Princess Cut Engagement Rings
A Princess Cut Engagement Ring Guide
Princess cut engagement rings are very much in vogue. This cut is now the second most popular cut for engagement rings after the classic brilliant cut. This article will walk you through all of the aspects of a princess cut engagement ring that you should consider before making your choice and, as usual, I throw in some history and interesting facts!
What is a Princess Cut Engagement Ring?
A princess cut engagement ring features a gemstone, usually a diamond, which has been shaped into the princess cut.
The Princess Cut
In appearance, the princess cut is similar to a brilliant cut as it displays a high degree of brilliance or sparkle. In fact, the princess cut is sometimes referred to as a square modified brilliant. However, the princess cut has a faceting style that is unique and completely different from that of a round brilliant.
From above, the shape of the princess cut is square or slightly rectangular, compared to the round shape of the brilliant cut. From the side, a princess cut diamond looks like an inverted pyramid with beveled sides, while the brilliant cut is a rounded cone.
The princess cut is the second most popular cut for diamonds, after the brilliant cut. In addition, this modern-looking cut is now also being used extensively for coloured gemstones.
A diamond cut or gemstone cut refers to the shape of a diamond or other gemstone, for example, the brilliant cut, the princess cut or the emerald cut. The cut of a diamond or gemstone, however, is used to describe the symmetry, polishing and proportioning of the gemstone in question. The quality of the cut is particularly important in the appraisal of diamonds as the cut of a diamond greatly impacts its brilliance. For coloured gemstones, the cut is of lesser importance than the purity and depth of the colour itself.
What Type of Diamond Cut is the Princess Cut?
Despite its resemblance to the brilliant cut, the princess cut is not a modified brilliant cut. Modified brilliant cuts have the same facet count and facet arrangement as the brilliant cut and include the oval cut, the pear cut, the marquise cut, the trillion cut and the heart cut. Rather, the princess cut is a mixed cut.
Mixed cuts combine aspects of both brilliant cuts and step cuts. Step cuts, such as the emerald cut or baguette cut, are square or oblong in shape and have rectangular facets arranged parallel to the outer edge of the gemstone. Mixed cuts combine the sparkling optical effects of the brilliant cut with the weight preservation and dimensions of step cuts. The princess cut, usually with 58 or 76 facets, is the most successful of the mixed cuts, which also include the Barion cut, the radiant cut and the Flanders cut.
The girdle is the outer edge of the gemstone. The crown is the part of the gemstone above the girdle, while the pavilion is the part of the gemstone beneath the girdle. The princess cut has a step-modified ‘Double-French’ or ‘Cross’ cut crown and a series of chevron-shaped facets in the pavilion. These combine to give a distinctive cross-shaped reflection when the gemstone is viewed directly from above.
History of the Princess Cut
Mixed cuts are relatively new gemstone cuts. The name ‘princess cut’ was originally used for another square diamond cut, also known as the ‘profile cut’, which was designed in 1961. The profile cut was the first square cut to use extra faceting on the bottom of the diamond to allow more light penetration.
Despite the additional facets, the profile cut was still significantly less light producing than the brilliant cut and so diamond manufacturers worked to develop a square cut that would produce more brilliance. In 1970, the quadrillion cut, similar to the princess cut but with only 49 facets was developed. Another precursor to the princess cut was the sophisticated barion cut, developed in 1971, that is shaped as a square with curved edges.
In 1979 in Israel, after several years of optical research, Ygal Perlman, Betzalel Ambar and Israel Itzkowitz developed the modern princess cut. The original version had 58 facets. More recently, a version of the princess cut with 76 facets has been developed. The additional chevrons affect the overall look of the princess cut diamond, giving it an almost ‘crushed ice’ look.
The princess cut is a patented cut and so your diamond may be referred to as a square cut brilliant or a rectangular cut brilliant on a laboratory certificate.
Why Choose a Princess Cut Engagement Ring?
