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The Princess Cut | Rare Carat

The princess cut is not in fact made for a princess - it was actually created in London in the 1960s by a diamond cutter named Arpad Nagy (he called it a ‘profile cut’ though, because why not). Good old Arpad set out to create a fiery and brilliant alternative to the round diamond we all know and love.

Now for me at least, one of the biggest pros when it comes to princess cut diamonds is the value for money in your engagement ring.

octahedral habit of natural rough diamond

A rough diamond looks like two pyramids joined together. Fascinating stuff. What happens when you cut it right across the middle? Two upside-down pyramids. And what shape is a princess cut diamond? You’ve guessed it, an upside-down pyramid.

This matters though, because the diamond cutters end up getting much more 'yield' out of a rough diamond if they cut it into a princess cut diamond. For example, a 1 carat rough stone like the one above, might give you .40 carats of round diamonds, but the same rough might get you .50 carats of princess diamonds!

Because the square shape of a princess cut is so similar to the natural shape of the rough diamond, very little is wasted. This then translates into a lower price for you. High Five! (you must say ‘High Five’ in a Borat voice in your mind, or else it doesn’t count. Say it.)

surface area round princess (1).png

Princess cut diamonds are not one-trick-ponies you guys! Not only will they help you save a bit of cash on your engagement ring, but the square shape can also give the illusion of being a little bigger than their round counterparts, simply because from corner-to-corner a princess cut diamond is spread just a little wider than the diameter of a round diamond shape.

One thing to bear in mind though; once that princess diamond sits in her forever home, the prongs of the ring setting will hide a little bit of that extra junk.

Princess Cut Symmetry

Speaking of measurements, let’s talk symmetry. Let’s put our honesty hats on for a second here and admit that princess cuts with uneven sides or unequal proportions are, how to put this... ‘unpleasant on the eye’. If you look below, you’ll see what I mean:

princess l_w (1).png

The 1:1 ratio princess cut makes me feel calm and relaxed, like I’ve just finished a super zen yoga class and everything is right with the world. The ratio 1:1.05 ratio princess makes me feel like I’ve stood up too quickly, and my eyes are taking too long to adjust to reality…and that reality is ugly. The 1:1.10 ratio princess cut makes me feel like I’m in the Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’. I’m basically in The Upside Down and I don’t care for it one bit.

To avoid The Upside Down, picture yourself drawing an imaginary horizontal line across the diamond. Are the facets on the bottom and the top halves of the diamond symmetrical? Congratulations, you are not in The Upside Down.

Cut for Princess Shape

So where do princess cut diamonds stand in relation to our all-important 4Cs? Let’s take a look, beginning with the most important: cut.

If you have read my previous pieces (you should, they’re awesome) then you will know that ‘cut’ is hands down the most important characteristic of them all. Buying a badly cut diamond is the equivalent of buying a top of the range Lamborghini and crashing it into a wall. On purpose.

A well cut princess diamond compared to a poorly cut diamond

Since the GIA doesn't grade cut for any of the fancy shapes (that's everything but the round), you won't see a traditional cut grade on the report. So we look at the polish, symmetry, proportions and the overall look of the stone (that's why pictures and videos are so important here) to ensure it's cut well. We make sure the facets are properly aligned and not misshapen, the corners are sharp and not chipped and that the outline is square and not bowed. You can use the above image to help you with your search, but seeking the advice of one of our graduate gemologists is the best help we can offer. They'll make sure you find an awesome princess cut diamond!

Princess Cut Chevrons?

Another aspect of diamond cut to be aware of when it comes to princess shapes are chevrons. Very simply, a chevron is a type of facet or ‘step’ cut into the sides of a diamond. The number of these chevrons actually impacts the look of the diamond, so you better pay attention.

Fewer chevrons will mean that your diamond will have a chunkier feel in terms of sparkle. This is because there is more space between the facets and therefore the light takes longer to bounce around from one to another. More chevrons mean more facets which of course means that the light jumps around in that little baby at a much faster rate, making it much more sparkly (and gives the stone a sort of ‘crushed ice’ look);

The number of chevrons you want is totally up to you. You just need to be aware of how they will affect your diamond aesthetically. Here is where you can find the chevron details on the report.

pc chevron comparison (1).png

Princess Cut Color and Clarity

Finally, let’s discuss two other aspects of quality; color and clarity. In terms of color, I would go for ‘I’ color or better. If the stone is on the larger side, bump that up towards ‘H’ or even ‘G’ if you can. As with round cuts, my advice is to stay away from those ‘D-F’ colors unless you feel very strongly about them. You’re not gaining much, and your wallet will be significantly lighter for it.

