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What Is An Cushion Cut Diamond? - Buying Guide

Cushion cut diamond.

Cushion cut diamonds combine the appeal of a square cut diamond but with soft, rounded edges, lending this shape a romantic feel. This timeless shape is derived from the old mine cut, and has been refined over hundreds of years. For the first century of its existence was the most popular diamond shape (similar to round cut today). Until the early 20th century, the cushion cut diamond was the de facto diamond shape. Cushion cut diamonds are a beautiful choice for any setting style.

Cushion Cut Diamond

Cushion cut diamond.

One of the rarer and more unique choices, the cushion cut's large facets allow for great light dispersion, giving birth to a much larger range of spectral colors and making for a highly scintillating diamond.

Cushion Cut Diamond Buying Guide


Also referred to as: PILLOW or CANDLELIGHT CUT


Cushion Cut Diamond Quick Guide


Unique Features
Larger facets, light dispersive
Facets
Usually 58
L/W Ratio
1.00 - 1.05 (square) > 1.10 (rectangular)
Origin
19th Century
Expert Tip
Opt for modified brilliants with "crushed ice effect" if looking for more scintillation


Cushion Cut Diamond Ring

Cushion Cut Diamond Ring

Cushion cut diamond ring.


Cushion Cut Diamond Features


Cushion Cut Diamond Features

Cushion cut diamond features.

As its name suggests, a cushion cut is a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners that resemble a pillow. The cushion cut is usually comprised of 58 facets with a typical ratio of 1.00 to 1.05 for square shapes and 1.10 or greater for more rectangular ones. Although not as brilliant as round brilliants, cushion cuts have large facets allowing for a greater separation of white light into spectral colors.

The cushion cut may be described as a cross between the old mine cut and modern oval shape. As techniques and cutting styles have evolved over the years, several variations of the cushion cut have been developed, such as the Cushion Modified Brilliant which may have an extra row of facets on the pavilion that alter the look of the diamond.

These modified brilliants often have what is called the "sparkling water" or "crushed ice" effect, giving them greater scintillation. Other subtle alterations have also been introduced, such as adding symmetrical kite or half moon shaped facets to the pavilion and below the girdle (see Expert Advice below).

Cushion Cut Diamond Expert Guide

The cushion cut diamond is also reknowned for hiding inclusions well. This is because of its extra facets, the cushion cut can disperse more light through the diamond which serves to hide inclusions more efficiently, making it one of the most brilliant of all square and rectangular shaped diamonds.

Traditional cushion cut diamonds return light in a chunkier pattern than modern cuts. Combined with the enlarged culet (which was considered desirable for the pattern created when viewed through the table), this created a distinctive look that is prized today among dealers in antique diamonds.

Partially based on cut research initiated by Marcel Tolkowsky in the 1920's, refinements to cushion cut diamonds over time (such as shrinking the culet, enlarging the table, and improving cut angles for increased brilliance), have led to a resurgence in popularity. Many buyers are attracted to the antique feel combined with modern performance offered by the cushion cut.

The standards for cushion cut vary more than most other shapes, and personal taste will dictate choice. While generally less brilliant than round brilliant diamonds, cushion cut diamonds often have better fire, which is part of their appeal. Modern cushion cuts tend to have one of three basic pavilion facet patterns (see 'The Different Types of Cushion Cut Diamonds' below). The second pattern has an extra row of facets on the pavilion and is classified by GIA as a "modified" cushion cut. These modified cuts tend to have a "crushed ice" or needle like facet pattern, more similar to a radiant cut than a traditional cushion cut.

Cushion Cut Diamonds - The Three Different Types

Cushion Cut Diamond Types

Cushion cut diamond types.

The cushion cut diamond is one of the oldest shapes and cutting styles, and has continually ranked high in popularity for engagement rings. Over the cushion's long history there have been many evolved takes on the cutting style. The first diamonds being cut in the cushion style date back to the early 1700's. This cutting style is known as the Old Mine cut, named after the origin, the Brazilian Diamond Mines. In that time with limited technology, it was a very difficult process to cut a diamond, so the main priority for most diamond cutters was to save time and money. Thus many of the diamonds being cut are meant to retain as much rough weight as possible. The defining characteristics of an Old Mine cut diamond are a squarish shape with a high crown (top), small table, deep pavilion (bottom), and a large culet.

As faceting technology continued to evolve, more precise cuts were able to be developed throughout the 20th century. Modern-day cushion brilliant cut diamonds are square or squarish-rectangular shapes with curved sides and either rounded or pointed corners. Typically, this cut will have four or eight mains, which are kite-shaped facets between the girdle and the culet. Sometimes the cut is modified to include extra facets on the crown or pavilion, in which case the cut is called modified cushion cut brilliant. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has made distinctions of these 2 kinds of cushion based on technical faceting standard. These standards and differences should be taken into consideration, and you should choose the diamond that is most aesthetically pleasing to you.

