Emerald Cut Diamonds: A Full Guide + Recommended Settings

Elegant Emerald: The Mirror-Shaped Diamond...

A diamond silhouette with mirror-like appeal, the emerald cut diamond has seen a surge in popularity since its reintroduction during the Art Deco period. A celebrity favorite, it’s a timeless shape that looked as amazing on the finger of Grace Kelly as it does today on Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Amal Clooney.👒 Emerald cut diamonds may not be the sparkliest option, but they offer a luxe, designer aesthetic that can’t be ignored.

Let’s look at the ins and outs of emerald cut diamonds, including:

  • The basics of the emerald cut
  • What to look for in an emerald cut diamond
  • The best settings for this rectangular gemstone shape
  • Pricing and pros and cons
  • BONUS: Comparison between emerald and Asscher cut diamonds
  • BONUS: Best places to buy emerald cut stones
The Ultimate Emerald Cut Diamond Guide

The Basics: What is an emerald cut diamond?

So what qualifies as an emerald cut diamond, and what’s so special about them? Outside of its rectangular silhouette, the biggest difference with emerald cut diamonds is their actual cut method!

Emerald cut diamonds have 57 facets fashioned into a step cut rather than a brilliant cut, which creates a structured "hall of mirrors" effect rather than a scattered light display like the one we see in brilliant cuts. This means their facets "flash" rather than sparkle.

Speaking of their facets, emerald cut diamonds actually have square ones that "step" outward from the table to the girdle of the diamond and inward from the girdle down to the keel*. Similarly, the corners are cropped into facets as well, and these facets also step downward in an X shape to the keel*, creating contrast.

NOTE
Emerald cut diamonds have a "keel" instead of a culet. This "keel" is much like the keel at the bottom of a boat. It is a long ridge that runs parallel to the diamond’s longest edge and acts as a meeting point for the two longest sides.

Compared to the short facets of brilliant cut stones, step cuts have long, clear planes that run parallel to one another. Because the light does not disperse through the facets in the same way, these facets have an elongating effect on fingers and offer a vintage glow.

Emerald cut history

Examples of emerald cut diamonds date back to the 1500s, as the cut was actually produced to enhance the beauty of emerald—meaning the green kind—stones. A soft, brittle stone, emerald gemstones required a cut that put less pressure on its sides, which turned into the step cut that we know and love today.

During the Art Deco period of the 1920s, the popularity of emerald cut diamonds soared. Fashion focused on clean, precise lines and geometric patterns, and very few cuts mimic the "geometric sparkle" of an emerald cut diamond. They became incredibly popular in engagement jewelry, and it was common to see emerald cut diamond earrings, necklaces, and more as statement pieces at lavish events.🍹

It helps that some of the classiest, most beautiful women in the world love emerald cut diamonds. Angelina Jolie, Jacqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato, Amal Clooney: the list of sophisticated, influential women goes on and on!💃🏻 As such, it’s no surprise that emerald cut diamonds are a favorite among wearers today, especially those who prefer understated glam looks.

Buying an emerald cut diamond: What should I look for?

The 4Cs are the gospel of diamonds, but what grades make for a high-quality emerald cut stone? Here’s the breakdown of what cut, color, clarity, and carat weight to look for:

Cut

Like any other diamond shape, cut is the most important criterion for an emerald cut diamond. The emerald cut is a “fancy” shape, and the GIA does not provide a specific grading scale for these cuts. However, there are some cut-related features you’ll want to pay close attention to when searching for a high-quality emerald cut diamond:

Polish and Symmetry

While the GIA and other labs may not offer cut grades, many still provide individual grades for polish and symmetry. As such, you’ll want to find an emerald cut diamond with Very Good to Excellent polish and symmetry, as these important factors in light performance denote how well the facets were cut and how flawless the surfaces of each facet are.  

If you can, we also recommend thoroughly examining the diamond in person or via high-magnification imagery and videos if possible. Doing so allows you to assess the cut and make note of any dark, shadowy areas within the diamond that do not receive adequate light. You’ll also want to make sure all sides and corners are both symmetrical and parallel for optimal light play.

