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Cushion Cut vs. Emerald Cut Diamond: How to Decide

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Cushion vs Emerald Cut Diamond

Choosing the cut of your diamond is one of the first steps in deciding which diamond is right for you. There are a variety of cuts that all have unique shapes and features, and two common considerations are cushion and emerald cuts.

Let’s compare cushion versus emerald cut diamonds across their primary characteristics such as shape, brilliance, clarity, and more to help you decide.

What is a Cushion Cut Diamond?

Cushion cut diamonds combine rounded corners with a square cut.

It’s a pillow-like shape that is sometimes slightly rectangular. Its edges are straight, but the corners are rounded.

Cushion Cut Diamond Ring

Cushion cuts have been around for about 200 years, and until technology improved the process of creating round brilliant cuts, they were the traditional diamond shape now known as the “old mine cut.” 

There’s no exact shape or table or depth percentage required for a cushion cut, which means there’s a variety of styles available that have unique looks.

They’re commonly bought as engagement rings as a distinct cut from other popular cuts such as round, princess, or oval. Additionally, you’ll often see them as the center diamond in a halo setting.

What is an Emerald Cut Diamond?

Emerald cut diamonds are known for their long, rectangular shape. They have linear facets that run parallel across the stone’s table to create a larger surface area than other cuts. Its other distinct feature is its corners, which are shaped diagonally with polished edges.

Emerald Cut Diamond

Emerald cuts are another alternative to a round engagement ring diamond because of their lower cost. 

Its unique style allows you to purchase a larger carat weight for the same price compared to a round or princess cut.

Emerald cuts are often compared to baguette diamonds, and to the naked eye, they look similar. The difference is the diagonal corners compared to the squared-off edges of a baguette cut.

What are the Differences Between Cushion and Emerald Cuts?

If you’re deciding between a cushion and emerald cut diamond for your engagement ring, you should know how they differ across the primary traits used to determine the quality and performance of a diamond.

Cut

The difference between a cushion and emerald cut is the cut used to form the shape of the diamond and its facets.

A cushion cut is a type of brilliant cut. This means it’s designed to maximize brilliance and light return through the diamond’s table. The number and shape of the facets are cut in a way where light can enter and exit the diamond at the right angles.

Cushion Cut Diamond Ring with Halo

Emeralds are a step-cut diamond. The facets are shaped like a set up steps moving from the center of the diamond toward its edges. The rectangular facets form a “hall of mirrors” effect where the facets appear to continue even as they reach the center. 

Facets on step-cut diamonds are much larger than brilliant cuts.

Shape

The naked eye often doesn’t notice how the individual facets are cut on a diamond. Instead, what distinguishes one cut from the other is its overall shape. When comparing a cushion versus emerald cut, there’s no mistaking the two based on shape.

Shape of Cushion and Emerald Cut

One pro of cushion cuts is they can be fashioned into multiple shapes, but the commonality between the variations is the rounded edges and squarish body. The most popular shape for a cushion cut has a length 10-20 percent longer than the width, creating a rectangular. 

Emerald diamonds also have a rectangular shape, but their distinguishing characteristic is the diagonal edges. They’re shaped in a way that creates eight sides but not the appearance of a traditional octagon, where all sides are equal.

Instead, its four diagonal edges are equal length, and then its four other sides have a matching side on the other end. This creates the elongated look.

A one carat emerald diamond is typically 7×5 millimeters. This ratio shifts as the diamond gets larger and smaller, so a small emerald might have a 1.5:1 ratio of length to width, while a large one could be 5:4. Either way, most emerald cut diamonds aren’t a square shape.

Brilliance and Fire

Cushion cuts have more brilliance and fire than emerald cuts because it’s a brilliant cut. In fact, cushion cut diamonds are known for their intense fire compared to all other cuts except for round.

A diamond’s fire effect is produced when white light disperses into a rainbow of different colors when it bounces off its facets. It’s a glimmer of colors radiating from the diamond in multiple directions.

