Fancy Cut Diamonds – How They’re Different & What To Know Before Buying One

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Diamonds come in many shapes, sizes, and cut styles. Often shapes and cuts are confused with one another, and this is because they are closely related. And there are so many types of diamond cuts out there you’d have a hard time keeping track of them all.

So what are fancy cut diamonds, and how are they different from non-fancy cuts ? What classifies as a fancy cut diamond ? How did they come about ? How many are there ? And is your favorite diamond such a cut ? Let’s find out !

fancy cut diamond

What are fancy cut diamonds ?

Fancy cut diamonds are diamonds that are not cut into a round brilliant. So any other shape than round brilliant is considered a fancy cut, regardless of what the actual cut is. This is because when the round brilliant cut was patented it became the go-to cut for a diamond. Its facets are calculated to perfection to bring out the maximum fire and brilliance of a diamond, taking into account its refractive index.

This round brilliant has become the norm for a century now, and cuts that are different are considered fancy cuts, the same way diamonds that are not clear (white) are considered fancy color diamonds (red, blue, pink, yellow, brown, etc). It’s simply a way to categorize the cuts and colors that deviate from the basic.

How a diamond cut works with light

To understand why the round brilliant became the basic cut, we have to understand how a diamond cut works. Or rather how the diamond cut matters when the light enters the diamond. A cut can make or break a diamond, significantly modifying the price point.

When light enters a cut diamond, it enters as white light. Once it passes through the table into the diamond, it splits into the colors of the rainbow (refraction), and then bounces off of the many, many facets that make up the pavilion and crown of the diamond. And finally, the light then exits again through the table, partly as white light (brilliance) and partly as rainbow (fire).

Fire and brilliance together form scintillation, which is how the two play together when you move the diamond in the light. It is the light show you see in a diamond. And, a round brilliant is the best possible cut for the perfect light show.

Read also: Morganite Engagement Ring Meaning 

A round brilliant cut has all its angles and facets calculated to use the diamond’s refractive index (2.42) to its advantage and offer the most impressive scintillation.

A pavilion that is too deep or too shallow will offer a diamond that is too dark or too white (no fire).

A table that is too wide or too narrow will again offer a diamond that is too dark or dull.

And finally, the culet must always end in a point, otherwise you get a window – a direct view from top to bottom like looking through a piece of glass.

diamond profile

Fancy cuts also have this setup of facets and sides, but they are arranged differently, because the shape of the diamond is different, like a pear instead of a circle, or a rectangle. Because of this, the light will bounce differently within a fancy cut diamond. It’s still impressive and the different shapes add to the appeal. They’re simply different in terms of shape, but the light works the same within them – enters white and exits white and rainbow-colored.

Fancy cuts are cheaper as they keep more of the diamond rough

Fancy cuts are not just fancy, they’re also more affordable because the cutter does not discard as much diamond as he would for a round brilliant. This means saving costs, or at least some of them.

When you mine diamonds, they come in rough shapes, so they are not polished like you see them at a jeweler’s. Some roughs are bigger, some are smaller, and some have a vague shape about them. It’s then the diamond cutter’s job to come up with the best solution in terms of how many diamond to cut from a single rough, what shapes to cut them into, and how much rough they can afford to discard.

There is also the prestige that has formed around the round brilliant. Any other shape and cut than round brilliant will invariably be more affordable. There is also clarity, color, and carat to take into consideration, yes, but cut matters a whole lot.

What diamond cut is the most expensive ?

The round brilliant is the most expensive and prestigious diamond cut and shape. This is a cut that has been designed specifically for diamonds, and it relies heavily on a diamond’s refraction index (2.42). This maximizes both brilliance and fire, offering the best possible light show for your money’s worth.

What diamond cut looks larger ?

The largest-looking cuts are radiant, oval, marquise, and princess cut. These cuts have a large amount of very small facets on the underside (pavilion) which end up refracting and reflecting a lot more light into your eyes. The many facets look like crushed ice, and as such they tend to make the diamond look a little larger than it really is.

larger diamond (1)
top left – radiant cut, bottom left – oval cut, bottom right – marquise, top right – princess cut

Step cuts like emerald, baguette, or lozenge do not have the crushed ice look about them, so when viewed from the top they do not look larger. The same way, a round brilliant diamond also does not look larger than it really is.

However you can make any diamond cut or shape appear larger with the setting you choose. A bead setting, a buttercup setting, and a halo setting will all surround the diamond with more metal, and possibly more stones. If you choose a metal in the same color as the diamond the overall effect is truly impressive, so something like white gold or platinum will work well with a white diamond.

What diamond cut sparkles the most ?

The most sparkle is found in the round brilliant diamond cut. This cut has the perfect angles, all optimized to bring as much light into your eyes.

diamond sparkle (1)
top left – trillion cut, bottom left – princess cut, bottom right – cushion cut, top right – round brilliant

Second-place are princess cut, cushion cut, oval, trillion, and marquise. What you’re looking for is many cuts on the pavilion, the underside of the diamonds.  Do not choose step-cut diamonds if sparkle is what you’re after.

What diamond cut offers the best clarity ?

Step cut diamonds emphasize the clarity of a diamond, especially an emerald or baguette cut. This means emerald cut, lozenge, baguette, asscher, carre, and otehr similar cuts will allow you to see into the diamond, as they offer a staircase-effect, or a hall of mirrors effect. Any imperfection or inclusion will be very easy to see.

step cut gems
top left – emerald, asscher, and baguette diamonds. bottom left- emerald-cut blue topaz. bottom right – asscher cut emerald, top right – emerald cut citrine

If your diamond has color in it, the color will be emphasized as well. The many ‘mirrors’ in a step cut make color really pop, so if you have a colored diamond or a colored gem – say an emerald or an aquamarine – in a step cut, its color will be accentuated a little.

Tips on wearing fancy cut diamonds

When wearing fancy cut diamonds you should know that some of them are difficult to pair with something. For example a marquise engagement ring may be difficult to pair with a normal wedding band, because the diamond will hit the wedding band. One way around this is to have the marquise set high (like a cathedral setting), or have the wedding band have a pointed shape.

The same goes for other very large or very specific shape diamonds, like trillion, lozenge, or elongated emerald or baguette.

With very pointed stones, such as marquise or pear, be sure to have the very tip of the stone covered by a prong or a half bezel. A diamond’s point is its weakness, and it may cleave if the point is exposed. The same is true for other gems in this sort of cut, such as an emerald in a lozenge cut, or a sapphire in a marquise cut.

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