A D color princess cut being compared to a J color princess cut diamond

Going warmer than a ‘J’ color could be problematic, as princess cut diamonds tend to hold on to color slightly more than their round cousins. That being said, if you like a warmer tone in your diamond, or plan to have a rose or yellow gold setting, I say each to their own.

Clarity-wise, princess cut engagement rings tend to be more forgiving regarding imperfections than their emerald or asscher cut cousins. You can look a touch above the SI2 mark - around the VS1 – SI1 mark for the best value. That said, you need to be acutely aware of the locations of any inclusions, especially if they sit in the corners where the princess cut is the weakest (and therefore more prone to chipping).

Study the plot of the stone extensively on the grading report, and as always (and I cannot stress this enough, ever) - look at the stone in person if possible (or at the very least with high definition photographs from the seller.

Ideal princess.webp

Still Not Sure the Princess Cut is Right for You?

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PRINCESS CUT FAQS

Are princess cut diamonds more expensive?

No, princess cut diamonds are not the most expensive of the cuts so you can get more carat weight for your money with this shape. This is because the diamond cutter loses more carat weight from the rough crystal when they cut a round diamond. Therefore they can retain more carat weight with a princess cut. This makes them a bit more affordable. Do keep in mind though that even though princess cuts are less expensive per carat they are also a deeper cut stone so they will appear smaller than the same carat weight in other shapes.

Are princess cut diamonds good?

Yes, a princess cut diamond is still one of the more brilliant cuts to choose from. The stone has a modified brilliant facet arrangement that gives both sparkle and a more modern shape. It's important when considering a princess cut diamond to keep the shape as square as possible. You want to look for the measurements of the length and width to be as close as they can to give you that square shape. Princess cuts have 90 degree corners that also need to be protected as they are more vulnerable to chipping. It is recommended that you protect these corners with the prongs on the setting. The options that are the best are called a V prong or a split prong. These offer more metal that protects this delicate area.

Do princess cut diamonds sparkle?

Yes, a princess cut is one of the most brilliant diamond shape options after a round brilliant cut. There are a few tips when considering a princess cut in order to get the most sparkle. First is to keep the length to width ratio as close to 1.0 to 1.05 at most. This will give a square appearance. The second is keeping the symmetry grade as high as possible. Excellent to very good grades here means that the facets are placed perfectly and that each side is perfectly symmetrical. This returns the most light and sparkle. Lastly is to look for an even pattern of light and dark areas as opposed to a stone that is more dark or more light. This pattern means that there is balanced contrast which is the most appealing. It’s also very important to keep the polish grades as high as possible as this ensures that the surface is smooth and shiny. This will also help to ensure maximum light return and brilliance.

Do princess cut diamonds look bigger?

No, unfortunately it is just the opposite. Princess cut diamonds are the deepest cut of all the shape options. This means that much of the carat weight is in the pavilion of the stone so the face up appearance is smaller. The ideal depth range for a princess cut is 64%-75% compared to other shapes ranges being around 59-63%. That being said, this shape is one of the most popular as its sharp corners and straight lines give it a very modern feel which can't be replicated by any other shape!

Why are princess cut diamonds cheaper than round?

When a diamond cutter has a rough crystal they can cut a smaller round diamond vs. a larger princess cut. Therefore causing the price per carat to be higher in a round brilliant cut. This is the case with any other shape when compared to a round, which is why rounds are the most expensive cut available.

What setting is good for a princess cut diamond?

Solitaire settings and halo settings are popular for princess cuts as well as three stone settings. Having the straight side of the princess cut makes it fit nicely next to a variety of side stones. This can enhance the beauty of the center stone and give the ring a bit more width on the finger. Popular options are baguettes, tapered baguettes, trilliants, and smaller princess cuts.
Dr. Rian Mulcahy
Rian is officially a Diamond PhD - just ping us if you’d like to read her fascinating 200-page thesis, titled Facets of Value: An Investigation into the Formation of Worth in the Diamond Market. She has consulted various firms all along the pipeline, from the rough diamond market to the recycled diamond industry. She holds an MA in Globalisation and Development from University College Cork and a PhD in the Sociology of Diamond Valuation from the London School of Economics.