How To Buy Cushion Cut Diamonds

Cushion cut diamonds were once the most popular cut for more than 70 years until the round brilliant took over in the early 20th century. In the very early diamond cutting days, cushion cut diamonds were once referred to as Old Mine Cuts. These diamonds were hand cut and were non-symmetrical and had traditionally tall crowns, deep pavilions, wide facets and a very large culet. As the turn of the century largely used candle light as their main light source, these antique diamonds reflected the soft glow brilliantly.

As diamond cutters gained expertise in cutting techniques these Old Mine Cut diamonds eventually faded into the more popular round brilliant diamonds. Still, the traditional cushion shape was further enhanced and eventually known for it’s rectangular shape with rounded corners and open culet. Today’s more modern cushion cut diamonds are more square in shape, have a pointed culet, and have varying facet designs depending on the light reflection desired.

Cushion Cut Diamonds: Brilliant Cut vs. Cushion Modified Brilliant

Cushion cut diamonds are a little trickier to buy than your traditional round brilliant diamond. For one thing, the GIA recognizes two main categories for cushion cuts. There are the “Cushion Brilliant Cut” and the “Cushion Modified Brilliant”. The cushion modified brilliant has facets that were either added, removed, or modified usually in the pavilion as compared to the Cushion Brilliant cut which has similar faceting in the pavilion of a round brilliant cut.

There are also different facet patterns (see below for common facet plots) for each cushion category which in turn offers different “looks”.

Common CushionCut Diamonds Facet Plots

Most common cushion facet plots. Cushion Cut Tip: Not even diamond experts purchase cushion cut diamonds with just a GIA or AGS paper report. Always ask to see actual diamond images as they are all different and must be seen before purchase.

Cushion Cut Variations – Crushed Ice, Antique, Hearts and Arrows Cushions, and Modern

The “crushed ice” look is a popular topic concerning cushion cut diamonds and contrary to popular belief, the type of cut (standard or modified) does not necessarily mean a diamond will have this look or not. These diamonds return light in needle-like patterns (as a result of extra or modified faceting under the girdle in the pavilion). This effect is generally not popular as it tends to leak massive amounts of light (or show fragmented/chaotic light pattern) through the center of the diamond. Additionally, the brilliance/white light reflection isn’t evenly distributed and the contrast pattern isn’t symmetrical. This equates to a not-so-pretty diamond.

example of a crushed ice cushion cut diamond

An example of a ‘crushed ice’ looking cushion. Under the table facet we see splintered facets with no discernible pattern. The visual effect therefore looks like crushed ice. Unfortunately many cushion cut diamonds are cut this way. The result is a lackluster diamond that appears gray/dead with not very much light reflection or brilliance as the light is leaking through the pavilion.

Antique cushion cut diamonds tend to return light in blocky or chunky patterns. This style is very pretty and has a beautiful light pattern. If you are looking for a cushion that has been cut to look like an antique, then Victor Canera’s Antique Cushion is an excellent choice. Check out how this unique antique cut reflects light below:

We also see ultra symmetrical super ideal Hearts and Arrow cushion cut diamonds available as well. With the advancement of technology comes improved cutting techniques and many educated consumers are leaning towards the modern ‘square’ shape cushion that exhibits superior light performance and symmetrical dark arrow contrast similar to it’s round brilliant cousin. Brian Gavin Diamonds offers a patented ‘hearts and arrows’ cushion cut diamond that are all super-ideal cut quality.

Brian Gavin 'Signature' Cushion Cut Diamonds

Brian Gavin’s patented Hearts and Arrows Cushion Cut diamond’s are all consistently cut with thin to medium girdle edge resulting in a diamond which is more durable as well as showing better overall light return and improved visual performance.

What makes these diamonds uniquely different are the lack of common thick and thin girdle edges often found in the modern square cushions. Why is the girdle size important? The overly thick girdle will act as a large open ‘window’ or extra facet which diminishes the overall beauty of the cushion’s light performance. With BGD’s cushion there is an evenly distributed girdle edge which has better durability as well as superior light performance/brilliance. An example of the superior brilliance and sparkle in this cushion can be see in this .805ct H VS1. The evenly distributed red color along with crisp dark blue for contrast found in the ASET image shows just how precisely this diamond is cut.

