Cushion Cut Diamonds: An in-Depth Guide With Helpful Buying Advice

You thought cushion cut diamonds were out? Well, they’re very much in!

With round brilliant diamonds taking their spot in the limelight and with the princess cut quickly following behind, it can be easy to forget about this dark horse!

This squarish-roundish-smooth-yet-edgy diamond shape is coming back by popular demand and gracing the hands of many a celebrity and A-lister.

Bar Refaeli, an Israeli supermodel, shows off her ultra-thin yellow gold pave band with cushion cut solitaire while Kim Kardashian flaunts a whopping 15-carat cushion cut engagement ring that cost a cool $8 million.

Yep, they’ve certainly found their place in these modern times but what exactly do we need to know about the cushion cut diamond before we dive in and make a purchase.

Let’s find out!😎

Inspecting a Cushion Cut Diamond

Basics: What is a cushion cut diamond?

The cushion cut must not be underestimated. Although modern diamond lovers certainly favor the dazzling radiance of a round brilliant cut diamond, the cushion cut diamond finds a beautiful balance between the old and new.

For modern diamond lovers with a passion for history, the cushion cut diamond could be the perfect diamond cut!

Indeed, some even call the cushion cut diamond an "old-new classic". Timeless in its appearance with the antique grace of old and the sleek elegance of the new. Despite the origin of the cushion cut diamond dating back to the earliest of diamond cutting styles, it still finds huge appeal in the marketplace today.

History and origins of the cushion cut diamond

This elegant and dazzling pillow-shaped diamond was born of the old mine cut. The old mine cut is an antique cut dating all the way back to the 1700s when much of the world’s diamonds were sourced from Brazil after the very first diamond mines in India gradually dried up.

The modern-day cushion cut diamond owes its beauty to this ancient old mine diamond cut which was considered a highly prized and sought-after cut throughout the 1800s to 1900s.

We can clearly see the similarities between the two however, advances in technology have allowed us to perfect the shape for greater brilliance and fire.

By today’s standards, the old mine cut may appear dull in comparison to the round brilliant cut diamond (as well as the modern cushion cut diamonds!) that we see in the market today.

Yet, way back when, they were the antithesis of sparkle! The 58 faceted old mine cut has been developed into the modern, pillow-like cushion cut that we know it to be today. And this squarish-shaped stone, with its rounded corners and large table, still grabs our attention!

Famous old mine cut diamonds!
If you take a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History you will see one such exquisite old mine cut diamond named Hope Diamond.

The Regent Diamond is another legendary old mine cut diamond dating back to 1698 and is a whopping 140.64 carat diamond from India!

Understand the different types of cushion cut diamonds

Despite the cushion cut diamond being an old favorite, this particular diamond cut can sometimes be confusing—especially for first-time buyers.

The reason being that there are a number of terms specific to cushion cut diamonds that, if aren’t understood, can easily overwhelm us!

Evaluating a cushion cut diamond is not an exact science so, before diving deeper, we must take a look at these various terms and what they mean. This way you can feel truly confident knowing that you have the understanding and knowledge of what you are buying.📝

Square cushion cut and rectangular cushion cut (By silhouette)

That’s right! There isn’t one size (or shape, rather!) that fits all for the cushion cut. Similar to the princess cut diamond, a cushion cut diamond can appear more square or more rectangular depending on its length-to-width (L/W) ratio.

There is certainly no "right or wrong" here. Some people may prefer the square shape look and another might prefer a more rectangular aesthetic. One is not better than the other.😊

It all comes down to personal preference at the end of the day!

However, when it comes to the length-to-width ratio, we want to remain in the "sweet spots". A square-shaped cushion cut should have an L/W ratio of 1.00 to 1.05. Whereas a rectangular-shaped cushion cut should be more elongated (but not too much!) with an L/W ratio of 1.15 to 1.20.

What is most important is we avoid falling into that awkward zone of 1.06 to 1.10. When cushion cuts fall into this awkward zone it is difficult to distinguish whether it’s trying to be a square-shaped cushion cut or a rectangular-shaped cushion cut!

To the naked eye, they simply look a little…off.

Standard cushion cut and modified cushion cut (By facet pattern)

Personal taste has a great part to play in our decision to buy a particular cushion cut diamond because unlike most other shapes, the standards of the cushion cut diamond vary greatly.