There are many reasons for choosing a princess cut engagement ring, first and foremost simply that you love the shape! Here are a few additional reasons for choosing the princess cut:
Most square or rectangular cuts simply do not compete with the round brilliant cut when it comes to sparkle, as they tend to accentuate a gemstone’s lustre rather than its sparkle. The princess cut, however, was specifically designed to obtain the maximum light return from a square cut. It does sacrifice some fire in order to achieve its unique shape but, on the whole, princess cuts can rival the brilliant cut in visual effect.
The princess cut is a modern alternative to the brilliant cut. Unlike emerald cut engagement rings, which also provide a contemporary look, princess cut engagement rings do not sacrifice sparkle for lustre. An engagement ring with a princess cut diamond has a distinctive and individual feel, while providing a comparable amount of fire to a more traditional brilliant engagement ring.
Princess cut diamonds tend to be slightly cheaper than round brilliant cut diamonds of the same carat weight as the princess cut retains significantly more of the rough diamond than the brilliant cut (up to 80% compared to 50% with the brilliant cut). Rough diamond crystals usually occur in an octahedral shape and a princess cut retains the four corners that would have been cut off and rounded to form a round brilliant.
Although suitable for any hand shape, princess cut engagement rings are particularly flattering on hands with long fingers because of the sharply squared corners of the diamond. This flattering effect can be enhanced by pairing a princess cut diamond with a split shank band.
Many celebrities can be seen wearing princess cut engagement rings. Here are some of the most stunning examples:
Kevin Costner proposed to Christine Baumgartner with a 5 carat princess diamond set in interwoven bands fashioned in a leaf pattern.
Reality star Kendra Wilkinson wears a princess-cut engagement ring that her hubby Hank Baskett co-designed with the jewelers. The ring has a 2.25- carat center stone with 60 accenting diamonds around it.
Sherri Shepherd‘s husband Lamar Sally proposed the day after Christmas with a two-carat princess cut engagement ring worth approximately $70,000.
Actress Ali Larter wears a five-carat solitaire princess cut diamond engagement ring given to her by her now-husband Hayes MacArthur.
Choosing a Stone for your Princess Cut Engagement Ring
There are many different considerations to take into account when choosing your princess cut engagement ring. Before hitting the stores, you should at least have a general understanding of how princess cut diamonds are graded and know the elements that are most important to you.
Princess cut diamonds have the following shape variations that you should be aware of:
Square vs. rectangular
Although tending towards square to provide the maximum brilliance, princess cuts vary from square to somewhat rectangular in shape. If you would like a diamond with a square appearance you should look for a length-to-width ratio of between 1 and 1.05. For a princess diamond shape that is rectangular, look for a length-to-width ratio of between 1.10 and 1.20. The rectangular shape has a slightly diminished sparkle and tends to be slightly cheaper per carat weight.
Princess cut diamonds traditionally have square uncut corners. The tips can be prone to breakage and promote light leakage, leading to the development of princess cuts with delicately tapered or beveled corners. The tiny facets that are added are called ‘chamfers’.
The ‘4 Cs’
When choosing a diamond, you should aim to buy a certified stone with an independent grading report from a respected grading entity. Diamond certificate issuers generally use a standardized system, evaluating a diamond’s carat weight, cut, clarity and colour. These are known as the 4 Cs.
The cut of a gemstone does not refer to its geometrical shape (round, princess, emerald) but rather to its overall symmetry, its proportioning and the polish of its facets. The beauty of a diamond depends more on cut than on any other factor. A high quality cut noticeably enhances a diamond’s brilliance, sparkle and fire.
The ideal cut for a princess cut diamond is determined by many factors, including depth, table proportions, crown angles and pavilion angles. The symmetrical arrangement of the facets on the diamond is also important. The way that they align with one another influences brilliance and fire. The girdle thickness is also of particular importance for princess cut diamonds as a girdle that is too thin may contribute to the fragility of the corners.
