Buying a Princess Cut Diamond: Everything You Should Know

A Princess Cut diamond is in the shape of an upside down pyramid, mounted as the crowning jewel of, usually, a diamond engagement ring. The top appears square. (The top of a diamond is called the “table.”) Underneath, the four slides slope down to the point at the bottom. (This bottom point is known as the “culet” on a gemstone.)

Seeing a Princess Cut is the fastest way to get a clear picture in your mind of what a Princess Cut is, compared to a Round Brilliant Cut. James Allen has superior imaging, including 3D rotatable images.

Take a minute to look at two or three of the Princess Cut diamonds from James Allen.

You’ll see that a Princess Cut diamond has a classic shape with a brilliant facet arrangement of anywhere from 50 facets up to 144 facets – by far the most common number is 58 facets.

The high number of facets creates more sparkle than square or rectangular diamonds such as the Emerald Cut, although less sparkle than the most popular diamond shape of all, the round brilliant.

Among the “fancy shape” diamonds (which essentially means anything other than Round Brilliant Cut), the Princess Cut is most popular, based on the number of purchases.

Diamond Cuts

The Princess Cut is the second most popular cut largely because it produces the second most brilliance of any cut, second only to the Round Brilliant Cut. Plus, it has a more modern feel, while still classic.

The Princess Cut Diamond Dates Back to 1980

Although the name “Princess Cut” was first introduced in the 1960s, that was simply a name applied to the “profile cut,” which hasn’t stood the test of time.

The profile cut did have 58 facets, but it was much flatter than what we now call the Princess Cut. The Princess Cut as it now exists was created by Betazel Ambar and Israel Itzkowitz in 1980 and has surged in popularity ever since.

It’s easy to see why. The Princess Cut is a deeper diamond, giving it more brilliance than the early attempts in the 1960s.

One of the attractions of the Princess Cut is the combination of its innovation, compared to the Round Brilliant Cut, with its solidly-rooted tradition now, since the 1980s. It’s modern without being trendy, traditional without being too conservative for some tastes.

Princess cut diamond

Why Princess Cut Diamonds Are Less Expensive Than Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds (Carat for Carat)

You may have noticed, as you enjoy perusing the diamond inventories at James Allen or Blue Nile, that Princess Cut diamonds are less expensive, carat for carat, than Round Brilliant Cut diamonds of the same color and clarity grades.

Princess Cut diamonds are less expensive than Round Brilliant Cut for two reasons.

  1. Round Brilliant Cut diamonds have the most brilliance, sparkle, and fire of any Cut. Physics determines this — the behavior of light and the properties of diamonds gemstone as light passes through it. Because many people prefer them, their price is higher relative to any other kind of cut.
  2. For any given diamond stone in the rough, a Princess Cut is usually a more efficient use of the stone. Princess Cut diamonds use much more of the raw diamond stone. Most often, two Princess Cut diamonds can be taken from a single suitable diamond in the rough, with only 10% to 15% of the original diamond discarded. Which means that the amount of the rough diamond which is trimmed off during cutting is far more for a Round Brilliant Cut than for a Princess Cut., based on the shape of most diamonds in the rough.

Taking note of this basic law of efficiency in manufacture and marketing is highly encouraging to many shopping for diamonds who find that Princess Cut diamonds can be significantly less expensive than Round Brilliant Cut diamonds.

The difference is price is not because Princess Cut is inferior. It’s rather, in a real way, because it is superior to the Round Brilliant Cut — not in brilliance, but in how naturally it follows the lines of a diamond in the rough. With a Princess Cut, less of the natural diamond stone is discarded. More can make it to the consumer.

That said, price is always a marker of demand as well as supply. Even though the manufacturing efficiency, carat for carat, is much higher for Princess Cut diamonds, the consumer demand for Round Brilliant Cut diamonds remains high, and this props up the price of the Round Brilliant Cut.

Why Clarity Grades of Princess Cut Diamonds Are Generally Higher Than Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds

Because Princess Cut diamonds tend to be cut from larger, better formed samples of natural, raw diamond, the clarity tends to be higher.

The reason has to do with internal characteristics of the formation of diamond crystals. As mentioned above, Princess Cut diamonds tend to be drawn from diamonds in the rough that can be cut into two Princess Cut shaped gemstones. They naturally tend to have better clarity.

And that’s a good thing, if you like this relatively new, already classic style. For any given Princess Cut diamond, you tend to get better Clarity and Color, and a lower price carat for carat, compared to a Round Brilliant Cut diamond.

How to Choose a Clarity Grade

To many people, if you can’t see any flaws, that’s good enough. For them, choosing a VS2 or SI1 Clarity Princess Cut diamond which is eye clean offers the best value.

As you know from our article on diamond Clarity, “eye clean” means that, however many inclusions (flaws) a diamond may have inside it, they’re impossible to see from the top, when it’s mounted on a ring. Such diamonds look clean to the eye, so they are “eye clean.”

You might wonder why not look for SI2 or I1 Clarity Princess Cut diamonds which are eye clean. That would offer even greater value, right?

In a sense yes, it would. Although such diamonds do exist, they are rarely found, because of the generally higher quality rough diamonds from which Princess Cuts are created by diamond cutters. By all means, have a look through the inventories of such merchants as James Allen, Blue Nile, and Brian Gavin for such diamonds. You can easily enough search for them using their filters and the various high quality imaging technologies they have.

If you find an eye clean Princess Cut diamond of SI2 or I1 Clarity, you’ll have saved a lot of money — if “eye clean” is the only important factor for you in Clarity.

But don’t get your hopes up. Don’t wait too long, searching. Such diamonds aren’t common.