🧐When looking at modern cushion cut diamonds we are usually met with different pavilion facet patterns. Unlike standard cushion cut, the modified cushion cut has an extra row of facets below the girdle.

Ever since the modifications to cushion cuts, which were partially based on the cut research initiated by Marcel Tolkowsky, these diamonds have regained popularity with them combining their antique look with the modern and intelligent cutting techniques that optimize their shape for brilliance and fire.

Various Cushion Cut Faceting Patterns
Image: Whiteflash

As you can see from the image above, the cushion cut can have various facet pattern variations.

Once again, one is not necessarily better than the other. It is about what appeals to you as the buyer.

Chunky cushion cut and crushed ice cushion cut (By visual look)

As well as looking at the facet pattern we can also distinguish cushion cut diamonds by two visual variations known as "chunky" and "crushed ice".

The chunky cushion cut has clearly defined facet patterns. With a chunky cushion cut, we can distinguish the back facets of the stone, and light is reflected in broad flashes.

Chunky Cushion Cut Appearance (James Allen 12272336)
Chunky cushion cut (James Allen 12272336)

Crushed-Ice Cushion Cut Diamond Look (James Allen 10685330)
Crushed-ice cushion cut (James Allen 10685330)

These tend to have a similar appearance and characteristics as a round brilliant cut diamond.

The crushed-ice cushion cut, however, offers a look similar to that of broken glass or, of course, crushed ice! Within this cut, the back facets are not so easy to see and the light reflects in a more subtle, twinkly effect.

The crushed-ice cushion cut diamond is typically what a radiant cut looks like.

How to buy a cushion cut diamond? (Detailed answers)

With any diamond purchase, we want to know that we’re getting the best that money can buy within our budget. And, whilst generally cushion cut diamonds are not given an overall cut grade (like many fancy cut diamonds) we can still look to buy from a reputable jeweler that will offer a diamond quality report from an industry-recognized laboratory, such as the GIA.

Within this report we can be given lots of juicy information in relation to the quality of the stone included cutting-related aspects such as polish and symmetry.

So, let’s dive in!

Cushion Cut Diamond: Cut Quality

Polish/Symmetry

- Good, Very Good, or Excellent

Both polish and symmetry will be evaluated and noted on the diamond quality report. While they may not have a huge impact on the performance (or price) of the diamond, we ideally want the polish and symmetry to be at least "Very Good".

The polish refers to how finely the facets have been polished and the symmetry refers to how symmetrical the facets are in relation to one another.

Depth and Table

- Under 70%

Whilst some poorly performing diamonds may slip through the cracks, looking for a cushion cut that has a depth and table percentage of less than 70% will certainly help you in your search to find a beautiful cushion cut diamond.

Length/Width Ratio

- Your personal preference!

There really is no right or wrong here! Just remember, we want to avoid the awkward zone mentioned above where the cushion cut diamond can’t be easily distinguished as a square-shaped or rectangular-shaped cushion cut.

It’s quite confusing to the eye and not as appealing!

Our recommendations:

  • Square cushion cut: 1.00-1.05
  • Rectangle cushion cut: 1.15-1.20

Whilst rectangular cushion cuts may appear larger and therefore more desirable, it’s worth noting that they are also rarer. They may be harder to find in the marketplace if rectangle-shaped cushion cuts are your preference!

Facet pattern and visual look

- Standard vs. modified cushion cut

It is important to note that the modified cushion cut diamond does not necessarily have better light performance than the standard cushion cut.💡

The difference in cut quality can be so vast that either of them could have better or worse light performance! Whether a cushion-cut appears chunky or whether it has a crushed-ice style has no direct relationship with its faceting pattern.

Modified cuts do tend to have a crushed-ice (or needle-like) facet pattern however, some modified cuts look chunky! Likewise, most standard cuts may look chunky yet some appear like crushed ice due to their unique facet pattern.

The style and look of the cushion cut are entirely dependent on your own personal preference. There is no right or wrong here, only personal taste.

Cushion cut shape appeal

No two cushion cut diamonds are exactly the same as they have different rounded corners and curved sides.

Much like the facet patterns and visual look, it isn’t possible to completely understand the details of the cushion cut diamond solely on the diamond report information. We did say it can be quite confusing!