Princess cut diamonds are frequently cut primarily for maximum carat weight rather than emphasizing beauty. This can typically result in princess cuts with very shallow crown and large tables, meaning sub-optimal light performance. It is difficult for buyers to know if such deficits exist or how impactful they may be, so it is very helpful to see a report from a grading laboratory.
There are currently only three laboratories that grade the princess cut for cut. They are:
- The American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL),
- The Accredited Gem Appraisers (AGA), and
- The European Gem Laboratories (EGL).
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), one of the most influential of the gem grading associations, has stated that there is not enough industry consensus or data to specify cut grading standards for princess cut diamonds.
Learn More About Cut Grades
Ideal The AGSL has one extra grade than the GIA for grading cut. Ideal is reserved for the very best cut diamonds.
Excellent Reflects nearly all of the light that enters the diamond. Excellent Cut diamonds display extremely good fire and brilliance.
Very Good Reflects most of the light entering the diamond. This cut appears similar to the Excellent Cut under normal lighting conditions.
Good Reflects the majority of the light entering the diamond giving an above average appearance. This cut can be excellent value compared with higher grades.
Fair Allows much of the light that enters the diamond to escape from the sides or the bottom. This can be a suitable cut for diamonds below 0.75 carat weight as the difference in sparkle is harder to perceive.
Poor Most of the light entering the diamond is lost, giving a noticeably dull and lifeless appearance. It is generally best to avoid Poor Cut diamonds of any size.
Diamonds come in a wide range of hues – blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, brown and even black. For the most part, however, white diamonds are chosen for engagement rings. Except in the rarest cases, white diamonds contain impurities that give a yellowish tint to the stone. The GIA has developed a rating system for colour in white diamonds, from D to Z, which has been widely adopted in the industry:
All other things being equal, the nearer to colourless a diamond is, the more expensive it will be. A princess cut diamond is more likely to show colour tints than a brilliant cut diamond, especially around the corners, and so you may wish to consider a slightly higher colour grade than you would have otherwise chosen for a different diamond cut.
Learn More About Colour Grades
Colourless (D, E, F) Diamonds with these colour grades are to all intents are purposes colourless. Only a trained gemologist can detect any differences in colour between the colourless grades.
Near Colourless (G, H, I, J) These grades indicate just a trace of colour. Diamonds with these grades can still be used in white gold or platinum settings, which normally betray any yellow tint in a diamond.
Faint Colour (K, L, M) These grades describe warm colour diamonds that can work well in yellow gold settings. The yellow tints are more easily detectable by the naked eye.
Very Light Colour (M – R) The diamonds in this colour range have an easily detectable yellow or brown tint and tend to be very good value compared to higher grades.
Light Colour (S – Z) If you are interested in a white diamond, these colour grades will likely contain too much colour. However, some people specifically seek yellow diamonds. The Z grade is applied to bright yellow diamonds.
Most diamonds contain tiny imperfections known as inclusions, often invisible to the naked eye. The fewer inclusions, the more beautiful the diamond is considered to be. The clarity of a diamond is determined by the amount of these blemishes when viewed both by the naked eye and through a loupe (a 10x magnifying glass).
The extra facets of a princess cut diamond disperse light very effectively and tend to hide inclusions. This means you can consider a lower grade of clarity than you may have chosen for a brilliant cut stone.
Learn More About Clarity Grades
Flawless (FL) No inclusions or blemishes are visible to an experienced grader using 10x magnification. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare and priced accordingly.
Internally flawless (IF) No inclusions, only blemishes are visible to an experienced grader using 10x magnification. FL and IF diamonds appear identical to the naked eye.
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2) Inclusions are barely visible to an experienced grader under 10x magnification. As the inclusions are invisible to the naked eye, VVS1 and VVS2 appear identical to the higher grades without magnification.
Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2) Inclusions are clearly visible under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor. The inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
Slightly Included (SI1, SI2) Inclusions are clearly visible to an experienced grader under 10x magnification. SI2 diamonds, in particular, will often have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.
