Diamond Cutting Styles

engagement diamonds 13Our love of diamonds and admiration of their fire and brilliance has given rise to many different cuts of diamonds. While we still see some of the earliest styles of diamond cuts – such as the round and emerald-cut, there are many more cuts today, some of them patented by their designers and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The most popular cut for a diamond ring today is still the round, brilliant cut. It was developed in the 17th century in Venice. It is still preferred when the raw crystal is in an octahedron formation. Even though as much as 50% of the stone is cut away in the process, often two stones can be carved from an octahedron. More unusually-shaped stones are used for fancy cuts, such as a marquise, pear or heart-shaped diamond. The earliest brilliants had 17 facets on the top of the stone and were called double-cut. This was soon improved with stones cut with 33 facets and were called triple-cut brilliants.

In the 19th century, with the development of better gem-cutting tools, more innovations in diamond cutting styles were developed. In 1919, Marcel Tolkowsky combined the art of cutting with the science of light and refraction and published his book, Diamond Design. These relatively recent geometric calculations were the forerunner of much of diamond cutting work today and led to other, more precise mathematical models engineered to enhance the fire and brilliance of diamonds.

There are now cuts such as the princess cut, trillions, ovals, pear and heart-shaped. Some innovative cutters have even fashioned star or butterfly-shaped diamonds! One patented cut, the Ashoka diamond, is an oblong cut with rounded, brilliant ends, and requires a stone 3 carats or larger. It’s an exceptionally beautiful (and pricey!) diamond shape. Tiffany has also patented a cut of diamond called the Lucida cut. It’s the lucky bride whose fiancé gives her one of these highly coveted stones!

Color Of Diamonds

engagement diamonds 12When it comes to the 4Cs of diamonds, color, or lack of it, is an especially important characteristic. Diamonds are given letter grades to denote the level of color, starting with the letter D for a flawless, colorless diamond. Why D, and not C, B, or A? The reason we’ve heard is that when diamonds started being graded for color with this scale, it was decided to start with D, to leave room for the extremely rare possibility that a diamond would be found that was even more flawless than flawless. It hasn’t happened yet!

The color grades of D, E and F are the rarest and most colorless. The gradations in color can only be seen by an expert gemologist. The grades G-H are called near colorless and the difference can be seen by a casual observer only when compared to a higher-grade diamond. A stone in this grade category is an excellent value. The grades I-J are also near colorless, but not to the same extent as G-H. These also are an excellent value.

The color grades move up the scale to Z, with an increasing amount of color. These are inferior gem-quality stones and should not be confused with canary or other colored diamonds. Colored diamonds are graded differently than white diamonds and are also highly prized among collectors. They’re especially beautiful when combined with white diamonds. Consider that the Hope Diamond, one of the most famous diamonds, is a rich blue color. Out of all colored diamonds, a red diamond is the rarest of all.

The colors in colored diamonds come from impurities between the cells of the crystals, or structural defects. There are many different colors that diamonds can come in, but they’re limited to steel gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink to purple, brown, and black.

Carats Equals Weight?

engagement diamonds 11Many people equate the term carat with the size of a diamond, and as carat size increases, so will the carat weight. But the operative word there is weight. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond and is equal to roughly 200 milligrams which is less than a ¼ of an ounce. A carat can also be broken up into 100 points. So ¾ of a carat is also 75 points.

The heavier in carat weight a diamond is, the rarer it becomes. Prices of diamond increase exponentially with the weight of the diamond, so a one-carat diamond will cost much more than two ½-carat diamonds, given that other qualities, such as color and clarity, are equal.

The cutting of a diamond can impact the size of it, so depending on how their cut, two one-carat diamonds can look unequal. If a stone is cut flatter, then it will appear bigger, while a deeper cut stone will be smaller, but may have more brilliance and scintillation. You may be tempted to purchase a stone that’s cut flatter so that you can have the appearance of a larger, or heavier stone. But a diamond that’s cut too flat will have too little brilliance and can look cloudy. Carat weight is important, but there’s no point to sacrificing other qualities that make a diamond special so you can say you have a two-carat stone. A beautiful one-carat diamond, with outstanding brilliance and scintillation is going to be the better choice, from both a personal standpoint and an investment standpoint.

A smaller diamond can always be enhanced with baguettes, trillians or smaller same-shape stones on either size. As we stated earlier, two smaller stones won’t cost as much as an equally-weighted single stone, so you can increase the importance of the ring you’re buying without doubling your cost.

A Diamond’s Clarity

engagement diamonds 10Diamond clarity is one the 4Cs of diamond qualities. It refers to any flaws, or inclusions in the diamond, and how visible or detectable they are. Inclusions can be foreign substances, or minute cracks or flaws. It also refers to the appearance of any surface flaws or scratches. As with the color grading scales, clarity also has a grading scale, with FL used to denote a flawless diamond. What FL means is that there are no flaws or inclusions that can be seen when the stone is examined under 10X magnification, the standard for examining for flaws.

Other clarity designations are:

IF stands for internally flawless. This means there are no internal flaws or inclusions, although there may be small surface flaws.