Length-to-Width Ratio

How rectangular or square an emerald cut diamond appears can also impact its brilliance. You should always look at an elongated diamond’s length-to-width ratio, which takes the length of the gem and divides it by the width. For example, a square-shaped stone would ideally have a length-to-width closer to 1, since all sides are the same length.

The “ideal” length-to-width ratio for an emerald cut diamond ranges from 1.3 to 1.6, and most shoppers prefer a ratio of 1.5. However, this really is a matter of personal preference, and some wearers prefer a squared emerald cut while others enjoy a longer silhouette.

The length-to-width ratio can also impact how the diamond will look on your finger!⚖️ Squarer shapes will look better on long, slender fingers, as they tend to shorten already small hands. On the other hand, longer emerald cut stones lengthen short fingers, providing a slimming effect for broad hands.

If you prefer emerald cut stones with ratios closer to 1, you may actually enjoy Asscher cut diamonds. These diamonds offer more brilliance, and we’ll discuss how they compare to emerald cut stones below.

Depth and Table

There really are no fixed ratios or parameters for depth and table percentages when it comes to fancy shapes, and these numbers should be viewed holistically with each individual diamond. But, we can give you some recommendations to get you started!

For depth, avoid a diamond that is too deep or shallow, usually less than 70%. A deeper depth percentage means the diamond may be hiding weight below the table, creating dark areas and a smaller silhouette overall. A depth that is too shallow means we can see through the diamond too easily, and there’s very little light play as a result.

For table percentage, stick below 72%. We’ve included a table of suggestions as well to help you in your search:

 ExcellentVery GoodGoodFair/Poor
Table %61-6957-60 or 70-7254-56 or 73-74-
Depth %61-6759-60.9 or 67.1-7057-58.9 or 70.1-74-
Length to Width1.40-1.501.30-1.39 or 1.51-1.601.20-1.29 or 1.61-1.80-
Girdle ThicknessVery Thin - Slightly ThickVery Thin - Slightly ThickVery Thin - Thick-

Other Considerations

There are a few other features to keep in mind when searching for your ideal emerald cut diamond. The first one is pavilion bulge, which is when the facets of the diamond’s pavilion are bloated and stick outward. This effect adds weight to the diamond without any significant increase in its visual size, and it can impact light performance in severe cases.⚠️

Also, pay attention to the corners of an emerald cut diamond, as their shape and position impact the overall appeal of the diamond. Corners that are too narrow can decrease the diamond’s visual appeal and make it hard to set correctly. These corners should be long enough for a prong to sit comfortably around them without being overbearing.

However, corner size is subject to personal preference, and if you prefer narrow corners then purchase what appeals to you!

Color

Due to the larger table and step-cut facets, emerald cut diamonds tend to show more color than other fancy shapes. These large surfaces act as mirrors—reflecting any color outward through the table—and even a typically white color grade may have a yellowish hue in certain settings

We recommend purchasing an emerald cut stone with H color or better to avoid any noticeable yellow tint. Doing so will ensure your diamond is primarily white, but keep carat weight, table size, and metal color in mind as these factors can also change how your diamond appears once it is set. The larger the diamond, the more visible the color!

Speaking of metal, you can actually utilize a yellow or rose gold setting to hide some yellowish color in diamonds. If an H grade emerald cut diamond is a bit out of range, opt for a lower grade in a colored setting to make the diamond appear whiter. In contrast, if you have a diamond with high-quality color, you can select white gold or platinum to make it appear even brighter.

Clarity

Considering emerald cuts are "halls of mirrors" when it comes to their sparkle, it’s no surprise that clarity is a big deal in this particular shape! The larger table means a clear, unhindered look into the depths of your diamond, putting all of its flaws on display.

The pavilion and crown of emerald cut diamonds are also rather shallow, which means these stones do not have as much fire to mask inclusions when they shine. Instead, they enhance them!

To offset this magnification of flaws, we recommend searching for an emerald cut diamond with a clarity grade of VS2 or better. Additionally, make sure you read each diamond’s plot and report carefully to ensure no inclusions or blemishes are right below the table, as these flaws are much more noticeable.

Carat weight and size

There is no recommended carat weight or size for emerald cut diamonds, as that really depends on what you and your partner are looking for in your chosen gem. While a 1-carat stone is classic, you can always increase or decrease your preferred size depending on your needs and budget.

