Checkerboard Cut: Characteristics & Benefits (vs. Other Cutting Styles)

Choosing a checkerboard-cut diamond...

Shoppers tend to focus on a few major diamond characteristics when choosing a new stone. The 4Cs, size, and shape are all important, but did you know you can actually choose a different cut style for your diamond? Antique and modern diamonds alike often sport unique cut methods that produce a different kind of sparkle, and a fun, geometric option is the checkerboard cut.

A checkerboard cut doesn’t produce the same fire, brilliance, and scintillation expected from a brilliant-cut diamond, but it does create an eye-catching effect that can be applied to almost any diamond shape. Let’s look at:

  • The basics of a checkerboard-cut diamond
  • Checkerboard cut vs. other diamond cutting styles
  • Uses of the checkerboard cut in diamonds and colored gemstones👨🏻‍🏫
Checkerboard Cut Amethyst Cocktail Ring (1stDibs)
Checkerboard cut amethyst cocktail ring | Image: 1stDibs

What does a checkerboard-cut stone look like?

Gem cutters craft varying facet shapes to manipulate a diamond’s sparkle. For a checkerboard-cut diamond, artisans use square or kite-shaped facets to produce a defined pattern much like the one you’d find on a chessboard or checkerboard (hence the name!).

Imagine turning the gameboard in a clockwise motion and think about how it would look. Due to the shift, the squares on the board look more like diamonds with corners where the square’s flat edges would usually be; this is identical to the pattern on a checkerboard-cut stone.

The effects of the checkerboard cut are particularly vibrant in colored stones, although near-white, translucent gems are sometimes used to achieve a warm glow in addition to rainbow lightplay.

The gridlike crown of a checkerboard-cut diamond does not have a table, which draws the wearer’s attention away from the inside of the stone and focuses their eye on the color and bold scintillation the pattern produces. This effect minimizes inclusions and entrances onlookers with bright flashes of color.

The pavilion of a checkerboard-cut stone can be cut in any style, such as brilliant or step cut, for a more unique look. The cut pattern can also be used on any type of gemstone as well as any diamond shape, including round, cushion, heart, and more.😊

Checkerboard cut vs. Other cutting styles

So how does a checkerboard cut stack up to other popular diamond cutting methods? Let’s compare checkerboard-cut diamonds to three other major diamond cuts used in jewelry today:

Checkerboard Cut vs. Rose Cut

A rose cut is similar to the Old Mine and Old European cuts of the 16th century, in terms of cutting technique; and the design is a bit more simplistic than modern styles. Rose-cuts are less flashy than other designs due to their faceting pattern, but they offer a soft glow that is perfect for vintage or minimalist settings.

In terms of sparkle, checkerboard-cut diamonds produce more fire, brilliance, and scintillation than rose-cut gems. Rose-cut stones have very few facets and a shallow shape, which means they don’t have the sparkle you’d expect from the deeper, heavily faceted checkerboard style.

Both diamond cuts also lack the usual table facet that you’d expect on modern cuts. Instead of flat surfaces, they feature domed crowns that maximize the effects of their uniquely faceted shapes.

However, outside of lacking a table, both diamonds appear rather different when viewed from the top. This is due to their differing facet shapes: the checkerboard-cut stone takes on a diamond-hatch appearance, whereas the rose cut boasts softer, triangular facets and a pointed head that offers a softer glow.

Unlike checkerboard cuts, most rose cuts feature a flat bottom rather than a pavilion bottom. The shallower design of the rose cut means it has a lower profile and can sit almost flush inside a setting. In contrast, checkerboard-cut diamonds require more space in a setting to fit their pavilion base, and the rounded crown of the cut means it can sit lower than some stones.

Checkerboard Cut vs. Brilliant Cut

Arguably the most well-known and beloved cut in modern jewelry, the brilliant cut is designed to maximize a stone’s brilliance and highlight its best qualities. With 57-58 carefully placed facets, brilliant cuts can certainly outshine most cut styles in any setting.

While both checkerboard and brilliant-cut stones have pavilions, their top portions are quite different. Brilliant cut stones have precisely cut tables that allow viewers to see inside the gem and provide an additional window for light. Checkerboard cuts do not have this faceted table and, instead, have tons of square-shaped facets and a rounded crown.

