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Exploring Various Gemstone Cuts and Shapes

Justin Zaroovabeli
January 25, 2024

Understanding gemstone cuts and shapes is key to unlocking the full aesthetic potential of these natural treasures. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a curious newcomer, exploring different gemstone cuts and shapes reveals how each facet and curve can dramatically enhance a gem’s sparkle and hue. This article aims to give you a clear understanding of the most popular cuts, how they affect a gemstone’s visual properties, and their influence on design and style.

The Art of Gemstone Cutting

trillion shape taaffeite gemstone

Gemstone cutting is an art form that transforms rough stones into dazzling jewels. The cutting process is aimed at enhancing the gem’s:

  • Beauty
  • Luster
  • Clarity
  • Color

The cutter’s vision, combined with the stone’s unique properties, dictates the final masterpiece.

The gemstone’s journey from a rough crystal to a polished, transparent, and brilliant gemstone is a testament to human ingenuity and craftsmanship.

The Journey From Rough Crystal to Refined Jewel

Rough gems, when first extracted, can often resemble shards of glass or river rocks. These raw gems are transformed into polished stones by skilled artisans, commonly known as gem cutters or lapidaries. The transformation involves careful assessment of the rough gem to determine the best way to orient the gem for cutting, aiming to maximize yield while considering factors like color and cleavage planes.

Some gemstones may undergo additional treatments, like heating, to further enhance their color and overall aesthetic appeal.

Tools of the Trade: Equipment Used in Gemstone Cutting

Specialized tools are a prerequisite for the art of gemstone cutting. Tools range from:

  • Lapidary saws equipped with diamond-impregnated blades for initial sawing
  • Grinding wheels for shaping rough gems
  • Faceting machines to create precise facets on gemstones
  • Polishing wheels to bring the final high shine after sanding

Each tool plays a unique role in the process.

Some gemstones might also undergo drilling or tumbling, integral processes to certain gem cutting operations.

The Cutter's Vision: Deciding on a Stone Cut and Shape

Often, the most suitable shape for a gemstone is suggested by the rough stone itself. The choice of shape can make certain cuts more optimal while others could lead to wastage. Proper orientation of the rough is critical to enhance the gemstone’s color and determine the final size and shape.

Cutters commonly utilize shapes such as round, emerald, radiant, triangle, trillion, and trilliant for faceted colored gemstones.

The Brilliance of Faceted Gems

oval peach colored padparadscha sapphire

Faceted gems, with their symphony of light and color, owe their sparkle to the facets acting as building blocks. The process involves cutting and polishing the gemstone’s surface to create multiple small, flat faces that amplify light reflection and enhance the stone’s visual appeal. Cuts designed to maximize the reflection and refraction of light result in enhanced brilliance and a sparkling effect.

Some cuts, like the concave cut, introduce curved facets to the gemstone, providing heightened brilliance and scintillation, thereby enhancing a gemstone’s color.

Understanding Facets: The Building Blocks of Sparkle

Facets are like the keys on a piano, each playing its part in the symphony of sparkle. How light interacts with a gemstone and influences its overall sparkle and visual appeal is determined by the alignment and symmetry of its facets. Facets facilitate the internal and external reflection of light, essential processes for generating a gemstone’s brilliance and scintillation. The specific arrangement and quality of a gemstone’s facets orchestrate the path of light throughout the stone, affecting its brightness and the intensity of sparkle.

The classic brilliant cut, with its triangular and kite-shaped facets, is designed to achieve maximum scintillation and eye-catching shine, showcasing the brilliant cutting style.

Mastering Symmetry: The Round Brilliant Cut

The power of symmetry in gemstone cutting is truly testified by the round brilliant cut, with its intricate arrangement of 58 facets. The cut is precisely aligned to augment the gem’s ability to reflect light, influencing how light is reflected within the diamond to enhance its brilliance and sparkle. Designed to maximize light return through its facets, the round brilliant cut is celebrated as the most sparkly of gem cuts, capable of achieving distinctive radiance with mathematical precision.