😎Because of this, we would actually recommend buying online where you can utilize the high magnification images and 360-degree videos to make an easier comparison between a large inventory of cushion cut diamonds.

Do I need a Hearts and Arrows cushion cut diamond?
The coveted Hearts and Arrows pattern of a well-cut diamond may well seem desirable if you’re seeking a high-quality cushion cut stone. A cushion cut diamond with a hearts and arrows pattern certainly has brilliant light performance however it is certainly not a MUST.

It is worth noting that only chunky cushion cut diamond will display this particular pattern and so if crushed ice is more your preference then Hearts and Arrows will not be the pattern for you!

Hearts and Arrows cushion cut diamonds can be purchased from Whiteflash’s Hearts and Arrows and James Allen’s True Hearts collection.

Cushion Cut Diamond: Color

The cushion cut diamond does not easily disguise any color within the stone, in fact, it is arguably one of the worst shapes for retaining color!

For this reason, we suggest you opt for a color grade of H or higher. At this grade, the stone is considered to be near-colorless and so, whilst not completely void of color, they only have a very slight hint of yellow within the diamond.

However, if you are considering a yellow or rose gold setting then you can afford to lower this down to an I, J or K as the warmth of the metal will counteract the hue within the stone making it appear whiter than it actually is.

Cushion Cut Diamond: Clarity

Due to the larger table of the cushion cut diamond, it can be a little more tricky to hide any impurities within the stone. Therefore, with a cushion-cut diamond, it is preferable to search for a stone that has a clarity of VS2 or higher.

Whilst SI1 and SI2 diamonds can also be eye-clean (and even some I1 graded diamonds!), where the cushion cut diamond is concerned, it may be worth paying a slightly higher price for a higher clarity stone.

Cushion Cut Diamond: Carat weight and diamond size

As we have discussed before, there are many variations of the cushion cut diamond which means there are various options when it comes to carat weight.

Depending on the proportions and length-to-width ratios that we choose there will be quite a variety available to us. The more elongated cushion cut diamonds are produced far less often than the square-shaped counterpart which makes them more difficult to find.

However, the elongated cushion cut diamond may be more preferable because they give the illusion of being larger because of its proportions.

It’s important to remember that two stones of equal carat weight can look very different in size which is why it is helpful to either see all of the options in person or compare using online resources.

The pricing of cushion cut diamonds
In general, the cushion cut diamond can cost up to 20 or 30% less than a popular round cut diamond. This makes them an exceptional option for buyers on a tighter budget who are still looking for a gorgeous stone! The price of the diamond will always depend on the quality of the 4Cs and so can vary greatly from $3,000 to $7,000 for a 1-carat cushion cut.

While it can seem confusing, a higher-priced diamond does not always mean it is the most beautiful. We must take into account scarcity and remember that the highest quality grades are not always necessary for a beautiful diamond!

Is cushion cut diamond a good choice for me?

Excellent question!

Let’s compare the cushion cut with two other similar diamond cuts to see if this diamond cut is really the one for you!

Cushion cut vs. Round cut

Cushion CutRound Cut
Exudes more fire (flashes of color) than white lightExceptional fire, brilliance and sparkle
Offer a variety of different appearances due to different facet patterns, length-to-width ratios, rounded corners, or curved sides. All of which provide a range of visual looks to choose from.An extremely versatile shape that can be used in most styles and settings
Up to 30% less expensive than a round cutMore expensive than a cushion cut
Optimized for less rough wastedThis cut leaves the most rough wastage
Ideally requires higher color and clarity grade as inclusions and color are not so easily hiddenCan afford lower color and clarity grades as the cut hides imperfections and color well
Have a more antique/vintage appealA timeless classic with a more modern appeal

Cushion cut vs. Radiant cut

Cushion CutRadiant Cut
Cushion cut identified as having curved edgesRadiant cut diamonds have distinct cut corners
Typically listed on grading reports as "Cushion Brilliant" or "Cushion Modified Brilliant"Typically listed on grading reports as "Cut Cornered Rectangular Modified Brilliant"
You should look for similar quality grades when purchasing either of these shapes as they are very similar in many aspects!
Cut quality will always be the most important aspect when considering the beauty of a stone. With that in mind, a poor-cut cushion cut diamond will be less appealing than a well-cut radiant cut diamond and vice versa. Both can be exquisite depending on their grading quality!