VVS1 and VVS2 stand for Very Very Slight inclusions that are difficult to see under magnification. VS1 and VS2 indicate Very Slight inclusions that can be seen under magnification but are invisible to the naked eye.

SI1 and SI2 denote Slight Inclusions that may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

I1, I2 and I3 are “imperfect”, with inclusions clearly visible to the naked eye. For I3, the inclusions impact the brilliance of the diamond and are large and obvious.

In most cases, there is nothing that can be done about flaws or inclusions, although in recent years lasers have been used to enhance some inclusions or fractures in diamonds by filling them in, much the way small dings in a windshield are filled in.

Certainly the most highly valued diamonds are those that are flawless – FL – or internally flawless – IF. But excellent values can be obtained at the VVS and VS grades, as these are flaws not visible to the naked eye, but only to an experienced grader under magnification.

How To Care For Your Diamonds

engagement diamonds 09Diamonds are durable and strong, but should be cared for as though they were fine breakable china or more fragile gems. They can chip or scratch if you’re not careful, and they can get quite dirty with oils from your skin and cosmetics, hair sprays or perfumes.

There are several ways to clean and store your diamonds. You can clean a diamond pretty quickly with a commercial jewelry cleaner that you either dip your jewelry in or soak them in a tub that gives it an ultrasound bath. Cold water and ammonia also work very well to dissolve oils that accumulate on your stones.

You can use a soft brush like an eyebrow brush to clean in between the prongs of the setting. Hold the diamonds by their settings and don’t touch the stones. If you’re cleaning them in the bathroom, be sure to close the stopper on the sink! You don’t want to go fishing in the plumbing for your valuable jewelry!

We’ve also used a mild toothpaste and soft toothbrush to clean gemstones. Rinse them under cold water, also using a soft brush to get any toothpaste particles from the gaps in between the stones and the setting. Some experts don’t recommend this and there is risk of scratching the stone, so if you choose this method, make sure it’s a low-abrasive. The best solution really is a commercial preparation or ammonia and water.

Rinse the jewelry in a tea infuser or under running water and dry it on a lint-free surface or towel. When you put your jewelry away, put it in a soft, velvet-lined box. Keep rings separate and don’t lump them in with all your other jewelry, to help protect the setting and the stones.

When you travel with your jewelry, make sure it’s in a soft, lined jewelry roll or a case specially designed for jewelry. Even if you wear your engagement and wedding rings all the time, take care of them. Don’t wear them if you’re using harsh cleaning chemicals or solutions or doing work that might cause them to knock against furniture or walls.

Diamond Shapes

engagement diamonds 08The cut of a diamond refers to the way the stone is shaped and polished, how the facets are arranged and how deep or shallow it’s cut. There are various cuts of diamonds that refer to that, many of them patented. Both Asscher and Princess diamonds are square-shaped diamonds, but they are vastly different in how the facet are cut and arranged.

Cut also refers to the shape of the diamond. The shape is often determined by how the molecules of the crystal are arranged. If it’s an octahedron, it will be cut as a round brilliant, and often two round brilliants can be cut from the same original crystal. Other crystal configurations, such as macer, will be cut as marquise or oval diamonds.

The modern round cut brilliant stone has 58 facets, or 57 if the tiny bottom facet, the culet, is omitted. The Princess cut is unique in that it’s a square diamond with pointed corners. Many diamonds, even square and emerald cut diamonds will have rounded or cut-off corners, because contrary to popular opinion, a diamond can chip or scratch if it knocks against something at the wrong angle. It’s a bad idea to try to scratch a mirror with any diamond!

An emerald shaped diamond is a rectangle cut with longer, flat facets. It’s a good cut for a diamond that’s exceptionally clear. If it’s not, then an emerald cut diamond can appear cloudy.

The Asscher diamond is similar to an emerald shape, except it’s square. It’s cutting resembles a spider web when viewed from above.

Other diamond shapes are self-explanatory. A pear- or tear-shaped diamond is exactly that. It’s an oval that’s wider at one end and curves to a point at the other end. An oval is a perfect oval. The marquise-shaped diamond can maximize the carat weight of a stone because it’s a longer and flatter cut, yet highly faceted. The marquise comes in a variety of length-to-width ratios.

A Diamond’s Fluorescence And Why It’s Important

engagement diamonds 07We’re all familiar with the 4Cs of diamonds – cut, color, clarity and carat weight. But diamonds also possess a quality called fluorescence that’s part of the evaluation and assessment of a diamond. It’s actually called photo-luminescence and it’s caused by small amounts of the chemical boron in the diamond. It’s activated by UV light.

It’s graded by how much blue there is in the diamond – None, Faint, Medium, Medium blue, Strong, Strong Blue and Intense Blue. At one time, this was a highly-prized quality in a diamond and the demand for a blue-white diamond was high. The blue indicated the fluorescence of the diamond, while white was a reference to the overall color of the body of the stone. This has decreased over time as consumer preference shifted towards the more colorless stones.

