Cushion Cut Diamond: Buying Guide & Expert Insights

Cushion Cut Diamond: Buying Guide & Expert Insights

Cushion Cut Diamond: Buying Guide & Expert Insights

Posted by Sharif Khan on 12th Jan 2021

Key Takeaways:

  • Cushion cut diamonds have been around for a couple of centuries. However, because of innovation in cutting methods, this beautiful shape is increasingly becoming more popular.
  • There are three types of cushion cut diamonds: cushion brilliant (traditional ones), cushion modified (has crashed iced faceting), and a hybrid of the two (combining the brilliance of both and a popular option). See more below.
  • In terms of the cut, a table of 58-68% and a depth of 57%-69% is preferred. See the chart below for more precise numbers.
  • In terms of length-width ratio, we recommend a ratio of 1-1.05 for square and 1.15-1.30 for a rectangular cushion cut, depending on how elongated you want the stone to look. See details below.
  • In terms of prioritizing the 4Cs, if you want to buy a high-quality diamond (investment grade) in a given carat range, go for something like this (option 1). If you wish to maximize the carat weight without compromising the quality, go for this (option 2). If you do not mind compromising slightly on cut, color, and clarity to maximize carat weight, consider this (option 3). Finally, if you want to compromise on one C to maximize the other 3Cs, compromise on color and maximize the carat weight, cut, and clarity (option 4). These four scenarios are explained below in detail.
  • Buy a diamond that is either graded by GIA or AGS.
  • Here is the list of our top online sites for diamonds and engagement rings to consider.

Overview Cushion Cut:

For the first century of its existence, this 200-year-old diamond pillow shaped cut was the most popular diamond shape of its time, becoming de facto in the early 20th century. Cushion cut diamonds collate the square cut with round corners. It is a classic cut and meets the standards of individuals who like the combination of square and round shaped diamonds.

Marcel Tolkowsky instigated the Cushion Brilliant Cut diamonds during the 1920s when he researched different cuts of diamonds. Over time, cushion cut diamonds went through some conspicuous changes, such as a smaller culet, larger table, and an improvement in its brilliance. These refinements attracted many buyers because it made cushion cut diamonds have an antique yet a modern look.

Cushion Brilliant vs Cushion Modified Brilliant Cut Diamonds:

Cushion Brilliant vs Modified

The modified cushion cut diamond is an alternate of the original cut. It comes with modern variation to keep up with the style and demand of buyers. A modified cushion diamond tends to have a facet pattern like a "crushed ice” or a “needle”. They contain an extra row of facets below the girdle, and the facets on the pavilion do not reach the girdle. It possesses a sparkle that is analogous to sparkling water. One benefit of this shape is that diamond cutters save more carat weight than traditional cushion brilliant cut diamonds, making it a more economical diamond. The demand for modified cushion cut diamonds is low, thereby also affecting its price. When you look through the table of a modified cushion cut diamond, you will not be able to find faceting in it, unlike the standard cushion cut diamonds. Therefore, there is a significant difference in the look of the standard cushion cut and the modified one. A modified one would have radiant/crushed iced sparkle, contrary to the standard one.

Cushion Modified Brilliant Difference

A hybrid cushion cut, introduced recently, lets cutters achieve the roundish brilliance of the standard cushion count while also saving on the carat weight by using the cutting technique of the modified cushion cut. This cut contains four pavilion facets that extend from the center towards the girdle similar to standard cushion brilliant cuts, though with modified facets between them like in the modified version.

Cushion Modified Brilliant Cut Hybrid

There are many standards that buyers should consider before buying a cushion cut diamond. But personal tastes will always dictate the choice. Cushion cut diamonds have great fire (the light is reflected out of a diamond in a rainbow of color). Please follow the following guide for determining the quality of either the standard or modified cushion cut diamond.

Analyzing Cushion Cut:

The chart below can serve as a general guideline for evaluating the different aspects of cushion cut shape.

Tools like James Allen's 40X Magnified 3D 360 Degree Video Technology can help assess how cushion cut diamonds differ from cushion modified brilliant cut diamonds. It can also help you determine length to width ratios to see your desired optimal ratio. Try to play with their search filter to get a better sense of what would be ideal. 

Depth %
  • Poor/Far: <55 or >73.1 / 54-56 or 71-73
  • Good: 56-58 / 70-71.1
  • Very Good: 58-61/67.3-69.9
  • Excellent: 61.1-67
  • Table %
  • Poor/Fair:<54 or >73.1/ 54-56 or 71-73
  • Good: 56-57.2/71.3
  • Very Good: 58-60.1/68.2-70.4
  • Excellent: 61-67.9
  • Culet
  • Poor/Fair: Very Large/Large
  • Good: Slightly large
  • Very Good: Medium/Very Small
  • Excellent: None
  • Girdle
  • Poor/Fair: Ex. Thin – Ex. Thick
  • Good: Very thin - thick
  • Very Good: Very thin - slightly thick
  • Excellent: Thin - slightly thick
  • James Allen

    Cushion diamond cuts are often sold in square shape with a length to width ratio of 1.00. But these luminous diamonds also come in rectangular shapes. If you are looking for a popular cut, buy a slightly rectangular cushion diamond. The length to width ratio of this choice should be 1.10-1.21.