Because of their long facets and broad table, emerald cut diamonds often appear much larger than their round counterparts. As such, you can get a seemingly larger diamond for less with emerald cut stones, so opt for a 0.75-carat instead of a 1-carat gem if you’re on a budget.

However, keep in mind that the glassy nature of emerald cut diamonds means you also require a higher quality stone if you want to avoid visible discoloration and inclusions. 💡So, as you size up, you’re actually increasing the price significantly by increasing the gem’s minimum quality requirements.

Inspecting an Emerald Cut Diamond With Tweezers

Length-to-width ratios can also impact how large an emerald cut diamond appears, especially on different hand types. Try on a few diamonds with different ratios to decide which one best suits your finger and personal taste.

Don’t forget to look out for the proper depth percentage and avoid pavilion bulge! The useless weight of the bulging pavilion can actually make a diamond look SMALLER than it truly is. If you can see through the diamond too easily—known as windowing—or see any dark facets—known as extinction—then look for another diamond.

What are the best setting styles for emerald cut diamonds?

Because your emerald cut diamond should be the star of the show, there are certain ring settings we recommend to make your diamond appear larger while offering protection. Check out these 4 ring settings that are ideal for emerald cut diamond engagement rings:

Prong settings

Rose Gold Emerald Diamond Engagement Ring (James Allen)

Prong settings are simple and traditional, and a plain prong style band is a great way to make sure your emerald cut diamond is the center of attention. The prongs will safely protect the corners of your stone, but you may want to choose a lower prong setting to keep the sides safe as well.

Because larger emerald cut diamonds can appear bulky, a narrow metal band can make the entire piece much more delicate. Yellow and rose gold bands offer a more romantic feel and a splash of color, whereas white gold and platinum are perfect for enhancing the white shine of a high-quality diamond.

😊Prong settings also create a nice contrast between the vertical lines of the step cut and the horizontal line of the band. Or, turn your emerald cut stone sideways in an east-west orientation to align both pieces for a unified setting.

Three-stone settings

Three-Stone Setting Style Emerald Baguette Diamond Ring

Nothing accents a beautiful, emerald cut diamond better than MORE diamonds! A three-stone setting is understated yet luxurious, and it’s a great way to include other diamond shapes into your piece. Plus, side stones create a layer of added protection for your emerald cut stunner.

Three stone settings are excellent for anyone who enjoys customizing their piece, and the side stones can vary in shape and type. You can select three emerald cut diamonds to complete the look, or try pear, round, Cadillac, or the ever-popular tapered baguette stones for a more lavish display.

Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are also popular side stones for emerald cut diamonds. Adding a splash of color to your ring helps it stand out among the crowd, and you can even choose your partner’s birthstone for a sentimental touch!😘

Bezel and semi-bezel settings

A good friend of the emerald cut diamond, bezel and semi-bezel settings offer superior protection when compared to other styles. The band of metal that encases the diamond defends against any damage, and semi-bezels are great for letting in enough light to enhance your diamond’s sparkle.

Bezel settings are often looked down upon due to their reputation for inhibiting light play, but they’re a great choice for an emerald cut diamond. Because they don’t sparkle like a round stone or other shapes, they look spectacular when surrounded by a bright metal setting.

Bezels are the most protective setting, but a semi-bezel can be an excellent choice if you want an east-west style piece. If the setting seems too plain, you can always add filigree or milgrain to the bezel for a vintage touch.

Pavé settings

Split Shank Pave Setting Style Emerald Cut Diamond Ring

If you still want some traditional diamond sparkle, consider a pavé setting for your emerald cut stone. Pavé diamonds are small but brilliant, and their sparkle can actually enhance the brilliance of your center gem.✨

When choosing pavé stones for your emerald cut diamond setting, think about whether you’d rather have all diamonds or some color mixed in. Also think about what size band you’d like, as pavé diamonds are typically reserved for thinner styles, such as split shanks or intertwined bands.

How about the pricing of emerald cut diamonds?

It’s time for everyone’s “favorite” topic: price. How much is your beautiful, new emerald cut diamond going to set you back?

Well, actually not as much as you’d think! Emerald cut diamonds usually cost about 20-30% less than traditional round diamonds.