In addition to a quality cut, a cushion cut diamond with excellent symmetry has more fire. The ideal arrangement of facets creates a better environment for refracting light.

And similar to its fire, you can expect strong brilliance from a cushion cut diamond because of its high number of facets formed at the right size and angle. That means it reflects both white and colored light.

The brilliance and fire of emerald cuts pale in comparison to cushion but are stronger than other cuts such as baguettes. The focus of a step-cut diamond isn’t on the best light performance because its facets aren’t triangular.

Petite Solitaire Emerald Cut Ring

Instead, many of the facets are rectangular, which don’t create the ideal angles for light to bounce in and off the diamond. You can still find emerald cuts that don’t appear dull, but next to a cushion cut, the difference in brilliance and fire will be obvious.

Price

pro of emerald and cushion cuts versus a round cut is a lower price per carat. If a round diamond has all the same qualities as a cushion or emerald cut, the round cut would be the most expensive.

There’s only a small difference in price between cushion and emerald cuts.

The reason they’re more affordable than round brilliants is because most of the rough diamond is used in the final product. In other shapes, a larger percentage is discarded, so the price goes up.

To learn exact prices, let’s compare two diamonds that have the same qualities, except one is cushion cut and the other is emerald. They’re grades on the GIA scales are:

  • Carat weight: 1.00
  • Color: H
  • Clarity: VS1

At James Allen, a leading online diamond retailer, the average price for an emerald cut of that quality is $3,815. The average price for the cushion cut is $3,310.

Average Price of Emerald Cut

We can do the same comparison with Blue Nile, another online retailer. The average price for the emerald cut is $4,477, and for the cushion cut, it’s $4,135.

You can expect to save from 7-15 percent by choosing a cushion cut over an emerald cut.

Color

Cushion cuts hide color better than emerald cuts but rank lower on this ability compared to many other cuts. Colorless diamonds are more valuable than ones that show tints of yellow or brown, so the more colorless it appears, the higher the price.

While a diamond graded a D on the GIA color scale is truly colorless, most buyers are concerned with how the diamond appears to the naked eye. The goal is to find a diamond that looks colorless but doesn’t command the premium price of a colorless grade.

For cushion cuts, an I or H color generally hides the yellow tint, and for an emerald cut, we recommend an H grade or higher. The emerald’s step-cut produces less brilliance, so it doesn’t hide color as well as brilliant cuts.

Emerald Cut Diamond K Color

One way to find the best value on color for an emerald is to choose a yellow gold setting. The yellow gold from the band will contrast with the diamond and make it appear lighter.

For a cushion cut, consider platinum or white gold for the setting.

Clarity

A diamond’s clarity is graded on the presence and visibility of inclusions, or imperfections, in the diamond. Inclusions impact the appearance of a diamond and inhibit its brilliance because light can’t travel through as cleanly.

Cushion Modified Diamond

Cushion cuts hide inclusions more than emerald cuts, so you’ll have a stronger degree of clarity with a cushion cut. This is because of it has a higher degree of brilliance. The white and colored light reflecting from the stone hides those dark blemishes.

Most diamonds buyers are concerned with finding an eye-clean diamond, which means the inclusions aren’t visible to the naked eye. A cushion cut with a clarity grade of S12 or above is often eye-clean.

For an emerald cut, you should opt for a VS2 clarity if you want the same effect. There’s no need to find a flawless diamond if you want it to appear clean to the naked eye.

Popularity

Cushion cuts are more popular than emerald cuts, especially for engagement rings. They’re the third most popular choice. 

Cushion Cut Engagement Ring

Brilliance is a top consideration for an engagement ring because the primary focus is often one diamond. 

Buyers want to maximize the sparkle of the center stone, so when comparing a cushion versus an emerald cut, it’s an easy choice.

Within their respective category of cut, cushions are less popular than round and princess.

