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Cushion vs Emerald Cut Diamond (9 Differences)

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Cushion vs Emerald Cut Diamond

There are a variety of diamond cuts that all have unique shapes and features, and two common considerations are cushion and emerald cuts.

The main difference between cushion and emerald cut diamonds is cushion cuts have brilliant cut facets and a squarish shape. Emerald cuts are step-cut diamonds with four sides and cropped corners. They exhibit a warmer glow than cushion cuts because of their elongated facets.

Let’s compare cushion versus emerald cut diamonds across their 10 differences, 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.

Check out the cushion cut diamond below, set in 14K yellow gold.

Cushion Cut Diamond

Notice that from a distance, it mimics a round cut. It’s when you focus on its four sides that you notice they’re more straight than what you’d find in a classic diamond.

Cushion cuts have been around for about 200 years. 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, so there’s a variety of styles available.

They’re commonly bought as engagement rings as an alternative to popular cuts such as round, princess, or oval. 

Additionally, you’ll often see them as the center diamond in a halo setting.

To illustrate, here’s a cushion cut with a twisted band halo ring.

Cushion Cut with Halo Setting

The small diamonds add even more brilliance to the piece.

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.

Here’s a high-resolution image of an emerald cut diamond.

Emerald Cut Diamond

Take time to rotate the image 360 degrees, so you can view its facets from every angle. From the back, you’ll notice it has tremendous depth and doesn’t come to the same sharp point as a round cut.

Emerald cuts are another alternative to a round engagement ring diamond that also has a lower price per carat.

Emerald cuts are often compared to baguette diamonds, and to the naked eye, they look similar. 

Try spotting the difference between the two below.

Shape of Emerald Cut Diamond

It’s the diagonal corners compared to the squared-off edges of a baguette cut.

What are the Differences Between Cushion and Emerald Cuts?

1. Cut

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

A cushion cut is a type of brilliant cut. 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.

If you zoom in on the image below, you can start to identify individual facets.

Cushion Cut Diamond Ring with Halo

Although it’s difficult to determine where they start and end, it’s easy to tell the difference between those triangular- and kite-shaped facets and ones in an emerald cut.

Emeralds are a step-cut diamond. The facets are shaped like a set up stairs moving from the center of the diamond toward its edges. 

The rectangular facets form a “hall of mirrors” effect, where facets appear to continue even as they reach the center. 

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

2. 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.

I’ve placed a cushion next to an emerald cut below.

Shape of Cushion and Emerald Cut

When placed side-by-side, the differences in their shape is apparent.

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 copped corners. 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.

3. Brilliance and Fire

Cushion cuts display more brilliance and fire than emerald cuts because they’re 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 is produced when white light disperses into a rainbow of different colors. 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. 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.

That doesn’t mean an emerald cut requires additional diamonds on the shank to achieve a sense of elegance. You can still place them in a solitaire setting, like the one below.

Petite Solitaire Emerald Cut Ring

But many of its 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.

4. 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.

Between emerald and cushion cuts, there’s only a small price difference.

The reason they’re both 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, I compared diamonds that have the same qualities, except one is cushion cut and the other is emerald. They’re grades from the Gemological Institute of America 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

I did 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.

That’s enough savings to choose a higher carat weight or improved color or clarity grades.

5. Color

A diamond’s color is graded on a scale of D to Z, where D is colorless and Z indicates strong tints of yellow or brown.

GIA Color Scale

Cushion cuts hide color better than emerald cuts but rank lower on this ability compared to many others. 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.

To provide a clear example of the impact of low color grades, here’s an emerald cut with a K color grade.

Emerald Cut Diamond K Color

The yellow is obvious with magnification, and it’d still be noticeable when viewed in a normal setting.

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

This emerald cut earned a G color grade, which is the highest in the “near colorless” category of the color scale.

Emerald Cut with G Color Grade

There’s no yellow with magnification, which means it would also appear colorless to the naked eye.

6. Clarity

A diamond’s clarity is graded on the presence and visibility of inclusions, or imperfections, in the 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 SI1 or above is often eye-clean, but you should always view the diamond in person or in high-quality photos.

For example, this cushion cut earned an SI1 clarity grade.

Cushion Cut with SI1 Clarity

Take the time to view it at multiple angles. Even though the GIA report identifies crystals and feathers, they likely aren’t visible without 10x magnification.

For an emerald cut, opt for a VS2 clarity if you want the same effect. 

7. Popularity

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

The engagement ring below features a cushion cut surrounded by marquise diamonds.

Cushion Cut Engagement Ring

As you can see, it creates a stunning yet simple piece.

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, like in this example.

Emerald Cut Engagement Ring with Tapered Baguettes

The rectangular shape of the tapered baguettes complements the emerald cut in the middle.

8. 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.

Emerald cuts are considered durable because the corners are cropped.

Sharp Corner of Emerald Cut

You don’t have to worry as much about a sharp corner chipping if it experiences impact.

The same idea is true of a cushion cut because of its rounded edges.

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.

If you choose a cushion or emerald cut with at least an SI2 clarity grade, you shouldn’t worry about inclusions causing it to lack durability. That being said, you should always protect your diamond with a quality setting and remove it during physical activity.

9. 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.

As an example, this cushion cut has facets that appear as crushed ice.

Cushion Cut Diamond

This trait is especially obvious in the middle.

It has an extra row of facets below the girdle to create this crushed ice aesthetic. The cutter saves 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.

Here’s an image of two emerald cuts with different ratios.

Emerald Cut Varieties

The one on the left clearly has longer lengths than widths, while the the one of the right is is closer to a square shape.

Are There Any Similarities?

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.

These two engagement rings demonstrates how cushion and emeralds can both sit at the center of a stunning piece of jewelry.

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.

Is a Cushion or Emerald Cut 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.

Here are a few guidelines to help you decide.

Consider a cushion cut if:

  • You’re interested in an alternative to round cuts that still have strong brilliance
  • You want a lower cost per carat
  • One of its variations, such as an antique or crushed ice cushion, is appealing

An emerald cut might be right for you if:

  • You don’t mind its lack of brilliance
  • You’re willing to choose a higher color and clarity grade so it still appears colorless and eye-clean
  • Its elongated shape is more desirable to you

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