This complex grid of square facets means that the checkerboard cut is perfect for masking unwanted inclusions. Brilliant cuts do a great job of hiding inclusions as well thanks to their incredibly light play, but checkerboard cuts are best suited for the job.⚖️

Both brilliant cuts and checkerboard cuts can be used on diamonds and colored gemstones, but the effects of each cut differ. A brilliant cut focuses on flashes of white light, which is ideal for diamonds. On the other hand, a checkerboard cut lacks a table, so it focuses the wearer’s eye on the stone’s color and saturation. In fact, this cut can actually enhance the depth of a gemstone’s color while still offering a few brilliant flashes of light.🪐

As such, checkerboard-cut colored gemstones have a bolder brilliance and sparkle than brilliant cuts, but nothing compares to the fire afforded by a brilliant-cut diamond.

Fun Fact
A checkerboard-cut diamond may feature a brilliant cut bottom, so some gem cutters borrow the light-enhancing effects of the brilliant cut to create a more dazzling checkerboard stone!

Checkerboard Cut vs. Step Cut

Another popular cut style is the step cut, which is most often seen on emerald or baguette-shaped diamonds. Classically beautiful with a modern twist, step cuts sacrifice sparkle for a luminous glow that complements nearly every aesthetic.

When it comes to main features, these two cuts look almost nothing alike. Checkerboard cuts have tons of dazzling facets on their crown, whereas most of the faceting work is beneath the surface of a step cut stone. A step cut features long, rectangular pavilion facets that run parallel to one another, creating a step-like pattern within the flat table of the stone.

Unlike the “in your face” brilliance and scintillation of checkerboard faceting, step cut stones boast a gorgeous, subdued glow. This is due to the long facets that produce a “hall of mirrors” effect, and it’s as if you could stare deeper and deeper into the stone.

Both cuts can be used on pretty much any stone, but step cuts are typically best for gemstones that are grown in long, crystal formations. These stones include aquamarine, emerald, and tourmaline. These cuts are also both great for enhancing color saturation, as the deep edges of the step cut enhance color just like the heavily faceted crown of the checkerboard cut.

Just like the brilliant cut, a step cut may be used on the pavilion of a checkerboard diamond for a unique effect. Whether a gem cutter uses a brilliant or step cut bottom for a checkerboard-cut gem also depends on the gemstone’s intended shape, as longer or shorter silhouettes may call for a different pavilion cut.

The use of the checkerboard cut on diamonds and colored gems

Most diamond buyers seek a white stone that produces unrivaled fire, brilliance, and scintillation. However, shoppers looking for something unique with a touch of personality adore the antique sparkle of checkerboard-cut diamonds. They can be hard to find, but their vibrant displays of color are worth the extra search.

As we mentioned before, the checkerboard cut isn’t just reserved for diamonds. Gem cutters use checkerboard cuts on colored gemstones to enhance their color and surface luster as well as add dimension to the stone. You may find this cut on certain pieces of aquamarine, smoky quartz, garnet, morganite, topaz, and other gemstones that have a deep or bright hue, as the checkerboard cut brings out the stone’s best color qualities.🙌🏻

In diamonds, the checkerboard cut creates an amazing light display that rivals the typical sparkle of a brilliant-cut diamond. Checkerboard cut diamonds aren’t as brilliant as the average stone, but the square faceting generates a “play of color” display similar to the one found in opals. The vintage glow and fragments of light reminiscent of the Northern Lights found in checkerboard-cut stones are entirely unique to this cut, and it's a favorite of antique diamond lovers and shoppers looking for less traditional engagement jewelry.😇

Checkerboard Cut Red Labradorite Stud Earrings
Checkerboard-cut red labradorite stud earrings | Image: JTV

In addition to engagement pieces, checkerboard-cut jewelry comes in all shapes and sizes. The versatile shapes of checkerboard-cut gems mean they are a great choice for both special occasion and daily wear items. Check out these amazing checkerboard-cut earrings or this necklace to add a dash of sparkle to your outfit. Checkerboard-cut gemstone rings are also excellent accessories that can be mixed and matched with other styles to suit your needs.

Our final thoughts on checkerboard-cut diamonds

Although it may not provide mainstream appeal, the chunky sparkle of a checkerboard-cut diamond is perfect for collectors of unique pieces or future brides who want something a little different for their engagement ring. Checkerboard-cut diamonds can be tricky to find, but searching antique diamond sites like 1stDibs can help you find vintage checkerboard diamonds for your collection. Or, try the small shops of Etsy, where artisans create modern checkerboard styles or resell antique pieces.

Diamond cut is a crucial factor in fire, brilliance, and scintillation. To learn more about how cut quality impacts sparkle, read our diamond cut guide as well as our guide to the 4Cs.

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