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12 Pros and Cons of Cushion Cut Diamonds

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Pros and Cons of Cushion Cuts

There are many different cuts that can serve as the center diamond on an engagement ring or any other piece of jewelry.

Cushion cuts are a fancy shape that have gained popularity in recent years because of its vintage appeal, fire, and affordability compared to other cuts.

Let’s explore 12 pros and cons of cushion cut diamonds, so you’ll know if it’s right for you.

What is a Cushion Cut Diamond?

Cushion cut diamonds have a square shape with rounded corners. It mimics the shape of a pillow and often has 58 facets. 

The cut was introduced more than 200 years ago and known as the “old mine cut.”

1.00 Carat Cut Cushion Cut Diamond

Until new technology helped diamond cutters produce a round brilliant cut, cushion cuts were the standard shape for many diamonds.

Today, they’re often the fourth most popular diamond cut for engagement rings, behind round, princess, and marquise cuts

In addition to sitting on top of a ring as the main diamond, you’ll also find them lining the shank as diamond accents.

Pros of Cushion Cuts

There are several pros of cushion cuts you should know if you’re considering one for a diamond ring such as the variety of shapes and cuts, its durability, and how it fits different types of settings. 

We’ll examine each of these and more in detail below.

Strong Fire

A diamond’s fire refers to how it collects white light and disperses it into a rainbow of colors when it reflects off the facets. This enhances its visual appeal and is a valued trait in a diamond. 

Cushion Cut With Fire

Fire is distinct from brilliance, which is flashes of white light radiating from the diamond.

Cushion cuts often display more fire than any other fancy cut diamond, even radiant cuts. It’s a result of its small table and large culet, which is the bottom tip of a diamond. 

Light hits the physical facets on a cushion cut to create virtual facets.

Diamonds can refract more light when a higher number of virtual facets are present.

If you twirl a cushion cut around under light, you’ll notice both colored and white light reflecting from the surface of its facets.

To maximize the amount of fire in your cushion cut, choose one with excellent symmetry and polish. With smooth, well-cut facets, you can avoid light leaking through the pavilion.

Less Expensive Than Other Cuts

Cushion cuts are less expensive than round brilliants and other fancy shapes. They sell for a lower price per carat for two reasons.

Cushion Cut Diamond

The first reason is there is less demand for cushion cuts compared to round, princess, and marquise cuts. Lower demand results in a price decrease.

The second reason is cushion cuts don’t require diamond cutters to throw out as much of the original rough diamond. The shape of a cushion cut is closer to the actual shape of a rough diamond, so there’s less waste.

You can expect to save between 30-45 percent on a cushion cut compared to a round cut with the same qualities and carat weight.

We compiled prices for cushion and round cuts from James Allen, an online diamond retailer, with the following qualities:

  • Carat: 1.00
  • Color: G
  • Clarity: VS2

The average price of a cushion cut from James Allen with those qualities is $3,992, with a range of $2,960-$4,770.

Cushion Cut Diamond Princes

For a round cut, the average price is $6,337. The range is $5,340-$7,060.

That’s a savings of 41 percent for a round cut compared to a cushion cut.

Blue Nile, another diamond retailer, compiled prices for different cuts with similar qualities. They found cushion cuts are often 30 percent less expensive compared to round cuts.

The same concept is true for cushion cuts compared to princess cuts. At James Allen, the average price for a cushion cut is 13 percent less than a princess cut of the same quality.

At Blue Nile, the difference between the price of cushion versus princess cuts is 16 percent.

If you want to minimize the price per carat of your diamond, consider a cushion cut.

Varying Shapes

Cushion cuts are available in more than one shape. Some have a higher length to width ratio than others, which means it can appear more rectangular compared to the classic square shape.

Shapes of Cushion Cut Diamonds

For example, the most popular cushion cuts have a length to width ratio of 1.10-1.20. They look like a rectangle to the naked eye. On the other hand, any cushion cut between 1.00-1.05 will appear as a square.

The length to width ratio isn’t only about its appearance. In fact, if you’re considering a square-shaped cushion cut, you should ensure its ratio is between 1.00-1.03. 

Any higher can result in a poor cut, which reduces its fire and brilliance.

For rectangular cushion cuts, choose one with a ratio between 1.10-1.30. You don’t want a cushion cut that’s stretched too thin.

Multiple Types of Cuts

There are multiple types of cushion cuts that each have different faceting patterns and ways of interacting with light.

Old mine cushions are the original cut. They have geometric facets that are more chunky than other variations. Developed in the 1700s, it’s known for its large culet, high crown, and deep pavilion.

Cushion modified diamonds have a “crushed ice” appearance. The middle of the diamond has short, star-shaped facets that look like crushed ice.

It’s a common type of cushion cut because the cutter doesn’t have to waste much of the rough diamond.

Crushed Ice and Non-Crushed Ice Cushion Cut

Brilliant cut cushions are created to maximize brilliance and fire. Its strong light performance causes it to appear to have a larger diameter than other types.

Cushion modified hybrids are a modern cut that combines the facet patterns of the crushed ice and brilliant cushion cuts. 

On the outside, the star-shaped facets approach the girdle. In the middle, the crushed ice aesthetic is present.

There are pros and cons to each version of cushion cut diamonds, so you should explore each one to determine which fits your style.

Fit a Variety of Settings

You should consider more than the center diamond when choosing an engagement ring. The setting for your cushion cut adds a unique element to your ring and showcase your diamond in a variety of ways.

Cushion cuts fit many types of settings.

You can keep all the attention on your diamond by selecting a solitaire setting with no embellishments on the ring. 

