The easy assumption for a bride-to-be who sees the words “emerald cut” in the description of an engagement ring is that the ring doesn’t even have a diamond in it. That would be a big mistake, because an emerald cut engagement ring makes a stunning statement on a bride’s finger – and it definitely features a diamond as the center stone.
It’s true that this unique shape of stone was initially created for emeralds. It’s also true that you hear a lot more about round or princess cut diamonds than you hear about emerald cut diamond engagement rings (although Angelina Jolie famously sported one soon after she and Brad Pitt announced their engagement, and other celebrities like Kate Hudson and Beyoncé have also been seen with gorgeous emerald cut rings). To some, however, the fact that this is an “under-worn” style of ring is a major attraction – they’d have not only a beautiful engagement ring, but a conversation piece as well.
Let’s learn more about emerald cut engagement rings and how to buy them.
The Background of Emerald Cut Diamonds
Diamond cutters have been experimenting with stones which resemble the emerald cut for a long, long time. It is based on the old-fashioned table cut, first used in the 15th century when craftsmen started taking the rounded top off of diamonds. They called the flat top of the stone the table, a term which is still with us today. Over time, attempts were made to make new cuts which would allow the diamond’s fire to show through the table. First, the four corners of the stone were cropped off, but that didn’t really help. Next came the creation of a facet at the bottom of a stone still known as the culet, which made a major difference in the diamond’s light performance. Eventually, extra facets were cut along the edge of the table to further increase the brilliance of a stone. This near-final product became known as a step cut – and is quite similar to the emerald cut used today. The primary difference is that the step cut had no standardized pattern of facets, while there are specifics for today’s gem cutters to follow when crafting an emerald cut stone.
It was around 1940, perhaps thanks to the popularity of multi-faceted table cuts during the early 20th century Art Deco period, when a set design emerged for emerald cut stones. At first, the cut was most commonly used for – you guessed it – emeralds, for a reason which will become important in our discussion of buying emerald cut diamond engagement rings. Emeralds are famous for having a large number of inclusions (flaws) within the stone, making them difficult to cut since inclusions increase the possibility of breakage during the cutting process. The emerald cut, with its truncated corners and step cuts, made it easier for craftsmen to create a rectangular emerald without breaking the stone.
The standard emerald cut soon became regularly used for other large colored gemstones and diamonds as well, as cutters realized the utility and versatility of the cut. While these types of stones were quite a popular choice for engagement rings (emerald cut stones, that is) for a few decades, the development of more types of brilliant cuts eclipsed their popularity. They remain solidly on the list of top ten preferred diamond cuts, however, and most merchants rank them at #6 or #7 in sales even though only three percent of the world’s diamonds are emerald cut.
What Distinguishes An Emerald Cut Stone?
We’ve already touched on some of the unique characteristics of emerald cut diamonds, but here’s more of a detailed description.
An emerald cut stone has a rectangular shape with a flat and wide table, with cropped corners and facets that look like stairsteps cut into each side of the gemstone (that’s the step cut aspect which we discussed earlier). There are usually either two, three or four rows of facets on the crown and pavilion (bottom) of the stone, with the rows concentric and running parallel to the diamond’s girdle. The total number of facets on emerald cut diamonds can vary but the most commonly-used numbers are 25 on the crown of the stone and 32 on the pavilion.
The size of the rectangle varies from diamond to diamond, with some almost square and others quite narrow. A “classic” emerald cut features a length to width ratio of about 1.50; any ratio between 1.06 and 1.19, or above 1.80, is considered fair or poor for an emerald cut diamond. Rectangular stones considered excellent will have length to width ratios between 1.40 and 1.50, while ones considered very good will have ratios either between 1.30 and 1.39, or 1.51 and 1.60. Square gemstones rated excellent will have a ratio between 1.00 and 1.03. Of course, personal preference always trumps statistical guidelines when it comes to the shape of a stone.
The long lines seen on stones in engagement rings with emerald cut diamonds virtually guarantee that they won’t produce the same light reflection or fiery appearance as a round brilliant stone. But high-quality, well-cut emerald cut stones will still look quite striking with good shine and less frequent but more dazzling flashes of fire. The cut also displays a stone’s clarity and the internal crystals extremely well because of its flat plane. The overall appearance of the gemstone when set is understated yet stylish and sophisticated, due to the slim lines of the emerald cut. It’s not the most traditional look for a diamond engagement ring, but for those who favor distinctive over “usual” it definitely makes a statement – and has the added benefit of making the wearer’s fingers look slimmer.
One other attractive feature of an emerald cut diamond ring is that the relatively wide and flat planes are perfect for the addition of long, thin diamond baguettes, or other types of accent gemstones, alongside the center stone.
We’ve already taken quite a bit of space to discuss the ideal shapes of emerald cut diamond rings, so let’s get right to the 4 C’s of selecting the stone: carats, color, clarity and cut.