Cushion Brilliant

The cushion brilliant is the predecessor of the cushion modified, and one of its defining characteristics is the pavilion mains touching the girdle(outer edge) of the diamond. This faceting arrangement is very similar to a round brilliant diamond, where pavilion mains play a huge role in the diamond's fire. The cushion brilliant can have 4, 6, 8, or 10 pavilion mains and 57 facets total like a round diamond. Having more pavilions will result in a more refractive and fiery diamond. This is the most requested cutting style of cushion, from jewellers and is much rarer to find in comparison to the cushion modified.

Cushion Brilliant

Cushion brilliant.

Cushion Modified Brilliant

The Cushion Modified Brilliant is a variation on the original cushion brilliant shape. This type of cushion is the most commonly seen in the market. Diamond cutters save more weight when cutting them from a rough diamond crystal, and will usually be less expensive than a cushion brilliant of the same quality. This cutting style has 4 shortened pavilion mains with an extra row of facets between the pavilion mains and girdle. In a diamond, pavilion mains generate the bold flashes of light and make a really diamond pop. When the mains are shortened so is the returning amount of light. Instead of driving the light all the way out it results in short sparkles giving it the "crushed ice" look.

Cushion Modified Brilliant

Cushion modified brilliant.

Cushion Hybrid Brilliant / X Factor

The Cushion Hybrid Brilliant takes the best from both worlds. The cutting style of this cushion features 4 extended pavilion mains and has extra faceting next to each main. These additional facets provide more sparkle and fire to the diamond while the top of the diamond still features larger faceting like the brilliant round cut. With this cut, diamond cutters are now able to create cushion cut diamonds that retain the carat weight and appearance of a modified cushion with the look of a classic cushion brilliant. This results in a more brilliant appearance while still having short sparkly light streams.

Cushion Hybrid Brilliant / X Factor

Cushion hybrid brilliant / X factor.

While the classic cushion cut diamond is a square (with a length to width ratio of 1.00), they are often found in slightly rectangular shapes as well. The most popular shape is a slight rectangle of 1.10-1.20 length to width, however personal preference should dictate choice.

Cushion Cut Diamond - Cut Guide

Cushion cut standards vary more than any other shape, which is why cut parameters are very loose. With soft-sided fancy shapes, it's important to understand that your choice should be dictated by your personal preferences.

The GIA doesn't provide cut grading for cushion cut diamonds due to their complex and unique structure. However, there are still some key features to be considered when choosing a cushion diamond.

Although cushion cut diamonds have less brilliance than round cut diamonds they often have a better fire, which makes them so attractive for buyers. To choose the best diamond you need to pay special attention to the diamond symmetry and polish grades listed in the certificate. Excellent or very good symmetry and polish are strongly recommended.

The facets on the right and left halves of the diamond should have the same shape and size. All the points of the facets should meet, there should not be missing or extra ones. The more symmetrical the facets, the more beautiful the diamond.

The chart below serves as a general guideline for evaluating the cut of a cushion cut diamond:

Swipe left to see more.

Cushion Cut Diamond Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
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Depth refers to the distance between the culet and the table when a diamond is viewed from the side.

The depth % of a diamond is calculated by dividing the depth of the diamond by the width of the diamond. So, if a diamond is 3 mm in depth, and 4.5 mm in width, its depth % is 66.7.

The lower the depth %, the larger a diamond of a given carat weight will appear when viewed from above (since more of the diamond's size is in its width vs. in its depth).

Depth % is incorporated in the cut grade of a diamond. For this reason, when purchasing a diamond, use the cut grade first (since it balances multiple measurements, not just depth %). Once two diamonds of equal cut are being compared, consider depth % as a further refinement.

Learn more about the anatomy of a diamond.

61 - 67 58 - 60.9 or 67.1 - 70 56 - 57.9 or 70.1 - 71 54 - 55.9 or 71.1 - 73 <54 or >73
×

The table is the uppermost, flat surface of a diamond, which runs parallel to the plane of the girdle.

The table % of a diamond is calculated by dividing the width of the table facet by the width of the diamond. So, if the table facet is 3 mm across, and the diamond is 4.5 mm wide, its table % is 66.7.

Table % is incorporated in the cut grade of a diamond. For this reason, when purchasing a diamond, use the cut grade first (since it balances multiple measurements, not just table %). Once two diamonds of equal cut are being compared, consider table % as a further refinement.

