Buying an Emerald Cut Diamond: Everything You Should Know

Emerald Cut diamonds offer a classic, Art Deco style for a unique and elegant diamond engagement ring.

If you want your diamond engagement ring to stand out from across the room, often an Emerald Cut is the way to do it. It’s instantly recognizable as not just another Round cut.

Emerald Cut diamonds fall into the class of diamonds known as “Fancy Shape” diamonds. It’s a term used to describe any shape of diamond which is not round.

“Fancy Shape diamonds” or “fancy diamonds” are terms that marketers use to create awareness of all the other choices available in diamonds besides round.

Although round diamonds are by far the most popular shapes sold, Fancy Shape diamonds are gaining popularity, with the Emerald Cut among the most popular.

Here’s What You’ll Learn

  • What exactly an Emerald Cut is
  • How to distinguish at a glance between an Emerald Cut and an Asscher Cut
  • Characteristics to look for in an Emerald Cut diamond
  • How to evaluate an Emerald Cut
  • How expensive are Emerald Cuts compared to traditional Round Brilliant Cuts of diamond

What Is an Emerald Cut Diamond?

An Emerald Cut is a slightly rectangular cut, with the facets stepping down from the table (the top of a diamond) to the girdle (the side of the diamond), then stepping back “in” until they reach the culet (bottom of the diamond).

The corners are beveled off. These extra facets at the corners have several advantages:

  • Increase beauty of this pleasing shape
  • Increase in brilliance — the amount of light coming through the top of the diamond
  • Increase in fire — the rainbow flashes of light refraction shooting through facets
  • Stabilize the stone, to make it even stronger against chips and cracks
  • Avoid sharp corners that could injure someone, scratch furniture, or suffer a chip from a glancing blow at a wall, etc

Here are front, side, and bottom views of an emerald cut diamond.

james allen emerald cut diamond

To nail this shape down in your mind, you can also have have a 3D turning look at any of these Emerald Cut diamonds at James Allen.

An Emerald Cut is a kind of “step cut” diamond. The term “step cut” refers to the shapes of the facets of a diamond. (The “facets” refers to the faces, to the polygonal surfaces of a cut diamond.)

In step cut diamonds (such as an Emerald Cut or an Asscher Cut), the facets are not the traditional “kite shaped” or “star shaped” or “triangular shaped” facets of a Round Brilliant diamond.

Rather, the facets of a step cut diamond are more rectangular and terraced.

What’s the Difference Between an Emerald Cut and an Asscher Cut?

The Emerald Cut is often confused with the Asscher Cut. What are some similarities? What are some differences?

Similarities Between Emerald Cut Diamonds and Asscher Cut Diamonds

  • They’re both step cuts.
  • They both have beveled corners.
  • They both have large tables (tops)
  • They both have small culets (bottoms)

So what are the differences between an Emerald Cut and an Asscher Cut?

There’s really one main difference: In everyday English, an Emerald Cut is like a rectangle, whereas an Asscher is like a square.

Differences Between Emerald Cut and Asscher Cut Diamonds

  • Almost all Emerald Cut diamonds have length to width ratios of 1:1.4. Some are 1:1.3. Some are 1:1.5. Most fall right in line with the most popular, which is 1:1.4
  • Asscher Cut diamonds have a length to width ratio, always, of 1:1.
  • The Emerald Cut has a larger table than an Asscher Cut
  • The Emerald Cut has smaller step facets than an Asscher Cut
  • The Emerald Cut has a lower table than an Asscher Cut (The Emerald Cut is not as “tall”.)
emerald vs asscher cut diamond

As you can see from the images above, the difference is shape between Emerald and Asscher cut diamond is quite easy to spot.

How to Spot Any Emerald Cut Diamond at a Glance

People who prefer the Emerald Cut to the Asscher Cut say that the Emerald Cut stands out more. It’s more easily recognized as a unique and elegant exception in a crowd of Round Brilliant diamonds.

The slightly elongated, flatter shape of an Emerald Cut is easily distinguishable from round cuts. It’s also easily distinguishable from an Asscher cut, which in its squarish, octagonal shape can be confused with a round cut, at a distance.

There’s one more way, and it’s related to one of the beautiful strengths of an Emerald Cut — its stunningly large, clear table.