Included (I1, I2, I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect the transparency and brilliance of the diamond. The inclusions for these grades are almost always visible to the naked eye.
The weight of a diamond is measured in carats or points. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams or 100 points. Diamonds of greater weight are more rare and hence the price of diamonds rises disproportionately as carat weight increases, with sharp jumps around the milestone carat weights.
Princess cut diamonds retain more of the original rough diamond than brilliant cut diamonds. This is because the pyramid shape of the princess cut is similar to one half of the octahedron diamond crystal. This allows two equally sized princess cut diamonds to be cut from the same rought stone with relatively little waste. This high yield means that princess cut diamonds tend to be less expensive per carat weight than other diamond cuts.
Princess Cut Engagement Ring Settings
As with brilliant cut diamonds, there are endless choices of settings for your princess cut diamond. You can see my previous post All About Engagement Rings – Part II for an overview of the types of settings available. I comment on some of these settings with respect to princess cut diamonds below.
Ensure that the setting you choose protects the delicate pointed corners of your princess cut diamond. As the corners were once near the outer edge of the rough stone, inclusions are more likely to be located here, adding to the fragility of these areas. This is the reason that most other rectangular or square diamond cuts have cropped corners.
Princess cut diamonds are particularly suitable for solitaire engagement rings due to their fantastic sparkle. The four prongs of the ring on the right protect the four corners of the diamond and cover any flaws that may be located there. The Princess cut gives a modern edge to a classic look.
Princess cut gemstones are very well suited to a channel setting as they can be positioned side by side without any gaps. This can look stunning on either side of a larger centre stone. Eternity bands with channel set princess cut diamonds and no centre stone are also a popular choice.
Three Stone Setting
The classic three stone setting looks particularly good with princess cut diamonds as they sit so tidily together. The centre diamond can be larger, or you can choose three diamonds of the same size. The ring on the right combines princess cut stones with a multitude of smaller brilliants in a halo style.
Alternatives to Princess Cut Engagement Rings
Here are a few diamond cuts that are similar to the princess cut in some ways but differ in others. You may wish to try on a selection of these while you are shopping for your engagement ring, just to compare.
Emerald Cut Engagement Rings
The rectangular emerald cut is a step cut. These minimalist looking diamonds do not refract and reflect light as readily other cuts, particularly the princess cut, but the emerald cut clearly displays a stone’s clarity, whiteness and lustre. It has a beautiful simplicity. Slender baguette stones, another step cut, are often added as side stones to flank a ring’s larger centre stone.
Asscher Cut Engagement Rings
The square Royal Asscher cut was designed at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a step cut, similar to the emerald cut and, despite its many facets, it does not compete with the princess cut on sparkle. However, if you like square cut diamonds you may like this chunky, classy version. Art Deco engagement rings often feature Royal Asscher cut diamonds and other gemstones.
Cushion Cut Engagement Rings
The cushion cut is a fashionable and elegant diamond cut with round corners and large facets. Its large number of facets deliver plenty of sparkle but a cushion cut diamond has a softer appearance than a princess cut diamond. Cushion cut diamonds are often surrounded by smaller pave-set diamonds in a halo setting, giving a lovely romantic appearance to the ring.
Radiant Cut Engagement Rings
The radiant shape is relatively scarce and so not commonly used for engagement rings. Similar to the princess cut, the radiant cut is a mixed cut that combines the modern, geometrical lines of a step cut with the fire of the round brilliant cut. It is similar to the princess cut in appearance, but with trimmed corners. This makes this cut a little less fragile than the princess cut.
Thank you for reading this post! I hope it has provided you with lots of useful information and helped prepare you for buying a princess cut engagement ring. Please sign up to my email list if you would like to receive notification of future posts as I publish them. I have lots of interesting and informative articles planned to help you choose your perfect engagement ring!