Learn more about the anatomy of a diamond.

61 - 67 58 - 60 or 68 - 67 56 - 57 or 71 54 - 55 or 72 - 73 <54 or >73
×

A diamond's symmetry is the arrangement, size, and shaping of diamond's facets. The facets are the flat planes that run along the surfaces of the diamond. Symmetry is angles and lines that form the placement of the facets. Nowadays, symmetry is completely controlled by the manufacturing process. Machines very carefully cut diamonds to produce the most accurate shapes. However, at times the diamond cutter will leave a symmetry imperfection in the diamond in order to prevent a different inclusion from showing in the finished diamond. Symmetry is a subset of the diamond's cut grade.

Learn more about diamond symmetry.

Good to excellent Good to excellent Good to excellent Fair to Excellent Poor to Excellent
×

The term "polish" refers to the overall condition of the surfaces of a finished diamond. A rating is assigned based on the amount of polishing lines that are visible. These polishing lines are caused by very small diamond crystals which are embedded in the polishing wheels used by diamond cutters to polish the surface of the diamond after cutting. Diamond polish is important because it can affect the degree to which light is able to pass through a diamond, rendering it more or less brilliant. Diamonds that are laboratory certified with a good, very good, or excellent polish rating are the most desirable. Diamonds that have poor polish will be less brilliant and not as desirable or valuable. Reputable jewellers diamonds are graded after examining the diamond facet by facet.

Learn more about diamond polish.

Good to excellent Good to excellent Good to excellent Fair to Excellent Poor to Excellent
×

The girdle is the outer edge of the diamond, where the crown (top) meets the pavilion (bottom).

A girdle may be faceted (a series of tiny polished sides going around the diamond), bruted (a single continuous unpolished surface going round the diamond; no longer common), or polished (a bruted girdle that has been polished smooth). Whether a girdle is faceted, bruted, or polished usually has no impact on the appearance or value of the diamond.

The girdle is described according to its width. Often, the width of the girdle varies at different points around the diamond, and is quoted in a range designating the thinnest and thickest point along the girdle (e.g. "Thin - Medium" means the diamond's girdle varies in width from thin at the narrowest point to medium at the widest point).

Learn more about the anatomy of a diamond.

Very Thin - Slightly Thick Very Thin - Slightly Thick Very Thin - Thick Very Thin - Very Thick Ex. Thin - Ex. Thick
×

The culet (pronounced cue-let) is the small area at the bottom of a diamond's pavilion. The culet can be a point or a very small facet sitting parallel to the table.

The culet size as determined by the GIA, is shown using the following scale:

None, Very Small, Small, Medium, Slightly Large, Large, Very Large.

Any culet size of Medium or smaller will be invisible to the naked eye, and have no negative impact on a diamond's appearance. However, if a culet is Slightly Large or larger, it may allow light entering from the crown to pass straight through the culet facet, reducing the diamond's brilliance. This may also make the culet appear as an inclusion, or create a dead area on the diamond where the light is escaping through the bottom.

Learn more about the anatomy of a diamond.

None Very Small Small Medium > Medium
×

The length to width (L/W) ratio is calculated by dividing a diamond's length (the longer measure) by its width (the shorter measure that runs perpendicular to length).

For example, an Oval Cut diamond that is 5.00 mm in length and 3.3 mm in width will have a L/W ratio of 1.50 (5.00/3.33). A perfectly round or square diamond will have a length to width ratio of 1.00, but many will be off slightly since they are often not perfectly cut. Any L/W ratio of 1.05 or less will appear perfectly round or square to the naked eye.

L/W ratio is more commonly used in fancy shapes. There is no "ideal" L/W ratio in a fancy shape diamond. What is important is what looks pleasing to you.

Square
1.00 - 1.03 1.00 - 1.03 1.04 - 1.05 1.06 - 1.08 > 1.08
×

The length to width (L/W) ratio is calculated by dividing a diamond's length (the longer measure) by its width (the shorter measure that runs perpendicular to length).

For example, an Oval Cut diamond that is 5.00 mm in length and 3.3 mm in width will have a L/W ratio of 1.50 (5.00/3.33). A perfectly round or square diamond will have a length to width ratio of 1.00, but many will be off slightly since they are often not perfectly cut. Any L/W ratio of 1.05 or less will appear perfectly round or square to the naked eye.

L/W ratio is more commonly used in fancy shapes. There is no "ideal" L/W ratio in a fancy shape diamond. What is important is what looks pleasing to you.

Rectangle
1.15 - 1.20 1.10 - 1.14 or 1.21 - 1.30 1.10 - 1.14 or 1.21 - 1.30 1.08 - 1.09 or 1.31 - 1.50 <1.08 or >1.50

Cushion diamond cut guide.