How do these diamonds reflect light? Check out the video below to see for yourself!

If you are fan of the modern square H&A cushion, then another popular option is Blue Nile’s Signature H&A cushion cut diamonds. However, be aware that these cushions are not consistent in terms of cut quality and therefore you may find some better than others in terms of overall light performance and optical symmetry.

Finally, another cushion cut diamond ‘style’ or look is the modern cushion cut. These cushions are not antique with chunky light reflection but rather have light reflection similar to the modern round brilliant diamond. They can be square or rectangle with rounded corners and typically have a pointed culet. Some examples of where to find these can be found in Victor Canera’s Modern Cushion collection, some of James Allen’s cushion inventory, Enchanted Diamonds, Ritani, or Zoara.

1.01 ct G - VS2 Modern Cushion Diamond

An example of a ‘Modern Cushion’ cut diamond. These can be square or rectangle in shape and have a facet pattern similar to the round brilliant. These diamonds offer beautiful modern day sparkle and brilliance paired with the traditional cushion ‘shape’.

Color Recommendations for a Cushion Cut Diamond

Most people don’t realize that cushion cut diamonds retain their color better than other diamond shapes. That is why so many fancy colored diamonds and precious gemstones like sapphires, emeralds, and rubies are often cut in this shape. When shopping for a white cushion cut diamond, any color grade higher than and I-color is perfectly fine for white metals, whereas a J-color or lower is best suited to rose gold or yellow gold settings.

If shopping for vintage antique cushion cut diamonds, keep in mind that many of these diamonds are actually warmer in color and are often estimated as K-O color grades. This is because at the turn of the century the round brilliant shape was gaining in popularity and many “white” cushion cut diamonds were recut to round brilliant cuts. Nevertheless, a warm colored cushion cut diamond set in platinum is still just as stunning and offers a beautiful color contrast reminiscent of the 19th century.

Clarity Recommendations for a Cushion Cut Diamond

Clarity grades for a cushion cut diamond can be as low as an SI-2 as long as it is eye-clean. There are two ways to ensure your diamond is “eye-clean” and that is to either ask the vendor if they can view the diamond without a loupe to see if there are any visible inclusions when viewing the diamond face-up from about 10-12 inches using 20/20 vision. You can also inspect this yourself using the 20x’s magnified images that are provided from diamond websites with magnified images.

Cut Proportion Recommendations for a Cushion Cut Diamond

Since cushion cut diamonds vary so much in length/width dimensions and facet patterns, it is extremely difficult to propose a guideline for cut proportions, but generally, it is best to look for a depth that is under 70% and a table that is under 70%. Polish/Symmetry should be ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. Length/Width will depend on whether you prefer a more rectangular or square shaped cushion. For the modern ‘square’ it is best to stick with a ratio as close to 1.00 as possible and the classic cushion shape is anywhere from 1.10 to 1.20 (cushion cut diamonds can be more square or more rectangular in appearance and always with rounded corners).

Recommended Specs for A Cushion Cut Diamond:

Cut: AGS Ideal (there is no cut grade for GIA fancy shapes)

Color: D – I for White Metal, J – K (or lower) for Yellow/Rose Gold

Clarity: SI1 or better

Table: under 70% (wide variety of different cut styles)

Depth: under 70%  (wide variety of different cut styles)

Length/Width Ration: 1.10 – 1.20 for the more classic cushion shape

Recommended Lab: AGS or GIA with magnified images/light performance information

Which Cushion Cut Style Do You Prefer?

Remember, cushion cut diamonds vary greatly and must be seen through picture, video or in person in order to ascertain it’s facet patterning and light distribution.  If you still aren’t sure which style is right for you, check out this post: Cushion Cut Diamonds – Your Many Options.

By far, the easiest shopping experience can be found sitting in the comfort of your own home browsing online. Retailers like Enchanted DiamondsRitani,  Zoara, James Allen, and Victor Canera all have actual magnified pictures, videos, ASET and ideal-scope images to help you understand how a particular diamond will look in person.

For super-ideal diamonds, the modern square H&A from Brian Gavin is a beautiful option as well as convenient to shop for online. If you need any assistance in searching and buying a cushion cut diamond online, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I look forward to helping you find your perfect cushion; whether it is antique, traditional, or modern.

Happy Diamond Buying!

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