|All about Gemstone Cuts and Shapes
The difference between gemstones cuts and shapes is often too confusing, even for those involved in the industry. This is because the terminology used in the trade is frequently used interchangeably, resulting in definitions that inadvertently transcend one another, making two seemingly apparent subjects blur together as one. Many of our customers often inquire about "which is which?" and "what is what?" and as simple as it sounds, clearly explaining the difference can sometimes be a near impossible task.
Gemstone ShapeThe shape refers to exactly that - the face-up outline form of any given gemstone. Shapes can be round, oval, square, marquise, baguette, cushion, heart and etc. That's it - full stop - period - end of sentence.
You get the idea, but the reason that this basic concept is often misunderstood and confused with the cut of a gemstone is because in many cases, terminology used to describe gemstones can define both the shape and cut of a gemstone. For example, many gemstones are described as being cushion, trilliant or princess 'cut', and since these cutting style terms are specific to certain shapes and/or proportions, it is acceptable to use the term to describe its shape as well; but this is only acceptable when the shape is limited to the cutting style.
Gemstone CutAlthough the cut of a gemstone can often define the shape, the shape itself cannot define the cut. You see, a princess-cut gemstone is defined and limited to the shape and cutting style. It is almost square in proportion and always faceted (or cut) with a brilliant style, making it very unique.
Brilliant Cut StyleSo what's a brilliant-style cut you ask? Well, depending on the shape, most brilliant-cut gemstones are faceted in a vertical direction from the crown to the pavilion. The main pavilion facets are typically cut wider at the culet and as they near the girdle, they get progressively narrower. Girdle pavilion facets are cut to fill in the gaps between the main facets and the girdle, and are typically triangular in shape.
Brilliant-style facets are typically rhomboidal or triangular, and are arranged in a radial or circular pattern. The crown consists of one row of main facets that are rhomboidal, while star and girdle facets fill in the gaps - these are also typically triangular in shape.
American "Round Brilliant Cut" Diagram
So, taking the aforementioned into account, in order for a square shaped gemstone to be categorized correctly as a princess cut, it must be faceted in brilliant style. This can be all too confusing because in addition to brilliant-style cutting, there are many other cutting styles available, which explains why so many stones are described as "square-cut" rather than "princess".
Most diamonds are cut using the brilliant cutting style, which is why many colored gems are referred to as "diamond cut".
Diamond CutSometimes, gems may be described as being diamond-cut. Diamond-cut stones can include many different shapes, including round, oval and other popular fancy shapes. The description of "diamond-cut" typically refers to a gemstone that was faceted with a brilliant cutting style, is symmetrical in regard to arrangement of facets and cut to specific proportions, dependent on the shape of the stone.
Very small gemstones (diamonds and colored stones), also referred to as melee stones, are often cut using "simplified versions" of the brilliant cut, usually by cutting the gem with fewer facets. This is because a full faceted version on such a small stone would result in a cloudy, milky or even fuzzy finished stone, simply because small stones do not have the same levels of light dispersion as larger specimens.
Gemstone Description Terminology in GeneralIn addition to brilliant-style cuts, you can also find square-shaped cabochons, step cuts or modified variations of these styles. The same goes for round stones, oval stones, baguette stones and etc. There are so many different shapes and so many different cutting styles circulating and evolving, that often, there is more than one "correct" way to describe a gemstone cut or shape.
In the past, the term "trilliant-cut" could only be used to describe "brilliant-cut", triangular gemstones (hence the name "tri"-"lliant"), but nowadays, the term can be used to describe any triangular gemstone including step cuts, cabochons and even plain cuts.
Cutting styles and shapes have evolved greatly. Thus, a single stone can be described as being round facet, round brilliant, round diamond-cut or round cut; although some terms may be more descriptive than others, none of these are considered wrong. In the colored gem industry, one reason why descriptive terms are used so loosely is because there is no universally recognized official terminology for all of the fancy styles and modified cuts that have grown in popularity. So, although cutting modifications have evolved and a greater variety of styles have become available, the descriptive terminology has yet to keep up with the evolution of colored gemstone cutting.
Perhaps someday, the world of colored gemstones will become more "officialized" like the diamond industry, but until then, don't be surprised to see varied descriptions when shopping around.
However, if ever you do have any questions about our gemstones and their shape or cut, don't hesitate to contact us! We'd be more than happy to help clarify details. We want to ensure that know exactly what you're buying when you're shopping with us at GemSelect!
Rare and Unusual Gems
This month, GemSelect is pleased to showcase one of our rare and unusual gemstones, which happens to be an exquisite gemstone carving: A 168.60 carat iguana carved from mahogany obsidian.
There are many different varieties of obsidian, each with their own distinctive appearance. An interesting fact is that obsidian is actually naturally occurring volcanic glass formed during the slow cooling process of lava. This unique carving is made of mahogany obsidian mined from Mexico. One can only imagine the talent needed to carve such an amazing piece.
Obsidian is believed to be a grounding stone and so it is said to provide strength for those when they need it most and give new life to those who have discovered their true purpose in life. It is thought by healers to alleviate pain and improve overall circulation, improving one's quality of life.
Customer QuestionsEvery month we answer questions of general interest from our customers. Please feel free to send us your questions at email@example.com.
Lastly, be sure to join our social networking pages. It's a great way to stay in touch with us. You can join us on LinkedIn, Twitter or on Facebook. For those of you who love gemstone pictures, you can follow our pin-boards at Pinterest.
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Happy gem hunting,
- First Published: March-01-2013
- Last Updated: November-07-2014
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