  • When you look downward into the crystalline depths of an Emerald Cut, you see a single line running from one end of the culet (bottom) of the diamond to the other.
  • The Asscher Cut, on the other hand, has a distinguishing X visible instead of a line.

What Do People Love About Emerald Cut Diamond Engagement Rings?

One of the characteristics Emerald Cut connoisseurs prize is an Emerald Cut’s clear, pure, large table. (Elizabeth Taylor famously called her 29.4-Carat Emerald Cut diamond engagement ring — this one from her third husband — her “ice skating rink.”)

That larger surface area, and the relatively shallower depth, presents more to the eye for a given Carat weight. That’s why it’s sought after by those who want a larger stone without a higher price.

In fact, with just a little looking through vast inventory at James Allen, you can find larger 1.25- or 1.3-Carat Emerald Diamonds for around $3,500, compared to mere 1-Carat Round Brilliant diamonds for around $4,150, at the time of this writing.

You can almost always get a larger Emerald Cut diamond of the same qualities for slightly less cost than a smaller Round Brilliant Cut diamond.

Another advantage of Emerald Cut diamonds for those who prize them: you can look right through the table (the top) of an Emerald Cut down to the culet (the bottom) of the diamond.

Emerald Cut has brilliance. Some even class it as a Brilliant diamond. Even with that clear, transparent beautiful table, the high number of facets (58 facets) of an Emerald Cut actually matches the number of most Round Brilliant Cut diamonds. That means the Emerald Cut offers significant brilliance.

To be clear, the Emerald Cut is not as brilliant as the champion of all brilliance, the Round Brilliant. But lovers of the Emerald Cut are well satisfied by it, since they get something the Round Brilliant does not have — deeply visible transparency.

Why You Should Browse Emerald Cut Diamonds Even If You Don’t Plan to Buy One

For those who are new at shopping for diamonds, the Emerald Cut is an incredible educational experience. Here’s why.

It’s sometimes hard to see inclusions (flaws) in a Round Brilliant Cut. But it’s easy to see inclusions (flaws) in an Emerald Cut, because of the large, pure table (the top of a diamond).

People new to shopping for diamonds sometimes wonder, “How can you see a flaw in a diamond? Can you really see a diamond inclusion (flaw) in a image posted by an online store?”

Browsing through the incredible offerings of Emerald Cut diamonds at James Allen or Blue Nile, for example, you can easily see that

  • Inclusions are visible, and not hidden (Of course this is true, as we know. Both retailers are highly-reputable, as graded by the BBB, TrustPilot, and other ratings organizations — and as vetted by us. What you see is what you get.)
  • You can begin to see the different kinds of inclusions
  • You’ll begin to be better at spotting inclusions even in Round Brilliants, after the easy practice at it in looking at Emerald Cut diamonds. (Emerald Cut diamonds don’t have more inclusions than Round Brilliants. It’s just that the unique, beautiful characteristics of Emerald Cut diamonds allow you to see the inclusions more readily.)

Why Some People Appreciate the Easy Visibility of Inclusions (Flaws) in an Emerald Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

Seeing a small inclusion (flaw) or two so easily in the transparent beauty of an Emerald Cut diamond engagement ring, you can even begin to appreciate an inclusion.

It’s similar to the way Zen masters famously appreciate the small flaws in a prized and collectible teacup. Without the chip in the teacup, it wouldn’t be prized. It wouldn’t have character. It wouldn’t illustrate the lovely uniqueness of every object in life.

It’s true that even diamond inclusions (flaws) can be reassuring, emotional, meaningful symbols in a diamond engagement ring. As if to say, “We recognize that neither one of us will be perfect. Both of us have flaws, as does this eternal, beautiful, unique billion-year-old gemstone. And we pledge to love each other anyway.” (Plus, such enlightened lovers of Emerald Cut diamonds also enjoy a huge price break. The inclusions lower the market demand from the, ahem, “less enlightened” masses.)

Judging Cut Quality in an Emerald Cut Diamond

The GIA does not grade Cut quality for fancy shape diamonds. Since the Emerald Cut is a fancy shape diamond (not a round diamond), this applies to Emerald Cuts.

It’s also important to note that there is no agreement or even consensus in the industry on what makes a good Cut quality for an Emerald Cut diamond.