Those are the two most popular cuts for engagement ring diamonds, so cushion cuts have strong competition in the brilliant category.

Even though about three percent of diamonds on the market are emerald cuts, they’re one of the most popular step-cuts, compared to others such as Carré and Asscher. If you do find an emerald cut for an engagement ring diamond, it’s often paired with baguette cuts surrounding it on each side.

Durability

The durability of a diamond is an important consideration because of their significant cost. Two factors that influence its longevity is the type and size of inclusions and whether the diamond has sharp corners.

Sharp Corner of Emerald Cut

In regard to inclusions, its structure can be weakened whether it’s a cushion or emerald cut. Large inclusions such as feathers or cavities create weak points, so hard impact can cause it to chip.

An emerald cut has sharper corners than a cushion cut, so it’s more vulnerable to chipping. Its durability can be improved with a setting that protects those edges such as a bezel.

Carat Weight

Carats are a measure of weight, so a one-carat cushion cut and a one-carat emerald cut are the same size. But the shape and cut of a diamond can determine how it appears to the naked eye and whether it hides weight from view.

For example, a cushion cut has a deeper cut, so when viewing it face up, it looks smaller than other cuts. That’s because much of its weight is hidden under the table.

An emerald cut, on the other hand, has a long surface area. Its weight is spread out over that surface area. It appears larger because there’s less diamond under the table.

You’d have to buy a cushion cut with slightly higher carat weight in order for it to look equivalent to an emerald cut.

Varieties

There are more varieties of cuts within the cushion category compared to emerald cuts. These options include:

  • Antique cushion cuts
  • Modern
  • Cushion brilliant
  • Modified cushion
  • Crushed ice
  • Elongated

Each consists of the same traditional rounded edges and brilliant cut. The differences are in the way the individual facets are cut. 

Cushion Cut Diamond

For example, the crushed ice cushion cut has many smaller triangles broken up. 

It has an extra row of facets below the girdle to create this crushed ice aesthetic. It allows the cutter to save more of the original rough diamond, so the price is lower.

With each variation of the cushion cut, you’ll find it has a unique appearance that comes with pros and cons.

The most significant variations for emerald cut diamonds are the length-to-width ratios. It can stretch from a rectangle down to a 1:1 ratio. With larger ratios, the diamond appears more slim.

Are There Any Similarities Between Cushion and Emerald Cuts?

There are three main similarities between cushion and emerald cuts.

First, they’re both part of the category of diamonds known as fancy shapes. Fancy shapes are any shape other than a round diamond, which also includes marquise, Asscher, radiant, and oval. They’re all less expensive than a round cut and have unique shapes and ways they reflect light.

Additionally, cushion and emerald cuts are both alternatives to traditional round-cut engagement ring diamonds. 

Round cuts are by far the most popular style, but many buyers seek a more modern look. Fancy shapes serve this market while also offering a more affordable option.

Cushion and Emerald in Prong

Lastly, both emerald and cushion cuts work in a variety of settings. Once you’ve chosen the perfect diamond, your next step is to find the setting. 

Prongs are the most common, but they both work in bezel settings, which provide protection for the diamond all the way around.

You can enhance the sparkle of the piece by adding accents along the shank or choosing a channel setting. To combine the cuts, choose a cushion or emerald cut as the main diamond and add the other cut running down the shank.

Which Diamond Cut is Right For You?

Choosing between a cushion versus emerald cut involves comparing them across the traits that make up a diamond’s quality, including shape, brilliance and fire, color, durability and more.

If you’re looking for the diamond that shines the most, opt for a cushion over emerald. If you’re not interested in the traditional, rounded diamond, the elongated shape of an emerald cut may be right for you.

Either way, you’re choosing a modern cut that differs from the most popular option. Compare several cushion and emerald cuts, including the variety of settings available for each.

By understanding the qualities that make them unique, you can select the diamond cut that’s right for you.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

Learn More About Devon

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