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How to Buy a Diamond: Different Shapes for Different Light

January 21, 2015

Just What is Sparkle?

When you hear people talk about a diamond “sparkling”, there are three semi-technical terms that are used to describe sparkle. Those three are brilliance, fire and scintillation.

Brilliance is the white light that that you see flashing from the diamond, it’s caused by the diamonds high refractive index holding the light an extra faction of a second.

Fire is the colored light you see from a diamond. It’s caused be the facets (little flat surfaces) on the diamond breaking regular white light into spectral colors.

Scintillation is the sparkle that you get when you rocking the diamond back and forth, as it would move on your hand. It’s a combination of both the white and colored light, contrasting with dark areas that give a diamond it’s amazing appearance.

Why Diamond Shape Matters

Different shapes of diamonds will give different amounts of these three types of sparkle.  The variance in number and arrangement of facets determines how the diamond will sparkle.   The human eye and brain responds to different ratios of the three. There’s no way to know which combination you’ll like the best until you start looking at diamonds and seeing how they differ.

It’s kind of like asking someone why they picked a blue car over a red car. They just liked it better, good luck having them explain why.


So, How do the Diamond Shapes Differ?

Princess cut diamonds will generally produce the most fire (colored light) among the different shapes, they’re great for people that like the clean square lines and enjoy extra flashes of color. With an average of 76 facets (18 more than a round), there are more angles to disperse light and create the extra color.

Emerald cut diamonds are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Emeralds cuts are a type of step cut (like the Asscher Cut diamond pictured on the left) that have long thin facets the “step” up the side of the diamond.  Emerald cut diamonds are typically the shape of a business card, where asschers are more squarish.  Almost all other cutting styles are brilliant cuts meaning they have triangular facets that radiate from the center. The relatively few number of long and narrow facets on an emerald cut produce significantly more brilliance and very little fire. An emerald cut is like a sheet of ice.  They look amazing on longer fingers, and offer a look that is both unique and sophisticated.

Round cut diamond gives a nice balance between fire and brilliance. It’s part of the reason it’s the most popular shape of diamond. Most all of the other shapes of diamonds will have a similar balance between fire and brilliance. Some more than others depending on the particulars of each diamonds cut.  Round diamonds will also look the largest for their weight, compared to most fancy shapes.

Radiant or Cushion cut, is in my opinion the shape of diamond that produces the more scintillation. If you’ve never seen a radiant, they produce a mesmerizing and deep scintillation. It’s really fascinating to see and I’d recommend at least taking a look, even you’re already pretty set on a diamond shape.  These diamonds have a very distinctive faceting pattern and can offer be found at a slight discount relative to the more popular round and princess.


One More Thing to Keep in Mind

 It should be mentioned that the majority of mountings are designed to hold round shaped diamonds, as they’re the most popular. However, most mountings can be modified or redesigned to accommodate different shapes of diamonds, often without any additional cost.

But you should keep in mind that it will likely take some extra time to manufacture a mounting with a center diamond shape other than round.

What’s Your Opinion?

Which diamond shape is your favorite?

If you’re not sure, click here to browse our selection of diamond engagement rings.

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