You may find that some diamond blogs post tables of “Excellent,” “Very Good,” “Good,” “Fair,” and “Poor” grades or recommendations for Emerald Cut diamonds.

For example, “Excellent Cut Emerald diamonds have a Table percentage of between 61 and 68%, a Depth of between 60% and 68%, and a Length to Width Ratio of 1:1.3 or 1:1.4.”

 These are mere opinion. Speculation. Not backed up by any lab experiments or physics calculations. Don’t buy in. Here’s why:

The reason the GIA grades only Round Brilliant diamonds for Cut quality is because it’s so hard to mathematically define and generalize how light behaves inside an object as complex as a diamond. Of course it’s possible. It’s just very hard.

The GIA wouldn’t have to do that just once. They wouldn’t have to just create the formula. They would have to evaluate each and every fancy shape stone submitted to it.

It’s just too much, at this point in history. Undoubtedly one day optical and computer imaging and artificial intelligence will enable scientific cut grades for fancy shape diamonds.

But we’re not there yet, so don’t get taken in by a set of numbers and percentages. This implies there are experiments and measurements done by a scientific lab. This is not the case. 

The GIA have put the best quantitative minds to work to come up with objective guidelines for defining Cut quality in Round Brilliant diamonds.

But with fancy shape diamonds, right now, it’s practically impossible (not theoretically but in all practicality) to predict how light will behave.

But You Can Still Judge the Cut Quality of an Emerald Cut Diamond – Here’s How

Cut quality — in any diamond — is defined by:

  • How well a diamond sends light out through the top parts of a diamond (its brilliance)
  • How much fire is sent out of the diamond (rainbow like refraction of light)
  • How proportional a diamond is
  • How symmetrical a diamond is

With Round Brilliant diamonds, quite brilliant minds at the GIA have been able to predict all this with scientific accuracy.

With fancy shape diamonds (anything other than round), the GIA doesn’t attempt it.

You can judge Cut in an Emerald Cut diamond yourself. You do it the old-fashioned way.

  1. Observe a diamond carefully (you can do this online at James Allen, Blue Nile, and Brian Gavin)
  2. Turn it in the light (you can do this virtually, online, at the retailers mentioned above)
  3. Experience its brilliance
  4. Experience its fire
  5. Observe and experience its proportions
  6. Observe and experience its symmetries and lack of symmetries, viewed from every angle
  7. Compare and contrast it over time to many others of its own shape and of other shapes
  8. You will quickly develop your own sense of what is brilliant, proportional, and symmetrical — in other words, of the CUT — of an Emerald Cut diamond

Now you understand while just looking at someone’s list of percentages would be such a loss. Here’s why:

  • The lists of percentages didn’t come from a lab. They came from someone expressing their opinion
  • If you just check math percentages, you lose the experience that enables you to judge Cut.
  • It’s easy to develop enough taste in Cut, even within 30 minutes or so of following my recommendations for that, above.

Emerald Cut Diamonds Are a Bold yet Sophisticated Choice for an Engagement Ring

Emerald Cut diamonds are a bold yet sophisticated choice for an engagement ring. Judging by a quick google search, Emerald Cut diamonds may be among the most popular shapes for celebrities.

It’s likely that Round Brilliants reign supreme in popularity with celebrities, as much as they do with everyone else. But Emerald Cut engagement rings are certainly more remarkable, more interesting, and more photogenic because of their larger table size.

And yet no one ever found an Emerald Cut gaudy, or inappropriate, or trendy.

Those qualities that celebrities love in Emerald Cut diamonds are also loved by people who aren’t celebrities. They’re beautiful, they make a sophisticated, elegant statement, they stand out, and yet they’re also classical, elegant choices.

emerald cut engagement ring

Where to Explore Emerald Cut Diamonds Right Now

You can see more diamonds in 10 minutes than your grandparents could see in 10 years.

Plus, you can examine each one under a virtual jeweler’s loupe, and read the specs on each one, and the prices. At multiple retailers, within seconds.

These are opportunities that no one before this generation ever had, for almost instantly developing knowledge, and taste, and judgment about diamonds.

You can explore all the aspects of Emerald Cut diamonds, and get a good sense of quality Cut — and maybe even meet your engagement ring diamond for the first time in the next few minutes — at these three highly reputable, trustworthy retailers:

  • James Allen
  • Blue Nile
  • Brian Gavin