Cushion Cut Diamond Ratio

Cushion cut diamond length to width ratio.


Cushion Cut Diamond - Color Guide

Evaluating color in cushion cut diamonds is subjective. Keep in mind that many buyers may actually prefer the ever so slightly warmer colors of a G-H diamond over the cool colorlessness of a D-F diamond. In fact, most of the premium in price associated with cushion cut diamonds at the higher end of the color scale is driven by supply and demand; customers want the D-F color grades, and are willing to pay a premium to get them. In a world without diamond color grading, the price premium for higher grades would be much lower, as the actual differences in color are difficult to perceive.

The color of cushion cut diamonds is graded on a scale from D to Z, where D signifies a completely colorless diamond and Z means an easily noticeable yellow or brown tint.

Being one of the most popular diamond cuts, the cushion is not the best shape to mask color and tints. For this reason, it is recommended to opt for H or better color if the diamond is going to be set in platinum or white gold. In the case of yellow or rose gold, you may buy a diamond in J or even K color.

Of course H color falls in the "near colorless' range but it has a very slight yellow tint which is really hard to notice, especially if the diamond is set into yellow or rose gold as colored metals tend to mask the tints. The color chart below provides a general guide for evaluating color in cushion cut diamonds:

Swipe left to see more.

Cushion Cut Diamond Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
< .50 ct. D - G H - I J - K L - M > M
.51-1.0 ct. D - F G H - I J - K > K
1.0-2.0 ct. D - F D - F G - H I - J > J
> 2.0 ct. D - F D - F G H - I > I
×

Fluorescence refers to a diamond's tendency to emit a soft colored glow when subjected to ultraviolet light. Roughly 30% of diamonds fluoresce to some degree.

Colorless (D-F) fluorescent diamonds sell at up to a 15% discount since the fluorescence is perceived as a defect, even though the visible effects of Faint to Medium fluorescence are perceptible only to a gemologist using a special UV light source.

Because the fluorescent glow is usually blue (which is the complementary color to yellow) fluorescence can make diamonds of I-M color appear up to one grade whiter. For this reason, I-M diamonds tend to sell at a slight premium when they possess Medium to Very Strong fluorescence.

Exercise caution in purchasing a diamond with Strong fluorescence in D-F color diamonds or Very Strong fluorescence in G-H color diamonds (which do not possess enough body color to offset the higher degree of fluorescence).

Learn more about diamond fluorescence.


None Faint - Med Strong Very Strong Very Strong

Cushion diamond color guide.

Swipe left to see more.

Cushion Cut Diamond Color

Cushion cut diamond color.


Cushion Cut Diamond - Clarity Guide

Like color, evaluating clarity in cushion cut diamonds is subjective. GIA provides excellent help with their clarity grades. Still, it is important to understand that each customer will have a unique standard for clarity. Some may be perfectly comfortable with an inclusion as long as they cannot easily see it. Others may insist on a more technically flawless appearance.

The GIA grades clarity of cushion cut diamonds on a scale from FL to I3, where FL means a flawless diamond and I3 indicates a heavily included diamond.

To have an eye-clean diamond it is best to opt for a diamond in the SI clarity range. However, since the cushion cut has a large open table, it can be difficult to find an eye-clean diamond in S12 grade, meaning you might need extra efforts to find a good diamond. Additionally, try to find a diamond in which inclusions are in the corners. These flaws are less noticeable, especially if they are covered by prongs. The clarity chart below provides a general guide for evaluating clarity in cushion cut diamonds:

Swipe left to see more.

Cushion Cut Diamond Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
< .50 ct. FL - VS2 SI1 - SI2 I1 I2 > I2
.51-1.0 ct. FL - VS1 VS2 - SI1 SI2 I1 - I2 > I2
1.0-2.0 ct. FL - VVS2 VS1 - VS2 SI1 - SI2 I1 > I1
> 2.0 ct. FL - VVS2 VS1 - VS2 SI1 SI2 > SI2

Cushion diamond clarity guide.

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Cushion Cut Diamond Clarity

Cushion cut diamond clarity.


Cushion Cut Diamond History & Background

The cushion, pillow or candlelight cut was developed in the 19th century and has undergone several transformations and developments since. The cushion cut has especially benefited from the invention of cleaving as this process has helped to maximise the shape's light dispersion making it more dynamic and brilliant.

Cushion Cut Diamond History

Cushion cut diamond history.

Learn more about what you need to know in our ultimate buying guide, if you're thinking of buying a cushion cut diamond. We break it all down from pricing, other shapes comparison and engagement ring setting choices.