute to their unique appearance and charm.
Shape & Outline: The cushion-cut diamond combines a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners, which gives it a pillow-like appearance. This is why it's named "cushion."
Length-to-Width Ratio: This is calculated as the length of the stone divided by the width of the stone and tells you what the stone's proportions are when viewed from above. A ratio of 1 means the stone has square proportions (length and width are the same), and the higher the ratio, the more elongated (more rectangular) the diamond is. The ideal ratio is subjective and depends on personal preference.
Facet Pattern: Traditional cushion cuts typically have 58 facets. However, there are "modified" cushion cuts that introduce an extra row of facets, creating a multi-faceted, "crushed ice" appearance.
Culet: Older versions of the cushion cut, like the old mine cut, often had a noticeable, flat culet. Modern cushion cuts usually have a smaller cutlet, but it's still one of the defining features of the cut.
High Crown & Broad Table: While modern cushion cuts have been refined over time, many still maintain a relatively high crown and broad table, giving them depth and a distinctive profile.
Soft Brilliance: Due to its facet pattern and shape, the cushion cut often exudes a soft, romantic glow. It might not be as brilliant as a round brilliant cut, but it has a unique blend of fire and vintage charm.
Versatility in Settings: Because of its balanced shape and vintage appeal, cushion cuts are versatile and can be set in both classic and contemporary ring designs.
Varied Facet Structures: While there's a standard for cushion cuts, there's also quite a bit of variation in how the facets are structured. Some might have broader facets that highlight the diamond's clarity, while others might have a more intricate facet pattern that emphasises sparkle.
Colour Visibility: Due to their facet structure, cushion cuts might show more colour than other shapes, especially when compared to round brilliants. For those who are colour-sensitive, it might be advisable to choose a higher colour grade.
Inclusion Visibility: Similarly, the larger facets and particular structure of a cushion cut can make inclusions more visible in some stones, especially when compared to shapes with a busier facet pattern. This means you may wish to choose a higher clarity grade.
When choosing a cushion cut diamond, it's essential to consider these characteristics and how they relate to one's personal preferences. As with any diamond, evaluating its cut, clarity, colour, and carat weight – known as the Four Cs – is crucial. But with cushion cuts, paying particular attention to its facet structure, shape, and overall appearance in different lighting will ensure you select a stone that truly appeals to you.
Pros and cons of cushion cut diamonds
Cushion cut diamonds have a unique set of advantages and disadvantages based on their unique characteristics. When considering a cushion cut diamond, it's essential to weigh these pros and cons based on your personal preferences.
|Vintage Appeal: With its roots going back to the old mine cut, the cushion cut has a timeless and romantic feel that appeals to those who appreciate vintage styles.||Less Brilliance than Round Cuts: While they have their unique charm, cushion cuts generally don't possess the same level of brilliance as round brilliant diamonds.|
|Versatility: Due to its balanced shape, cushion cuts are versatile and can be set in both classic and contemporary ring designs.||Colour Sensitivity: Cushion cuts can retain and show more colour. If the diamond has a lower colour grade, it might appear more yellowish or brownish, especially when compared to a round brilliant of the same grade.|
|Unique Brilliance: While they may not have the same brilliance as round brilliants, cushion cuts offer a different kind of sparkle, often described as a "watery" or "soft" brilliance that many people find appealing.||Visibility of Inclusions: Because of their larger, open facets, cushion cuts might reveal inclusions more readily than some other diamond shapes, and so you may wish to choose a higher clarity grade.|
|Size Appearance: Due to their spread and design, some cushion cuts may appear larger for their carat weight compared to other shapes.||Price Per Carat: While cushion cuts might be less expensive per carat than round brilliants, they can be pricier than some other fancy shapes.|
|Safety: The rounded corners of cushion cuts make them less prone to chipping compared to some other shapes with pointed corners.||No Cut Grade: Unlike round brilliants, cushion cut diamonds are not given a cut grade, so it is left up to the buyer to decide whether or not they like the proportions of any given cushion cut diamond.|
What to consider when buying a cushion cut diamond
When purchasing a cushion cut diamond, you need to consider the factors already detailed above, such as the length-to-width ratio, the quality of the cut, the facet structure, and the colour and clarity of the stone.