Whether the shank is yellow or rose gold or platinum, it won’t compete with any diamond accents or milgrain lining the shank.

For example, this 14K white gold solitaire engagement ring from James Allen displays a cushion cut in a four-prong setting.

14K White Gold Cushion Cut Diamond Ring

Many buyers add sparkle to their ring with a halo of smaller diamonds around the main one. A halo adds brilliance to the piece without a significant price increase. It can also make the main diamond look larger.

This halo setting features a cushion cut with pave circling it, in addition to cascading down the shank.

14K White Gold Cushion Cut with Pave

You may decide on a cushion-shaped composite diamond, which features many small diamonds placed tightly together to form the illusion of a single diamond.

Explore how your cushion cut fits in several types of settings. You may find the solitaire design most appealing, or you could opt to complement it with more diamonds or other enhancements.

No Sharp Corners

Cushion cut diamonds don’t have sharp corners. The sharp edges on princess, marquise, and pear cuts leave them more vulnerable to chipping.

It’s one of the weakest areas of a diamond, so they should be protected with a strong setting.

Cushion cuts are more durable because of their rounded edges. If it’s dropped or hit, the corners are less likely to break compared to other cuts.

Cushion Cut Engagement Ring

You should still take proactive steps to protect cushion cuts. For example, remove your ring during physical activity or instances where the setting could snag on clothing or furniture.

The girdle and table are still susceptible to breaking, so be mindful of when and how you wear cushion cuts.

Popular for Colored Diamonds

Cushion cuts have larger facets than some other diamonds, so they retain color. 

Colored Cushion Cuts

If you placed a cushion cut next to a round brilliant, and they both had the same color grade from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the round cut would likely appear more colorless.

This can be a downside of cushion cuts if you’re searching for a colorless diamond because you’ll have to pay a premium for a higher color grade. 

But for colored cushion cuts, this strong color is a benefit.

Whether it’s green, red, orange, blue, or yellow, it’s a darker shade than what you would expect with a round or princess cut.

Cons of Cushion Cut Diamonds

There are also cons of cushion cut diamonds you should know if you’re considering one for a piece of jewelry. 

It ranks behind round, princess, and marquise in sales for a few of the reasons we’ll explore below.

Lacks Brilliance Compared to Round Cuts

The brilliance of any fancy shapes, including cushion, can’t compare to the brilliance of a round cut diamond. 

They’re designed to maximize light performance by capturing and reflecting as much light as possible. It’s part of what makes them the most valuable cut on the market.

Cushion cuts can still exhibit strong brilliance, even if it’s less than a round cut. In fact, its brilliance is comparable to radiant and princess cuts.

The large facets on a cushion cut are most conducive to giving off strong fire, but its white light performance shouldn’t be ignored.

Cushion cuts have more sparkle than Carre and Asscher cuts, in addition to other step-cut diamonds.

Doesn’t Hide Inclusions

Inclusions are imperfections in a diamond that diminish its appearance, durability, and brilliance. 

Inclusions such as etch channels, twinning wisps, and feathers distort the way light is reflected and can be visible to the naked eye.

Cushion Cut Diamond with Inclusions

Most buyers aren’t concerned with finding a flawless diamond with no inclusions at 10x magnification. 

Instead, they opt for an eye-clean diamond that looks flawless when viewed without magnification, like this cushion cut.

Some cuts hide inclusions better than others, and cushion cuts rank low in comparison to many others. 

Round brilliant cuts hide inclusions with their strong brilliance, but the large facets on a cushion cut make them more visible.

In most cases, a cushion cut with an SI1 clarity grade from the GIA will appear eye-clean. If you choose a cushion cut heavier than two carats, you should consider a VS2 clarity grade.

Appears Smaller Than Other Fancy Shapes

The size of a diamond isn’t measured by its visible appearance, but many buyers want to find a diamond that looks larger than other cuts of the same weight.

Cushion cuts appear smaller to the naked eye compared to other fancy cuts, even if they’re the same carat weight. It features a deep cut, which means much of its weight is under the surface.

It’s surface area is more condensed compared to the elongated shape of a marquise, oval, or emerald cut diamond

These diamonds are more shallow than cushion cuts.

Cushion cuts counter this downside by having a lower price per carat versus other cuts. You can increase its carat weight, and it can result in a similar cost as another cut with a slightly lower weight.

Not Given a GIA Cut Grade

The GIA doesn’t provide a cut grade for cushion cut diamonds. In fact, it won’t designate the quality of a cut for any fancy shape.

The GIA notes there isn’t an internationally accepted set of criteria for evaluating fancy cut diamonds. They come in too many different shapes to grade them consistently.

A diamond’s cut is one of its most important aspects, so you should ensure your cushion cut has the traits that align with a quality cut. 

For example, examine the GIA grading report and note its symmetry and polish.

GIA Report of Cushion Cut

An excellent grade in both categories is often indicative of a quality cut, but you should always view the diamond in person or through a high-resolution image online.

You can’t always determine if it’s a poor, good, very good, or excellent cut from the grading report.

Is a Cushion Cut Right For You?

Cushion cuts have pros and cons you should explore in detail. 

They’re worth considering if you’re looking for a diamond with a low cost per carat, high degree of fire, and a lack of sharp corners that leave it prone to chipping.

Once you decide on a cushion cut, explore a variety of options with various carat weights, clarity grades, and colors. 

You may find carat weight is more important to you than color and opt for a larger cushion cut with a slight yellow tint.

Pair your cushion cut with different types of settings. A solitaire ring may fit your taste better than one with channel-set diamonds and a halo.

By comparing cushion cuts to other gems and combining it with the right setting, you can land on a diamond ring that’s perfect for your style.

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