- Carats: As with other rectangular cuts of diamonds, an emerald cut stone will look bigger to the eye than a round brilliant stone with the same weight because its surface area is 5% larger. That means that you can save a little money, if you’d like, by buying a slightly smaller diamond than you’d originally planned for. A larger diamond makes a bigger statement, though, so it’s again a matter of personal preference. The general rule of thumb does apply, however; the incremental price of an emerald cut diamond increases when you get over one carat in weight, so a two carat stone will cost more than twice as much as a one carat stone.
- Color: Whenever you purchase a diamond which doesn’t have exceptional brilliance, like an emerald cut stone, color becomes more important. With brilliant stones, slightly lower color ratings are acceptable because the sparkle and flash somewhat obscure the true color of the diamond. For an emerald cut stone, though, you need to err on the side of better color because a yellower diamond will be more obvious. It’s recommended that (if your budget allows) you don’t go below H color for an emerald cut engagement ring. If you can afford a G color diamond you should notice the difference, particularly on larger stones. As usual, it’s still going to be difficult for most people to distinguish between G and higher colors. If you plan on adding side stones, of course, be sure that their color matches that of the center stone.
- Clarity: We mentioned earlier in this article that the long, flat plane of an emerald cut diamond does a “good” job of displaying the stone’s inclusions or other flaws – that’s not really a good thing, naturally, if the stone isn’t eye clean. For that reason, the clarity of an emerald cut stone becomes more important than when looking at a brilliant cut diamond. SI1 or even VS2 inclusions usually will be easily seen by the naked eye (unless they’re located fully underneath the step facets). Unless you’ve personally inspected a VS2 stone and its inclusions (or seen excellent photographs) it’s always safer to stick with VS1 clarity or higher, especially if your stone is larger than half a carat.
- Cut: Emerald cut diamonds (just like Asscher cut and princess cut stones) aren’t graded for overall quality of cut by the major diamond laboratory, GIA, which only reports polish and symmetry for fancy cut stones. That means you can either rely on the evaluation of AGS (considered reputable but believed by many to be a bit loose with their guidelines) of an emerald cut diamond’s light performance and overall cut – or simply go with GIA’s report along with what your eyes tell you. As for other benchmarks, a table percentage of 57-72% and an overall depth of 59-70% is considered excellent or very good, as are a girdle from very thin to slightly thick and a culet that’s very small at most.
Prices Of Rings With Emerald Cut Stones
You would expect that an emerald cut engagement ring would be more expensive than a comparable round brilliant ring, since relatively few are produced. However, the law of supply and demand overcomes the law of scarcity in this case; you’ll find that emerald cut diamond engagement rings are often considerably less costly than their round brilliant sisters because fewer people buy emerald cut stones. It’s impossible to quote exact prices because every gemstone is different, but in general you’ll find that high-quality emerald cut diamonds can easily be just two-thirds the price of round stones with the same grades. These types of engagement rings (emerald cut ones) are more likely to have baguettes or side stones, though, adding to the final cost of the ring.
Styles To Choose From
The sophisticated look of an emerald cut matches nicely with glamorous settings you’d never consider for a round or heart-shaped stone, yet still fits perfectly with more popular settings. An emerald cut diamond provides a wonderful counterpoint to a simple solitaire, modern minimalist or designer ring, while also looking right at home in more classic settings.
Emerald cut halo engagement rings may not be the first vision that comes to mind when imagining settings for this stone but they can be either surprisingly delicate-looking, or incredibly eye-catching when using larger stones. Halos are actually a great choice for emerald cuts if there’s a space between the center stone and the halo of pave diamonds, because that allows extra light to enter the stone – and as you now know, emerald cut gemstones can use all the help they can get in that department. A thin white gold or platinum pavé setting will accent the center diamond yet focus attention on the center stone and its halo in a very feminine way; on the other hand, a thicker setting with double rows of pavé diamonds will make a dramatic statement when entering any room. Yellow or rose gold will give emerald cut halo engagement rings a more antique look.
While on the subject, vintage emerald cut engagement rings are worth investigating if you don’t mind (or even better, would love) a previously-owned piece. Emerald cut diamond rings were more popular in the mid-20th century, so a number of these beautiful heirlooms are now available to provide an authentic touch to a romantic ceremony. If you prefer your ring to be “something new”, a huge variety of vintage-style settings which look as if they were meant to have an emerald cut diamond placed in their center can be found. Antique scrolls and hand-engraved laurels are just two of the features which will make your piece look like a real vintage emerald cut engagement ring from 50 years ago, or even further back.
One last thing to consider – since this cut was originally designed for emeralds, you might want to consider emeralds flanking black diamonds, which are occasionally showcased in emerald cut engagement rings and are usually less expensive, or even think about a using an emerald-cut emerald as a center stone flanked by diamonds. It wouldn’t be a traditional engagement ring, but it would certainly be fitting.