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Two of the most popular diamond cuts are round and princess. If you’re shopping for a diamond ring, the chances are you’re considering one or both of these styles. In fact, it’s estimated 60 percent of diamonds sold are round cut and up to 15 percent are princess cut.
Buying a diamond is a significant purchase, so it’s important you go in with the right information. In this article, we’ll compare round versus princess cuts across their primary qualities including price, brilliance, clarity, color, and more. We’ll also look at examples of each cut.
You’ll gain confidence in knowing which cut is right for your budget and style, so whichever round or princess cut diamond you choose will be the perfect one for you or your partner.
What is a Round Cut Diamond?
Round cut diamonds are designed to maximize its sparkle and brilliance. Its 58 facets allow the highest amount of light to pass through the diamond and reflect off its surface, resulting in the best light performance of any cut.
In most cases, 33 facets are on the crown and 25 are on the pavilion.
The history of the modern round cut dates back to 1919, when Marcel Tolkowsy specifically set out to cut a diamond in the way that would result in the most brilliance.
Ideally, the excellent symmetry of the diamond means light isn’t misdirected because of issues such as misaligned facets.
The high number of facets and their position and shape on the diamond is what makes the round brilliant cut the most coveted type in the market.
It’s considered the standard style of an engagement ring, and though other cuts rise and fall and popularity, none have surpassed the sales of the round cut.
What is a Princess Cut Diamond?
Princess cut diamonds, referred to as “square modified brilliants,” have a square or rectangular shape with 57 or 58 facets and a sparkle and brilliance that rival round cuts.
It’s the second most popular cut for diamond rings and was designed as a fancy shape that would still have strong light performance.
When viewed from the top, the princess cut often looks square but sometimes has a rectangular appearance.
It was developed in the 1960s, but it became more popular in the 1980s.
It’s considered a more modern cut that can also fit with various ring designs, whether a knife edge ring or a wider type of ring.
Comparing Princess vs. Round Diamond Cuts
To compare princess versus round diamond cuts, it’s best to examine them across the qualities people use when considering a diamond. These include:
Let’s explore each of these in detail so you can make the most informed purchase.
As a general rule, princess cuts cost 20-35% less than round cuts. Princess cuts are less expensive per carat than round cut diamonds because diamond cutters don’t waste as much of the rough diamond in creating one.
When cutting a princess diamond, the jeweler uses about 80% of the rough diamond, so only 20% goes to waste. On the other hand, about 60% goes to waste when cutting a round diamond.
Because the jeweler has to waste more of the rough diamond when creating a round cut — not to mention the higher demand for round cuts — it results in a higher price.
For example, let’s compare two diamonds from James Allen of the same carat, clarity, cut, and color, but one is round (left) and the other is princess.
The round cut costs $6,600, and the princess cut costs $5,630.
The average cost for the round cut of that quality is about $8,000, while the princess cuts usually cost around $5,000.
Brilliance is a term used to describe how well a diamond returns white light.
It’s what gives the diamond sparkle as you twirl it around and watch it glimmer.
The degree of brilliance is determined by how well the diamond is cut and polished. The goal of most jewelers is to cut and polish the facets of the diamond in a way that maximizes its light performance.
A poorly cut diamond will cause the light to leak out through the pavilion, resulting in a dull color.
No cut can beat the brilliance of a round cut diamond, and that includes a princess cut. But the advantage of a princess cut is it’s the fancy shape with the highest amount of brilliance and best competes with a round cut.
In many cases, it has just as many facets, but a round cut can reflect close to 90% of light.
A quality princess cut has the ability to return 70%.
The clarity of a diamond is graded by the size, color, and position of inclusions. Inclusions are any imperfection in a diamond and may appear as a black spot, a white line, or a crystal lodged inside.
Inclusions often occur during the formation of a diamond but other times are a result of the mining or cutting process.
When comparing round cuts versus princess cuts in regard to clarity, the contest is between which one better hides inclusions from the naked eye.
There’s no such thing as a truly flawless diamond, but the goal of most buyers should be to find the highest quality diamond at the lowest price, where any defects can only be seen under magnification.
Round cut diamonds hide flaws better than princess cuts. Their better light performance and sparkle can diminish the appearance of inclusions.
That’s why it’s recommended to choose a VVS2 clarity for a larger round cut or a VS2 for a smaller one. You won’t pay the premium for the highest clarity, but it should still be clean to the naked eye.
For princess cuts, a VS1 grade for a large diamond or a VS2 for a small one should have that same effect.
The imperfections in princess cuts are more noticeable but generally located in the four corners. That means you can place the diamond in a four-prong setting and have the metal claws cover up the inclusions, making it appear flawless.
Colorless diamonds are considered the most valuable, and the quality diminishes as a stronger amount of yellow or brown tint is present. Most consumers don’t want to pay the premium price for a colorless diamond (a “D” on the GIA scale), so it’s about finding the right amount of color that doesn’t lessen its aesthetic but is also affordable.
The same principle for clarity applies for color. Round diamonds have the best light performance, so it hides small tints of color. You can choose a round cut diamond one or two grades lower on the color scale, and you can expect the color to look similar to a fancy shape such as princess.
For example, here are two diamonds from Blue Nile. The round cut’s color is graded G, and the princess cut’s color is graded E, which is two grades above the round cut.
To the naked eye, it’s difficult to tell the difference between two colors, but that’s even more true when one is a round cut and the other is a princess cut. The option to choose a lower color for a similar appearance helps offset the higher cost of a round cut.
The size of a diamond is measured in carats, which is actually a unit of weight and not width or diameter. So when comparing the size of a one-carat round cut versus one-carat princess cut, they’re technically the same size.
But because of their different shapes, the surface area of each is distinct. In general, a round cut has 10-15% more surface area, but the diagonal length of a princess cut is longer.
If you were to place two of the same carat weight side by side, your naked eye would probably think the princess cut diamond is larger. That isn’t always the case, and some people think the round actually looks bigger.
But because princess cuts are cheaper, you could buy a larger princess cut diamond for the same price if all other qualities are equal.
Both round and princess cuts are versatile when it comes to your choice of setting.
The most popular type for each is a prong setting. While round cuts are often held in place by three, four or six prongs, princess cuts are most commonly held by four prongs — one in each corner.
When it comes to adding extra stones to your ring, round diamonds pair well with a halo setting, where the center gem is surrounded by a circle of smaller gems.
Or if you want to save money by avoiding the purchase of one large diamond, and instead purchase several small ones, opt for a cluster setting of round cuts.
The cluster setting, as opposed to a solitaire, features smaller diamonds all close together, making it appear like it’s one larger diamond.
Princess cuts are often seen in a three-stone setting. A three-stone setting involves one center gem surrounded on each side by two other gems, usually smaller than the center one. The surrounding stones can either be princess or round cuts.
For a truly modern look, combine the princess cut with a tension setting. Tension settings compress the diamond between two pieces of metal, making it appear as if the diamond is floating in midair.
Is a Round or Princess Cut Right for You?
The choice between a princess cut versus a round cut diamond requires understanding what makes each cut unique. By comparing them across price, brilliance, the types of settings they work best in, and more, you can determine which cut is right for you.
If you want the classic look that matches most other diamonds on the market, choose a round cut. It won’t lack in sparkle or brilliance compared to other cuts, and you’ll have an endless variety of settings to choose.
Princess cuts offer a modern, chic style that has minimal compromise on sparkle and brilliance while also helping you save on price compared to a round cut.
Compare the looks of round and princess cuts, and modify the qualities such as color, clarity, and carat. By moving the grades up and down on each cut, you’ll land on the diamond that’s the perfect choice for you.