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Brilliant Cut Diamond: A Buyers Guide

·4 min read

Why do some diamonds appear to have more sparkle (brilliance)? The simple answer is, cut! The cut of a diamond is created by the number and placement of cuts (facets) applied to the surface. In the modern era, brilliant cut is the gold standard and remains highly sought after.

Where Did The Term Brilliant Cut Originate?

Marcel Tolkowsky created the 58 facet (including culet, which is the bottom facet) round brilliant cut diamond in the early 20th century. An engineer by trade, he grew up in a family of diamond cutters.

Diamond cutter.jpeg

Tolkowsky discovered that a round diamond needed 58 facets cut in a specific height, circumference and depth in order to maximize light performance (brilliance). Today, diamonds that meet these specifications are known as ideal cut. A diamond’s eye-appeal is partly related to its color and clarity. However, cut reigns supreme. Given the choice between a D-Flawless diamond with average cut and polish or a G-SI ideal cut with excellent polish, most people would choose the ideal cut!

Round diamonds with less than 57 facets are referred to as full cut. Example; single cut diamonds have eight facets on the crown (top of the diamond) and eight facets on the pavilion (bottom of the diamond) sometimes referred to as an 8 cut Diamond. These diamonds are typically used as accent stones because they are less costly to produce while maintaining that sparkly diamond appearance.

Don’t Confuse Cut With Shape

Any diamond that is not round is referred to as fancy. Some fancy shapes like the cushion, heart and oval can also display 58 facets. Fancy shape diamonds are loved by many and offer a great alternative. But the round brilliant remains the most desired cut and shape because of its superior light performance and popularity.

Composite image showing round, oval, cushion, princess, emerald, radiant, asscher, marquise, heart, and pear diamonds lined up in two rows against a white background

How Does Cut Affect Price?

I enjoy a smoothie every morning to start my day. One of the ingredients is celery. When I shop at the grocery store there are two ways to purchase it. There is the full stalk which includes the tiny finger tips, leaves, and core. You can also buy it all trimmed without the thinner ends and leaves. Despite the fact the larger stalk weighs more, it is about half the price of the trimmed one. I pay more for the smaller stalk because it requires additional labor and produces more waste.


That is exactly what happens when cutting diamonds. Every cut (facet) adds to the beauty but decreases carat weight. Round diamonds suffer the highest percentage of weight loss compared to other shapes. Therefore, a 1 carat round brilliant cut diamond costs more per carat than fancy shapes with the same color, clarity and polish. This is why many people prefer fancy shapes. They can purchase more carat weight for less money.

Where To Shop

There are many great options when it comes to buying a diamond. It comes down to a matter of preference. It may depend on your location or ability to access the internet. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.


This requires traveling to a brick-and-mortar store near you. I worked for twelve years in a high-end jewelry store where we took pride in taking care of our clients. The store was pleasant to shop in with a nice mixture of jewelry and price points. We provided freshly baked cookies and water. The sales consultants were knowledgeable and provided A-1 customer service. We enjoyed an excellent reputation in the community. The town we were located in was small (around 30,000). We held 4-5 major in store events each year providing great food and drinks. It was a fun place to socialize while shopping.

Advantages: Live customer service. The ability to see the diamond in person. Experience the ambiance of being surrounded by beautiful jewelry.

Disadvantages: Retail prices usually are the highest of the other options. Pressure by sales consultants to purchase before you leave. The cost and inconvenience of traveling to the location.



Estate jewelry is pre-owned. You can buy pre-owned diamonds from individuals, online or even retail stores.

Advantages: You can save significant money over retail prices. The thrill of the hunt.

Disadvantages: You can get burned if you don’t know what you are looking for. Bad juju from a failed engagement.


The internet is now one of the most popular venues to purchase diamonds. Of course, you already know this because you are searching the website (Duh)!

Advantages: Large selection, ease of purchase, price competitive, shop from anywhere. Live gemologists to help.

Disadvantages: Cannot see the merchandise in person. Customer service after the sale may be more challenging (not here though, since we help with it all).

A screenshot of the homepage of

Why Buy A Brilliant Cut

Marcel Tolkowsky revolutionized the diamond trade. By strategically adding facets, he unleashed the maximum brilliance with which a diamond can yield. Purchasing an ideal cut diamond is like buying a Massarotti instead of a Ford. Both will get you to your destination but the Massarotti will do it faster and in style. I spent many years as a jewelry appraiser. I always advised my clients on a budget to purchase the best cut they could afford even if they sacrificed weight. You must ask yourself; do I want my diamond to be bigger, or more brilliant!


Michael Shanlian G.G., Ph.D.
Michael Shanlian (aka Doc Mike) career includes jewelry appraiser, pastor, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and leadership consultant. Doc Mike earned his G.G. (Graduate Gemologist) diploma through The Gemological Institute of America and his C.G.A (Certified Gemologist Appraiser) with the American Gem Society. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Tennessee Temple University. He and his wife Susie live in St. Augustine, Florida.