The Oval Cut

Everything you need to know about the oval shape and what makes them awesome

Karly B. (GIA Gemologist) avatar
Written by Karly B. (GIA Gemologist)
Updated over a week ago

The Oval Cut

Oval Diamonds

There is one magical diamond shape that can make even the most shovel-like hands look like those of a professional pianist, and that shape is oval. Not only are they complementary to even the most gnarly of fingers, but these ‘modified brilliant’ cut diamonds also give off an almost unparalleled level of fire and brilliance.

The History of the Oval Shape

While oval diamonds have been cut for centuries, the modern modified brilliant oval that we have all come to know and love is a much younger design. Created by the Russian-born, Lazare Kaplan, in 1957, the modern oval cut earned him a spot in the Jewelers International Hall of Fame. It's no surprise that he was such a talent in the diamond cutting world though considering his cousin was Marcel Tolkowsky. Sound familiar? It should be considering Marcel was the gent who invented the ideal cut diamond!

Ovals Compared to Rounds

An oval diamond cut is definitely the second most popular choice to the round brilliant and it's gaining in popularity every day thanks to celebrity engagements and the lower price tag.

Ovals and rounds have a brilliant cut faceting pattern which allows for a ton of sparkle and shine (if cut well). The oval is essentially an elongated version of the round. It has 57 or 58 facets and is less prone to chipping like a round because there are no corners or points to worry about. Since they have a larger surface area, they typically look larger than a round with the same carat weight and they are usually less expensive because less rough is wasted during the cutting process! There are a few things to watch out for, but nothing that one of our graduate gemologists can't help with.

The problem with ovals is that it is extremely difficult to find a stone with the sweet spot of just enough depth…but not too much. You see, almost all oval cut diamonds are plagued with the dreaded bow-tie effect.

Oval Diamond Bow Tie Effect

When an oval is cut too shallow (under 57%) these ghastly bow ties (dark triangular shadows) can sometimes appear and ruin everyone’s lives. Not even a clever ring setting can disguise these menaces. To counteract this dreadful bow-tie drama, diamond cutters will attempt to cut the diamond a little deeper in the hope of diminishing the bow-tie effect as much as possible.

bow tie.png

The problem with this is, that when the oval diamond is cut too deep you just end up getting a really rubbish diamond that is dull and lifeless (kind of like Pam in accounting). It truly is a tight line between bow-tie hell and dull-diamond disaster, and that tight line is usually a depth of between 57%-63%. Here you will most likely find those diamonds that have managed to avoid those pitfalls.

Ideal oval.webp

Length to Width Ratios for Oval Shape Diamonds

Another way to avoid the whole ‘ugly bow-tie-shadow ruining my diamond’ situation, is to make sure your stone has the appropriate length-to-width ratio. A perfectly symmetrical oval cut diamond should have a L/W ratio of 1.30, while anything higher than 1.50 and you are basically just going out and buying a bow tie. This being said, it is almost impossible to avoid a tiny hint of bow-tie altogether. They will usually be lurking in the shadows in every diamond, so it really is a case of finding a stone that minimizes the effect rather than eliminates it. Sorry!

oval l_w (1).png

Ovals and Color

When it comes to color grades in ovals, I think it’s unfair to suggest that you need to be up in the ‘D-G’ color range. Many people will say that to go below a ‘G’ is looking for trouble, but I personally think that you can get a stunning ‘H’ or even ‘I’ if you don’t mind having a tiny lick of color in the stone.

As you can see below, the I color still faces up lovely and will look wonderful in any color metal you choose. Going lower than an I will show some more face-up warmth, but that's always up to personal preference. A J or K will still look great in yellow gold (and save you some $).

oval color comp (1).png

Ovals and Clarity

With clarity, feel free to pop down to the ‘VS2-SI1’ range, as ovals (just like our radiants and cushions) are very good at hiding small imperfections. As usual though, you need to be careful about the positioning of these inclusions, as a dirty black mark sitting smack dab right in the center of your table could really burst your bubble.

Pay attention to our tips, so you don’t get stuck with a diamond resembling this monstrosity.

bad bow tie.webp

Still Not Sure an Oval Cut Diamond is Right for You?

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