A Primer On Cushion-Cut Diamonds

Learning how to buy diamonds is a process that can take a lifetime. Worse yet, changing fashions tend to alter the "rules" of diamond buying on a regular basis. Given the current trends, you may well be considering a cushion-cut stone for your next diamond purchase. Here are the key points you'll need to keep in mind.

 The Cushion Cut Defined

 The cushion cut is becoming overwhelmingly popular, so you should familiarize yourself with the basic indicators before you go shopping for one. Cushion-cut diamonds are square or rectangular with rounded sides. They have a large table (flat upper surface) and a relatively thick girdle (the flat horizontal band on the side of the gem).

 Jewelers separate cushions into either "standard" or "modified" cuts, but this distinction doesn't matter too much from the buyer's point of view. Of the characteristics discussed below (especially the stone's "look") you can find excellent examples in both standard and modified cushion cuts.

 Color Is King

 You may already be aware that different diamond cuts can make it easier or harder to detect color impurities. Unfortunately (provided you're looking for a pure uncolored stone) cushion-cut diamonds are very good at showing off the slightest hint of color. This means that if you intend to splurge on one of the traditional diamond qualities, you should spend more to get a better color rating. An "H" rating is necessary, especially for stones that are going to be set in silver, white gold, or platinum.

 Other traditional diamond features are less important when you are buying cushion cuts. Clarity may come into play, especially with "chunky" cushion cuts. The big, clear tables featured on the cushion cut can make it easy to spot inclusions in low-clarity stone, so you may want to stay above an SI2 or SI1 rating.

 Chunky Vs. Crushed Ice

 When you look down into the table of a cushion-cut stone, you'll see one of two effects, informally called "looks." On a "chunky" stone, you'll see a clear pattern of geometric facets beneath the table. The other look is called "crushed ice," in which finer faceting produces a more detailed, kaleidoscopic appearance. There is no real difference in value between the two; the choice between them is really up to your aesthetic preferences.

 It's important to know that you can find both "looks" in both standard and modified cushion cuts. This makes it very important to inspect cushion-cut stones visually (either in person or through a very high-quality photo) before making any buying decisions. With cushion cuts in particular, what you see is very much what you get.