Pros & Cons of cushion cut diamonds

Time to discuss the pros and cons of cushion cut diamonds to help you in your buying process!

Pros

  • The high degree of brilliance and fire for dazzling light performance (They actually exude more fire than a round brilliant cut diamond!)
  • A beautiful middle ground between the old and new marrying both the antique look of the old mine cut with the elegance of modern high-quality cut diamonds😘
  • Its round edges make it more durable and less susceptible to damage
  • More affordable compared to a round cut diamond equivalent
  • Ever-increasing in popularity!

Cons

  • Retains color better than alternative diamond cuts (which is why a color grade of H or higher is recommended)
  • Its larger table means that imperfections are not so easily hidden (we recommend SI1 clarity grade or higher if it is within your budget)
  • Can be confusing to a first-time buyer due to the variations of cut and number of terms used to describe the cushion cut (for example, modified cushion, chunky cushion, crushed-iced cushion, etc.)

Best setting styles for your cushion cuts

As you may have come to realize, the cushion cut can be an extremely versatile stone! The sheer variations of this diamond-cut mean that it can easily be set in a variety of settings and look truly gorgeous doing so!

Combining the antique feel of the old with the elegance and modern performance of the new, the cushion cut diamond is not to be overlooked.

Below are three of the most popular setting styles for inspiration:🥳

Halo Setting

Halo Style Cushion Diamond Engagement Ring (Blue Nile 76456)
Blue Nile SKU: 76456

The halo setting does a fabulous job of complementing the vintage feel of a cushion-cut diamond whilst bringing it into the modern era.

The halo of smaller diamonds surrounding the stone enhances that features cushion cut diamond for extra wow and pizzazz.

(Which can also help to make the stone appear larger!)

Just be sure to have a well-shaped halo because the silhouette of every cushion-cut diamond is unique.

Solitaire Setting

Modified Cushion Cut Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring
James Allen 17001W14

The classic solitaire setting will always be a front runner for any diamond ring. Perfect for cushion cut engagement rings, the solitaire setting is a classic and minimalist design that is timeless in its style and simplistic in beauty.

An affordable option that does a fabulous job of accentuating the center stone, we can opt for a solitaire cathedral setting to lift the stone for a Gothic flair as well as making the stone appear larger.

Alternatively, the solitaire prong setting also does a fine job of enhancing that center stone whilst also being an affordable option!

Want even more sparkle and even more brilliance? Try adding pave accent diamonds to the band for a truly standout piece!

Vintage Style Setting

Platinum Vintage Style Modified Cushion Diamond Ring
James Allen 17020P

The cushion cut diamond is born from the old mine cut so it makes sense that this antique-shaped diamond sits perfectly within a vintage-style setting.

For the diamond lover engrossed and inspired by the rich history of this cut, a vintage-style setting could be exactly what is needed for a truly unique and custom vintage look.

Two extra cushion cut diamond options…

  • Lab-grown cushion cut diamonds: A lab-grown cushion cut diamond can be 30%-50% percentage cheaper than a natural counterpart. So, if you’re happy with a lab-grown cushion cut diamond, the money we save can allow us to opt for a larger carat weight and a more delicate setting style.
  • Colored cushion cut diamonds: Cushion cuts retain color better than other shapes, so it's an excellent cut option in the colored diamond world. Leibish is a fine example of the different fancy color options available in a cushion-cut diamond! If you’re after something a little different, you’ll be sure to find something here!

Buying your cushion cut diamond

Do not let the sheer variety of terms and appearances of the cushion-cut diamond put you off! If anything, you can imagine instead that there is certainly bound to be one out there that is perfect for you!

The most important thing to recognize is that personal preference will play a huge role in how you feel during the buying process.

Whilst there are many different facet patterns and visual looks available, there is no right or wrong! It’s mostly about how you feel and what YOU like.🧚🏻‍♂️

Whilst the round cut brilliant diamond and even the princess cut diamond are certainly the most popular diamond shapes out there at the moment, if you love a hint of the old combined with aspects of the new then cushion cut could be perfect for you.

Take some time to browse online and compare in-store if you are able but above all, follow your gut instinct where the cushion cut is concerned!

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