However, there are also some further things to consider. Whenever you're choosing a diamond, it makes sense to start by setting a budget so that you can focus your time on considering stones that you would be both happy with and that you can afford.
It also makes sense to ensure any diamond you are considering comes with a certification from a reputable lab, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the International Gemological Institute (IGI). This certificate will provide detailed information about the diamond's 4 Cs and other characteristics.
It is also vital to establish where the diamond was mined if you want to ensure that it is conflict-free and ethically sourced. Unfortunately, very few natural diamonds are traceable to the country of origin, but Canadian diamonds are an exception to this rule. You might also like to consider lab grown diamonds for this reason.
Finally, it is also worth thinking about the intended setting for the stone and whether the cushion cut diamond you are considering will suit the design of the ring. The setting can influence the diamond's overall appearance, though fortunately, cushion cut diamonds are versatile and can look stunning in a variety of settings, from vintage to modern.
Ultimately, the best cushion cut diamond is the one that speaks to you personally. Trust your eyes and instincts. If the diamond looks beautiful and sparkly to you and meets your criteria, that's a good sign.
The best settings for a cushion cut diamond
Cushion cut diamonds are versatile and can look beautiful in a variety of settings, but the right setting will enhance the diamond's natural beauty and suit the wearer's personal style. Here are some of the best settings for a cushion cut diamond:
This classic setting puts the spotlight on the cushion cut diamond. A simple band with a four-claw setting holds the diamond, showcasing its shape and brilliance without distractions.
A halo of smaller diamonds surrounds the cushion cut diamond. This setting can make the centre diamond appear larger and adds an extra layer of sparkle.
The band is adorned with small diamonds set closely together, enhancing the ring's overall brilliance. This setting can be combined with a solitaire or halo for added effect.
The cushion cut diamond is flanked by two smaller diamonds or gemstones on either side. This setting is symbolic (representing the past, present, and future) and can make the centre stone appear more substantial.
These settings draw inspiration from past eras, often featuring intricate detailing, milgrain finishes, and filigree work. The cushion cut's vintage appeal pairs beautifully with these designs.
Split Shank Settings
The band splits into two as it approaches the centre diamond, creating a unique and stylish appearance. This setting can be combined with pavé or other decorative elements.
Are cushion cut diamonds more expensive?
The price of a diamond depends on a combination of the Four Cs (cut, colour, clarity, and carat weight) and market demand. Typically, cushion cut diamonds tend to be less expensive per carat than round brilliant cut diamonds of the same colour and clarity grades. However, there are some other diamond shapes that are typically less expensive than cushions, for example, emerald cuts.
Is a cushion cut diamond a good choice?
Whether a cushion cut diamond is a good choice depends largely on individual preferences and priorities, but there are some good reasons why cushion cuts appeal to many people. These include their unique appearance (a blend of a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners), vintage appeal, and soft brilliance.
Does a cushion cut sparkle?
Yes, cushion cut diamonds do sparkle, though slightly less brilliantly than round brilliant cut diamonds. The faceting pattern of cushion cut diamonds creates a softer, more watery sparkle which appeals to many people.
Is a cushion cut a brilliant cut?
Yes, the cushion cut is considered a type of brilliant cut. A brilliant cut is any cut designed to maximise the amount of white light reflected by the diamond. The brilliant cut's signature is its facets, which are arranged in a specific way to optimise light reflection. This facet arrangement often features triangular and kite-shaped facets that radiate out from the diamond's centre.
The most well-known brilliant cut is the round brilliant, which has been finely tuned over the years to optimise its light performance. However, the cushion cut, with its rounded corners and similar facet pattern, is also designed to enhance the diamond's brilliance, albeit with a slightly softer visual effect.
Cushion cut diamonds have a unique appeal resulting from their distinctive shape, long history and watery sparkle. Well suited to a wide range of engagement ring designs, they are available in a range of proportions, from square cushions to long rectangular pillow-shaped stones.
When choosing a cushion cut diamond, you need to think carefully about the size, colour and clarity grade you want and be aware that they are not graded for cut. If you're considering a cushion cut diamond and would like some advice, please feel free to get in touch. We'd love to help!