For other people, the GIA graded Clarity of a diamond is as important as a thoroughbred horse’s pedigree. They love knowing that their diamond has a certificated level of Clarity, whether it’s visible or not.

How to Choose a Color Grade

Choosing color for a Princess Cut diamond is like choosing color for any other diamond except for Round Brilliant Cut. A Round Brilliant Cut pours so much light out through the top of the diamond (the “table”) that it can obscure some lower grades of color.

The Princess Cut doesn’t have quite the light performance characteristics of the Round Brilliant. For that reason, its true color is more easily visible from the top.

That’s hardly a drawback for most who prefer Princess Cut diamonds, since they can simply choose a color grade which is high enough to please them, then adjust for carat weight to remain within budget.

In general, for the same amount of money, they end up with diamond which is larger and has a better absolute color grade. The Round Brilliant for the same amount of money would be smaller, and would have a lower color grade, even if it was pouring enough fire and brilliance form the top of the diamond to obscure any slight yellowing inside the stone.

And so when choosing a Princess Cut diamond, go for the sweet spot of H or I. As you may know from reading our diamond Color article, GIA color grades begin with D.

That’s right, D is the best, most colorless and beautiful white diamond possible. (Not A, B, or C, which don’t exist on the color scale.)

If you have a budget that doesn’t cause you much pain as you step up in Clarity grades to G, F, or E, then proceed with that. But the increase in beauty visible to the natural eye may not match the increase in cost, if the money is a trade-off at all for the honeymoon, the setting, other gifts, or simply for wise economic investments.

Keep in mind a diamond is never a good economic investment.

How to Choose a Cut Grade

The GIA grades the Cut quality only of Round Brilliant Cut diamonds.

That’s a surprising fact to many people who are new too shopping for diamonds. But there are simply no industry-wide standards for evaluating the Cut of Princess Cut diamonds. The same is true for any other “fancy shape” diamonds.

(“Fancy shape” diamonds include all diamonds which are not Round Brilliant Cut.)

However, you can still make a good judgment on your own as to what proportions you’ll look for in your Princess Cut diamond.

  1. The GIA does evaluate Polish in Princess Cut diamonds. Look for Good, Very Good, or Excellent.
  2. The GIA also evaluates Symmetry. Choose Good, Very Good, or Excellent.
  3. Then go on to look for a Depth between 64% and 74%.
  4. As for Table Size (the top of the diamond is the “table”), choose between 73% and 77%.

Accent Diamonds and Settings for Princess Cut Diamonds

 Other clarity considerations, just as with any diamond, include matching the color to any accent diamonds. The accent diamonds should not exceed the center stone in beauty, or they’ll make it look bad by comparison. Nor should the accent diamonds appear much worse than the center stone, or they’ll ruin the appearance of the center stone by association.

White gold or white platinum settings are not the best choice for a Princess Cut diamond of J or I color. The reason is that by contrast, the very slight yellow of the diamond will appear stronger than it would with yellow gold or rose gold.

These considerations apply to virtually any fancy shape diamond. (These include anything other than a Round Brilliant Cut.) A Round Brilliant Cut diamond can always get away with a little lower color grade (H is lower than G, etc.) because the Round Brilliant Cut is so bright that the human has difficulty in seeing the color.

The most common and aesthetically best settings for Princess Cut diamond engagement rings are channel settings, solitaire settings, and 3-stone settings.

  1. Channel settings — the Princess Cut diamond is flanked on either side by a row of much smaller diamonds set in channels along the outer surface of the ring. The sheer brilliance and fire pouring off such a ring can be stunning.
  2. Solitaire settings — the Princess Cut diamond is showcased in a single 4-prong setting that allows all attention to go directly to it, and allows side views as well.
  3. 3-Stone settings — the Princess Cut diamond is flanked on either side by two smaller diamonds which are yet still of substantial size. These two flanking gemstones are often tapered baguette diamonds.

Other settings include a Halo, Cluster, Flower, 5-stone, and custom settings.

The Princess Cut diamond, being square when viewed from above, and a classic pyramid when viewed from any angle, is a versatile and attractive shape for virtually any aesthetic flow or arrangement.

Durability of Princess Cut Diamonds

Because Princess Cut diamonds have much sharper corners than Round Brilliant Cut diamonds, they are more prone to chipping, just on the corners.

This can be less of an issue depending on the placement of the prongs, or other variables in the setting which may protect the corners from direct or glancing blows against a wall or other hard surface.

For this reason, if your beloved is involved in handicrafts, work, or sports which might put the diamond at risk for very much contact over the years, it’s best if the ring is removed for those activities.

Also — as with any diamond — we don’t recommend cleaning in an ultrasonic gemstone cleaning machine if your Princess Cut diamond is set next to any accent or other flanking stones. The diamonds can vibrate against each other. Diamonds will chip diamonds, just as chalk chips chalk or glass chips glass.

Princess Cut Diamonds — They’re All Yours

Many shoppers feel a sense of freedom when shopping for a Princess Cut diamond, compared to shopping for a Round Brilliant Cut. That sense of freedom can increase the further afield into Fancy Shapes they venture.

With the Round Brilliant Cut, the math wizards and professional diamond graders have figured it all out. The GIA grades it, and that’s pretty much that.

With Princess Cut diamonds, there’s a little more variety. A little more mystery. You can look into a Princess Cut diamond and see beauty, and know that you won’t be either confirmed or disproven by a mathematical formula, or the sober judgments of experts.

It’s all down to you.

So explore. A great place to begin, because the imaging is so good at these stores, and because they have stellar reputations for treating customers extremely well, is at James Allen, Blue Nile, and Brian Gavin.