Diamond Cuts and Shapes: Your Essential Guide

There’s so much to consider when it comes to buying a diamond. We asked Sarah Jane Santos, Gemmologist at Queensmith Master Jewellers, to explain the different diamond cuts and the pros and cons of each…

From De Beers’ famous ‘diamonds are forever’ campaign, to the ring emoji we’re au fait with today – when we think of an engagement ring, we think of a round, single diamond set on a plain band. Beautiful, but certainly not your only choice: the reality is, a diamond can be cut from its natural form into just about any shape you can think of.


Diamond shapes can be grouped into two different cut types: ‘brilliant cut’ and ‘step cut’. Brilliant cuts equate to maximum sparkle, thanks to plenty of small facets to bounce light around internally. Step cuts contain fewer, larger facets, to give a ‘mirror-like’ optical illusion – highlighting the diamond’s clarity.

Your Guide to Diamond Cuts and Shapes


A traditional choice, round brilliant cut diamonds are the most adored shape amongst engagement ring buyers for a reason; the optimum number of facets and perfect symmetry achieve the diamond’s potential for maximum sparkle. No other diamond shape compares to the sparkle of a round diamond.

brilliant cut diamond ring

Pros: Traditional, timeless, versatile and unequivocally sparkly

Cons: The most expensive cut carat-for-carat, and the most popular choice


The ideal oval cut diamond will be perfectly balanced; not too elongated, not too rounded. Elongated shapes like the oval cut tend to feature an optical detailing known as a ‘bow tie’ – where a dark, bow-tie like shape appears at the centre of the stone; the smaller the bow-tie appears, the more desirable the stone.

oval shaped diamond ring

Pros: Extremely sparkly, elegant and flattering. Appears larger thanks to the elongated shape

Cons: Prone to the ‘bow tie’ effect


Cushion cuts typically emulate a square shape with rounded corners; a hybrid between a round and square. They can, however, be cut more rectangular, to suit those with a preference for elegant, elongated shapes. Mimicking the style of ‘old European cut’ diamonds, they have a vintage appeal whilst remaining bright and brilliant.

ring with a cushion cut diamond

Pros: Vintage appearance, with feminine, rounded edges that suit every setting style

Cons: Larger facets that can show internal flaws

Read more: Our favourite vintage style wedding dresses


Until very recently, princess cut diamonds were considered the second most popular diamond shape. While trends for alternative shapes rise, the diamond cut is still a much-loved, romantic choice. The angular, square shape is cut for brilliance, and is beautifully sparkly.

Princess cut diamond ring with matching wedding band

Pros: Among the best value for money; angular and contemporary

Cons: Vulnerable pointed corners limit the shape to suitable setting styles, like halos


A marquise diamond is the perfect shape for those seeking something less traditional. Inspired by the lips of King Louis XV’s lover, he commissioned the shape in her praise! Marquise diamonds pack a punch; feminine and angular, it is an unusual shape that makes for a brilliantly unique engagement ring.

Marquise cut diamond

Pros: Incredibly unique, elongating and hugely sparkly

Cons: Prone to the bow tie effect, with vulnerable sharp points


Also referred to as ‘teardrop’, pear shape diamonds feature a rounded base that tapers into an angular apex With a similar faceting structure to the round brilliant, pear diamonds exude serious sparkle, but are prone to the bow-tie effect.

Be wary of pears that are too squat and ‘fat’, and those that are too elongated and ‘skinny’. A good jeweller or gemmologist will be able to help you pick out a perfectly proportioned pear.

pear cut diamond

Pros: Elongated and flattering; a unique choice

Cons: Prone to the bow tie effect, with one vulnerable point, and less attractive when not proportioned well

Read more: How to choose an engagement ring

Emerald Cut

A prime example of the step cut, the ‘emerald cut’ was first engineered to celebrate exquisitely clear emeralds, then adopted to showcase diamonds with high clarity. The large, geometric facets create an enchanting optical illusion, like a hall of mirrors, evocative of Art Deco style.

Stick with a high clarity grade – whilst small inclusions can be hidden amongst the many facets a brilliant cut, you can see well into a step cut stone; inclusions may appear enhanced by the cut style.

Emerald cut diamond

Pros: Elongated and enchanting; vintage appeal

Cons: Large facets that don’t hide poor clarity or colour grades


The Asscher cut is perfectly squared, ensuring a symmetrical style that is sleek, modern and mesmerising, as the eye is drawn to the centre of the stone. The corners are ‘clipped’, meaning the shape is octagonal-like (it is sometimes referred to as an ‘octagonal cut’). Interestingly, the Asscher cut is the most similar shape to a diamond’s natural, uncut structure.

Asscher cut diamond

Pros: Can looks both modern and vintage; brilliant and unique, with clipped corners to avoid vulnerable points

Cons: Large facets that don’t hide poor clarity or colour grades

Read more: Beautiful celebrity engagement rings to inspire you

Radiant Cut

The ultimate hybrid between step cut and brilliant cut, a radiant cut diamond makes the most of both. Mixing larger facets with the multi-faceted style of brilliant cuts, it is every bit as magnificent, sparkly and show-stopping as it sounds.

Despite its innate beauty, the radiant cut is a lesser-chosen diamond shape, yet is the perfect choice for those who adore the elegant, rectangular shape of the emerald cut but long for serious sparkle.

radiant cut diamond

Pros: Bright, brilliant and noteworthy. Rounded edges avoid vulnerable corner points

Cons: Harder to find than most shapes, with a limited pool to choose from

Feeling inspired by what you’ve seen, or perhaps a little overwhelmed by the different diamond shapes available? Why not reach out to a qualified gemmologist, who can offer further advice on the shapes you like, the designs they’ll work with and how to create that perfectly personal engagement ring. Queensmith are running both in-store and virtual appointments. Book here to meet with an expert.

Thinking more about diamonds and diamond types? Make sure you read our guide to lab grown diamonds.

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