The Princess Cut

Everything you need to know about the princess cut diamond and what makes them awesome!

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

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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