The tide of public preference may be shifting back to the blue-white diamond, but you want to be sure, when buying a diamond, that you examine it under a variety of conditions, such as sunlight and fluorescent light, as well as a jeweler’s black light. Some diamonds with a fluorescent quality can become hazy in daylight or even glow out on the dance floor!

Colorless diamonds have become increasingly rare and expensive. The color grades of D (flawless) to G are going to be hard to come by at a reasonable price. If you’re buying a diamond with a color grade of H or higher, some fluorescence may actually be a good attribute for it and increase your stone’s value and attractiveness, as the blue fluorescence can offset any other gradations in the stone, such as a yellowish tone.

Although some diamonds have a yellow or orange fluorescence, most reputable jewelers will recommend against a diamond with this quality, unless you’re buying a colored diamond in the same hue, as a similar fluorescence will enhance and intensify that color.

A Diamond’s Fire

engagement diamonds 06The term fire is commonly used to describe a diamond, but what does it refer to? The ancient Greeks thought that fire in a diamond symbolized the eternal flame of love. Fire in a diamond is the dispersed light that appears as rainbow-like flashes of color. You can usually observe a diamond’s fire in places like restaurants or clubs where the light is lower. The amount of fire depends on how the stone is cut and faceted. Older cut diamonds appear as if they have more fire because they’re cut with steep crown angles and flatter tables of the facets.

Other characteristics that are used to evaluate a diamond include brilliance and scintillation. Brilliance requires both brightness and contrast in the diamond and refers to how light is reflected back to the viewer, or return-of-light in the diamond trade. To many jewelers, it’s the most important quality in a diamond, and is what people react to when they exclaim over a diamond.

Diamonds also have a quality called scintillation. Scintillation refers to how light disperses from the stone when it’s moved. While brilliance is the quality of dispersed light when the diamond is in a stationary position, scintillation is observed when the diamond moves in the light. They’re closely related qualities, while fire is a different attribute.

The way a diamond is cut will determine how much fire or brilliance it has, and often one may have to make a trade-off for one quality or another. Which way is the best way to go? For the most part, most diamonds are cut more for brilliance and scintillation rather than for fire. When shopping for a diamond remember that it’s in investment, yes. But what really matters is whether you love it. Qualities like brilliance vs. fire really do pale in comparison to that one critical element!

The Perfect Diamond Ring

engagement diamonds 05The smart groom-to-be does his research before buying his fiancée a diamond ring! There are more styles and cuts to choose from than ever before. It’s not enough to be educated about the four Cs of diamonds – cut, color, clarity and carats. Now there are all types of diamond cuts and settings to choose from.
The most popular style is still the round brilliant. It’s one of the earliest cuts ever developed and now relies on precise mathematical equations to create a stone with fire and brilliance that the earliest gem cutters could only have dreamed of.

But many brides want something completely unique. There are many traditional cuts to choose from. A pear-shaped is just that – wider at one end than the other. Or she can choose an oval, emerald or heart-shaped diamond. There are other cuts with unique faceting, such as the square princess-cut diamond.
Some cuts are patented, like the elongated Ashoka diamond or the Asprey & Garrard Eternal cut diamond. Other branded and patented cuts include:

Elara – a square-cut diamond with rounded corners
Asscher – a square diamond with rounded facets that gives an unusual complexity to the diamond
Couples diamond – this diamond is faceted to reveal either a circle of hearts or arrows inside. It’s a truly unusual diamond that requires precise cutting for the image to appear properly.

The price of a diamond increases exponentially with its carat weight. A one-carat diamond costs much more than 10 10-point diamonds and a two-carat diamond costs more than twice as much as a one-carat diamond (given equal quality in other areas).

One way to enhance a ring is with embellishments such as baguettes or trillions. A baguette is a small emerald-shaped diamond that can be placed on either side of the main stones and a trillion is a triangle-shaped diamond that also is a good enhancement to the center stone.

Industrial vs Gem Quality Diamonds

engagement diamonds 04Diamonds are the hardest known naturally occurring material Its hardness has been known since ancient times, and is the source of its name. However, there have been synthetic diamonds created which are even harder.

The hardest natural diamonds in the world are diamonds from the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, and are used to polish other diamonds.

Industrial use of diamonds has historically been associated with their hardness; this property makes diamond the ideal material for cutting and grinding tools. It is one of the most known and most useful of more than 3,000 known minerals. As the hardest known naturally occurring material, diamond can be used to polish, cut, or wear away any material, including other diamonds. Common industrial adaptations of this ability include diamond-tipped drill bits and saws, or use of diamond powder as an abrasive.

Other specialized applications also exist or are being developed, including use as semiconductors: some blue diamonds are natural semiconductors, in contrast to most other diamonds, which are excellent electrical insulators.

Industrial-grade diamonds are either unsuitable for use as gems or synthetically produced, which lowers their price and makes their use economically feasible. Industrial applications, especially as drill bits and engraving tools, also date to ancient times.

The hardness of diamonds also contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well, keeping its luster over long periods of time. Unlike many other gems, it is well-suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching—perhaps contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in an engagement ring or wedding ring, which are often worn every day.