You can expect to pay roughly $1,000 to $6,000 for a 1-carat emerald cut diamond of decent quality. However, keep in mind that emerald-cut stones require higher color and clarity grades if you want to avoid visible flaws, and the higher you go in quality the higher the price will be!

Luckily, emerald cut diamond rings offer great bang for your buck when it comes to size. Due to their elongated shape, you can get a smaller, higher quality stone and it will still look a size or two larger than it really is.

What are the pros and cons of emerald cut diamonds?

Let’s summarize the good, the bad, and the fabulous of emerald cut diamonds:

Pros

  • Due to their dimensions, emerald cut diamonds often look larger than other shapes.
  • Emerald cut diamonds are 20-30% cheaper than round diamonds.
  • The parallel lines of the lower facets can have slimming and elongating effects on small or broad fingers.
  • They’re a celebrity favorite, making them incredibly fashionable and sophisticated.
  • These diamonds offer a unique, glowing shine that is immediately recognizable and very mesmerizing.

Cons

  • The glassy nature of step cut facets means you can see inclusions, blemishes, and color easily.
  • Due to the mirror-like facets of emerald cut diamonds, you may need to increase your quality standards, thereby increasing the price of your stone.
  • Emerald cut diamonds are not as fiery as brilliant cut stones, so they do not sparkle but still have a “flashy” glow.
  • It may take longer to find the stone of your dreams when seeking an eye clean stone.

BONUS #1: Emerald cut vs. Asscher cut diamonds

Many buyers confuse emerald cut diamonds for Asscher cut stones, as the two are similar in many ways. So how can you tell the difference?  

The easiest way to tell these two cuts apart is the shape of the stone. Emerald cut diamonds typically have an elongated, rectangular silhouette that offers a much larger table. In contrast, an Asscher cut diamond usually looks like a square with rounded corners, and the sides are usually just as equal. Some emerald cut diamonds can be shorter and appear square, but the octagonal shape of an Asscher cut stone is still visually distinct.

Both diamond shapes utilize a step-cut method that makes them look similar in terms of sparkle. However, the stretched shape of the emerald cut creates a "hall of mirrors" effect, whereas the Asscher cut has a "windmill" brilliance with additional facets starting at the corners creeping inward to create an “X” through the center of the stone.

BONUS #2: What are the best places to buy emerald cut diamonds?

We have some excellent recommended retailers when it comes to buying your own emerald cut diamond. Whether you want an emerald cut diamond necklace, earrings, or a classic ring, these online shops have large inventories of quality gems.

James Allen

Take advantage of James Allen’s high-magnification 360° videos to inspect your diamond thoroughly and make sure you’re getting the best stone for your money. With up to 40x magnification, you can actually see most flaws and inclusions of any diamond for a firsthand account of how they impact the gem’s brilliance.

Or, speak to a professional! James Allen has diamond pros on standby ready to answer your big questions.

Brian Gavin

Offering custom cuts and exceptional quality, Brian Gavin’s signature emerald cut diamonds are just as impressive as the paperwork they offer to back up their specs. Brian Gavin provides shoppers a chance to look at ASET images of each diamond, which is super helpful in understanding the light performance and indicating any dark spots within the stone.

In fact, the company boasts they’ve actually improved upon the original shape, optimizing light play for a spectacular sparkle!

Blue Nile

When it comes to quality diamonds, Blue Nile has always been a strong contender. Their 360° imagery and amazing customer service means you’ll not only get the right diamond the first time, but you’ll actually have lifetime support for your new stone. Yearly cleanings and inspections as well as a generous buyback program are just some of the services Blue Nile offers to all customers.

The Everlasting Appeal of Emerald Cut Diamonds

Emerald cut diamonds are a beloved style that has been around for decades, and they’re only increasing in popularity. From emerald cut halo diamond engagement rings to emerald cut diamond wedding bands, these shapes stand out among other stones for their mirror-like qualities, which offer a different approach to the typical glittering diamond.

Do you have your heart set on an emerald cut diamond? Or are you still in the market for a new diamond shape? Consider reading our article on pear-shaped diamonds for a unique aesthetic, or read our diamond shape guide for a full rundown on gemstone silhouettes and how they differ.

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