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The princess cut diamond has held its impressive popularity for decades. Second only to the esteemed round brilliant, the emergence of princess cut diamonds is thought to have taken place somewhere between 1960 and 1980, and while this makes them a relatively modern cut, they shook the jewelry world with a force that has not subsided.
The journey of the cut that we know and recognize today as a princess cut started back in the 14th century with the French cut. This fairly rudimental cut featured less facets than the modern princess cut and was best viewed in the soft candlelight of the era.
Developments in cutting technology and a progressive, experimental era in diamond history followed; although the princess cut would not emerge as we know it until much later, the seed was sown for a sparkling, faceted diamond that was just a little different from a round brilliant diamond.
Unfortunately, popularity does not automatically lend itself to quality. Although it may seem as though they are a lot of princess cut diamonds on the market, only a limited selection of these will give the definitive sparkle and clear, chevroned lines that we have come to expect from this beloved cut. Following some key guidelines will ensure that your princess is looking its best.
Below is an example of a stunning Vatche Setting with a Princess Cut Diamond:
Before we delve into the percentages and proportions, I first offer a welcome fact regarding the cutting of princess diamonds. If you have already started making comparisons yourself, you may have noticed that the price for princess cut diamonds is lower than that of their equivalent carat and quality in a round brilliant stone. In fact, they come in cheaper than most cuts.
This is because the shape of a rough diamond is easily cut to form the shape of a princess cut diamond. A quality rough diamond is octahedron in shape, meaning that it forms two pyramids. This means a cutter can produce two princess cut diamonds with very little waste.
A round brilliant diamond will only yield around 40% of the rough, whereas a princess cut diamond can retain anywhere from 60-90%. This lowers the price of the stone. Furthermore, princess diamonds tend to be cut from a much cleaner, high-quality rough as these are the stones which take on the octahedron shape. As a result, there are far more princess cut diamonds on the market with a high clarity grading than other diamond cuts.
However, this economic decision also means that there are no set cut parameters assigned to a princess cut. The diamonds are cut to fit the rough, as opposed to round brilliants which are cut to exacting proportions regardless of the shape of the rough.
There is a disparity between the recommended depth and table proportions for a princess cut, meaning it can be a little more difficult to be sure you are getting the optimum cut for your budget.
Below is an example of a James Allen setting with a Princess Cut Diamond:
Some people prefer a small table (below 68%) while others are happy with the table size that is naturally produced from the rough cut (around 73%-78%). Ultimately this is a matter of preference, although diamonds with a smaller table are much harder to come by so be prepared for a longer search.
Look for a total depth between 65% and 75%
Length to Width Ratio
A good length to width ratio for a princess cut diamond is between 1:00 and 1:05. There is a degree of personal taste when it comes to length to width ratios; although a princess cut diamond is traditionally square, you will occasionally see some that are rectangular in shape. Some people prefer the elongating effect of a slightly more rectangular stone.
Princess cut diamonds present a large table and bezel corners; a skilled cutter is therefore able to make modifications to the pavilion. These modifications come in form of chevrons. Chevrons increase the number of facets on the pavilion thus allowing more surfaces for light reflection. The result of this is a range in the rate of scintillation; a diamond with less chevrons will have larger facets, meaning a slower scintillation, while a diamond with more chevrons will have a quicker light return and scintillation.
Put in simple terms, a princess cut diamond with more chevrons will appear more ‘twinkly’.
Choosing the optimum number of chevrons is partially down to personal preference. Some people enjoy the chunkier look of fewer chevrons while others desire the rapid twinkle that multiple chevrons offer.
However, there is still a correlation between the weight of the stone and number of chevrons that must be considered. Below is a rough guide:
0.30ct – 1.00ct : 2, 3 or 4 chevrons
1.00ct – 2.00ct : 4, 5 or 6 chevrons
The number of chevrons will increase exponentially with the carat weight. This is not a rule as such. In fact, some believe 3 chevrons to be the magic number, giving a balanced look to a range of diamond weights.
Ultimately, you can only judge the effectiveness of chevrons by viewing the diamond, either in person or using high res imaging. Too many chevrons will remove the classic ‘brilliant’ appearance, and instead give a chaotic, crushed ice appearance which lacks the defined facets that are desire in a brilliant cut.
The GIA clarity grading system categorizes diamonds as follows:
Flawless (FL) – No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
Internally Flawless (IF) – No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) – Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) – Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
Included (I1, I2, and I3) – Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance
Just as each diamond is entirely unique, so too are the requirements of each diamond buyer. However, it is fair to assume that most people want a sparkling diamond with no visible flaws and better still if they can get it at a good price.
As a modified brilliant, princess cut diamonds are fairly forgiving when it comes to the appearance of inclusions. The positioning of the inclusion is also significant in this particular cut. As princess diamonds have pointed corners, an inclusion in this area can increase the chances of the diamond chipping. Equally, an inclusion directly in the table of the diamond will reduce light performance and will diminish the beauty of the stone (especially if it is visible by eye).
As they are cut from a cleaner rough, there are less SI clarity princess cut diamonds on the market. Look for an eye-clean VS2 with no durability compromising inclusions for the best balance between beauty, longevity and price.
The light return on a princess cut diamond is marginally lower than that of a round brilliant; although they are still a stone with impressive brilliance, they do not conceal color as effectively as a round brilliant.
I would recommend a minimum of an I in color for the diamond to still appear colorless within a setting. Some people actually prefer the slightly warmer hue of a near colorless stone, however a princess cut diamond can look particularly striking when it holds the icy whiteness of a high color grade.
If you are looking for the sharp, glinting white that is so fitting of a princess cut diamond and have a little more movement in your budget seek an F in color for a truly striking stone.
It is vital that you choose a setting which protects the corners of your princess cut diamond. While it is true that minuscule claws or tension settings can give prestige to the stone, they do not serve to protect it and will greatly diminish the chances of your diamond lasting for a lifetime.
Choose platinum, or 14k – 18k gold and look for settings which hold the diamond securely and protect its weaker parts.
Beyond this, a princess cut diamond is a truly adaptable stone that can suit the simplest settings but just as easily carry heavy embellishment and additional diamonds. If you lead a particularly active lifestyle it may be worth considering a halo or bezel setting which will offer the maximum protection to your diamond.
The Final Word
A precise cut, an internationally respected certification (GIA & AGS), sparkling clarity and a dazzling color are the key ingredients to begin your journey towards the perfect princess cut diamond.
Be sure to consider your budget, and never sacrifice cut quality in favor of a larger stone. If you are looking for ways to maximize the look of your diamond, read my guide to setting styles for an easy way to add impact to your ring.
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