The symmetrical design and superior scintillation of the round brilliant cut make it a favored choice for engagement rings, contributing to the iconic status it holds in fine jewelry, especially when it comes to selecting the perfect engagement ring.

The Elegance of Geometry: Emerald and Asscher Cuts

The geometric precision of the emerald and Asscher cuts presents an elegance that is hard to match. The emerald cut gemstones, with their elongated rectangular shape, wide table, and straight parallel facets, give rise to their iconic steps and a sophisticated, elegant look while showcasing clarity.

Asscher cut gemstones, with their square to slightly rectangular shape and faceted octagonal shape, result in a regal, refined, vintage look with distinct geometric symmetry. Both these cuts employ the hall-of-mirrors effect through their step-cut facets, which enhances the gemstone’s clarity and luster.

Non-Faceted Wonders: Cabochons and Other Smooth Cuts

In the realm of gemstone cuts, non-faceted wonders like cabochons offer a unique appeal. The cabochon cut is a non-faceted gemstone cut that features a smooth, domed shape, frequently used for gems that do not require faceting to enhance their appeal. Softer gems are often cut into cabochons as they can be easily damaged during the faceting process, and this cut also serves well to display unique optical phenomena such as asterism or chatoyancy.

The Timeless Appeal of the Cabochon

The traditional shape for cutting cabochons is an ellipse, commonly known as an oval shape, which highlights the simple beauty of the gem. Cabochon cuts are especially suitable for displaying optical phenomena such as asterism (star effects) or chatoyancy (cat’s-eye effects) in certain colored gemstones.

Cabochons can be handcrafted and set in a variety of metals, providing a wide range of design options in jewelry making.

Signature Shapes: Exploring Gemstone Cuts

both colors of the alexandrite gemstone

Understanding different shapes and cuts is pivotal in choosing the best gemstone option that elicits elegance and beauty in jewelry. Gemstone shapes range from various classic cuts with arrangements of facets that define the overall aesthetics to fancy cuts that break away from the traditional round form.

The Versatility of Oval and Cushion Cut Gemstones

Oval and cushion cuts provide flexibility and versatility in jewelry design, enhancing their popularity. Oval cut gemstones feature an elongated shape, rounded edges, and a larger table surface that provides a balanced proportion and an illusion of greater length.

Cushion cut gemstones, with their square shape with rounded corners, larger facets, and a vintage appearance, offer style in both square and rectangular formats. The flexibility of the cushion cut gemstone makes it suitable for a multitude of jewelry styles, enhancing their popularity.

Bold and Distinctive: Trillion and Radiant Cuts

Trillion and radiant cuts exhibit a modern appeal with distinctive shapes, adding a contemporary edge to jewelry pieces. The trilliant or trillion cut is triangular, most frequently used as an accent stone, and, when used as a solitaire, its bold shape and sharp, angular appearance allows it to make a strong statement.

The radiant cut, princess cut, and round cut are all dazzling cuts with a square, rectangular, or circular shape and cropped corners, characterized by their sparkling stepped facets.

Size and Proportion in Gemstone Design

round shape padparadscha sapphire

In gemstone design, size and proportion are crucial as they affect the gem’s perceived size, value, and overall visual impact. Carat weight is a crucial measure for gemstones, impacting their perceived size and value, although identical carat weights can appear different due to cut and shape variations.

Balancing Size with Quality

To achieve the desired outcome for a gemstone, cutters must strike a balance between size and quality. In determining the value of a finished gem, cutters consider the following factors, aiming for the optimal blend of size and beauty:

  • Carat weight
  • Color
  • Clarity
  • Cut

By considering all of these factors, cutters can create a gemstone that is both visually stunning and of high quality.

Small gemstones with deep saturation are exceptionally rare and valuable because some colors are typically only found in larger stones.

The Illusion of Size: How Cutting Style Affects Perceived Dimensions

Regardless of its actual carat weight, a gemstone’s appeal can be affected by the illusion of size created by cutting style and shape. The cutting style of a gemstone, including the choice of shape, impacts its perceived size, where elongated shapes like marquise or pear can appear larger despite having the same carat weight.

Unique and Unusual Cuts: The Charm of Specialty Shapes

triangle shape alexandrite gem

Offering unique charm and visual interest are specialty shapes like:

  • Scissor-Cut
  • Checkered-Cut
  • Shield Cut
  • Baguette Cut

Scissor-Cut gemstones are popular for their unique facets that refract light in a dramatic fashion, creating an exceptional sparkle.

Checkered-Cut gemstones have a distinctive pattern that enhances their sparkle and structural integrity.

The Sleek Sophistication of the Baguette Cut

The baguette cut exudes sleek sophistication with its slender rectangular shape and fewer facets. Developed during the style-defining era of the 1920s to 1930s, this cut captures the essence of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.

Precision is of utmost importance in the baguette cut due to the fewer cuts involved, with each cut requiring flawlessness to ensure the stone’s sparkle is not compromised.

The Deep Radiance of the Portuguese Cut

The Portuguese cut is known for its intricate, multi-layered facet pattern that enhances scintillation and visual appeal. It’s a cut that rivals the traditional round brilliant cut for sparkle due to its multiple rows of facets and extra crown layer. Despite its beauty, the Portuguese cut is difficult to create, making it a rarer find on the gemstone market.

The Allure of Colored Gemstones: Stone Cuts That Enhance Hue and Tone

princess cut padparadscha sapphire

For colored gemstones, stone cuts that enhance hue and tone are of utmost importance as they affect the gemstone’s color, clarity, and overall visual impact. The Radiant Cut is expertly designed with each facet arranged to maximize light play, accentuating the gemstone’s natural color and clarity.

The emerald and Asscher cuts are geometrically precise, providing a vintage aesthetic that prominently displays the gemstone’s natural color and purity.

Maximizing Color: Cuts for Colored Stones

Selecting the proper cut for a colored gemstone can intensify its natural color and reduce the appearance of inclusions. The cushion cut, with its large open facets, deep pavilion, and rounded corners, not only enhances the depth and saturation of color in gemstones like sapphires and rubies but also provides a vintage charm by exhibiting more fire.

The Play of Light: Rose Cuts and Their Variations

The rose cut, characterized by a flat base, domed crown, and triangular facets, presents a unique play of light. Rose cuts offer a subdued and gentle sparkle, enhancing the gem’s natural color and inner radiance rather than displaying intense fire or brilliance.

In recent fashion, rose cuts have been increasingly used in colored gemstones to showcase their natural beauty and color through the cut’s large, window-like facets.


From the intricate art of gemstone cutting to the delicate balance of size and quality, we’ve journeyed through a world where the raw beauty of nature is transformed into stunning jewels. Whether it’s the brilliance of faceted gems, the timeless appeal of cabochons, or the unique charm of specialty shapes, each gemstone cut and shape holds its own allure. The choice of cut can enhance a gemstone’s natural color, clarity, and overall visual impact, adding to its value and desirability. So, the next time you admire a gemstone, remember the artistry and craftsmanship that has gone into shaping its brilliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the hardest gem shape to cut?

The hardest gem shape to cut is the Briolette, which is a pear or drop-shaped stone with 84 triangular shaped facets covering its entire surface. A cutter can only cut about 5 to 10 briolettes per day due to its complex nature.

What is the process of gemstone cutting?

Gemstone cutting is the process of shaping a rough stone using specialized tools to enhance its beauty, luster, clarity, and color.

What are faceted gems?

Faceted gems are gemstones that have been cut and polished to create multiple small, flat faces or facets, which amplify light reflection and enhance the stone's visual appeal.

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