    The chart below should help you evaluate the length to width aspect of cushion cut diamonds.

  • Poor/Far: >1.09 / 1.06-1.09
  • Good: 1.04-1.06
  • Very Good: 1.00-1.04
  • Excellent: 1.00-1.03
  • Rectangle
  • Poor/Fair:<1.09/1.52
  • Good: 1.09-1.16 / 1.22-1.31
  • Very Good: 1.09-1.16 / 1.22-1.31
  • Excellent: 1.16-1.22
  • square vs rectangular cushion cut

    Evaluating Color:

    Color in cushion cut diamond diamonds is an important factor. Since it is a brilliant cut with many facets, you may compromise slightly on color without losing on the brilliance of the stone. While colorless diamonds are always great (color should be the second priority after cut), you may also go for G, H, or I color. G is as good as colorless, H is a sweet spot for people with budget constraints, whereas I had a slight, barely noticeable tint.

    For detailed information on the color of cushion cut diamond, use the table below.

    < 0.50 Carat
  • Poor/Far: >M/ L-M
  • Good: I-K
  • Very Good: G-I
  • Excellent: D-G
  • 0.51 – 1.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: J-K / >L
  • Good: I
  • Very Good: H
  • Excellent: D-G
  • 1.0 – 2.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: H-I / >I
  • Good: G
  • Very Good: D-F
  • Excellent: D-F
  • >2.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: H-I / >I
  • Good: G-H
  • Very Good: D-F
  • Excellent: D-F
  • Choosing Clarity:

    Choose a cushion cut diamond that meets your standards in terms of clarity. Each of our customers has a unique standard for clarity and color. Some want a flawless diamond with a lot of clarity, while others are perfectly comfortable with a slight inclusion if it is not easily noticeable. The GIA provides excellent help with their clarity grades, and hence you can use it to choose an oval cut diamond that will meet your standards. The chart below serves as a general guide for you to evaluate clarity in oval diamonds.

    < 0.50 Carat
  • Poor/Far: I2 / >I2
  • Good: I1-I2
  • Very Good: VS2-S12
  • Excellent: FL-VS1
  • 0.51 – 1.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: I2 / >I2
  • Good: SI2
  • Very Good: VS2-SI2
  • Excellent: FL-VS1
  • 1.0 – 2.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: SI2-I1 / >I1
  • Good: SI1-SI2
  • Very Good: WS2-VS2
  • Excellent: FL-VS1
  • >2.0 Carat
  • Poor/Fair: >SI2
  • Good: SI1-SI2
  • Very Good: VS1-SI1
  • Excellent: FL-WS2
  • Four Scenarios to Consider While Buying Cushion Cut Diamonds:

    Over the last decade, we have seen people consider the following four scenarios when deciding what option is best for them in a given range while buying a diamond and how to compromise on the 4Cs of a diamond.

    Scenario One: Going for the highest quality in each carat range – Quality is preferred over size. Investment grade diamonds

    Under this option, buyers go for the highest quality diamonds. Since such diamonds are rare and probably within 1% of all the mined diamonds, they are considered investment grade diamonds. These would be Flawless to VS1 clarity, D-F color, Excellent Cut, GIA/AGS graded diamonds with no fluorescence, and weighing at least 1 carat.

    Scenario Two: Prioritizing a balanced approach and getting the best of all 4Cs - Both quality and size are prioritized in this range

    In this option, the shopper aims to maximize both size and quality. We still consider diamonds in this range as investment grade since they are high in demand. Besides, most buyers can afford them as opposed to the highest quality diamonds. The range that would qualify under this range would be up to SI1 clarity, H color, excellent to very good cut with excellent proportions, and up to medium blue fluorescence. Shoppers still prefer either GIA or AGS graded diamonds in this range.

    Scenario Three: Compromising on all other 3Cs to maximize on the carat weight – Quality is still a priority to a degree.

    Under this option, the buyer aims for a large, nice looking, and preferably eye-clean diamond within his/her budget. They would go as low as SI2 clarity, up to J color, very good to excellent cut, and up to strong blue fluorescence. If you intend to go for this scenario, buy GIA graded diamonds. We have seen other labs, including AGS, play games in lower clarity grades, especially when it comes to clarity.

    Scenario Four: Giving up on one C entirely to maximize on the other 3Cs because of a low budget

    Under this scenario, the buyer decides to give up on one C to get a big stone that is very strong in the other 3Cs. We recommend that you give up on color in this option and maximize clarity and cut.

    Understandably, significant inclusions do affect the brilliance of a diamond. Be that as it may, a slight yellow hue or tint does not affect its fire, scintillation, and brilliance. Some shoppers prefer warmer colors, such as the J to M range. If you go for this option and if the stone is in the VS range, going for IGI or HRD graded diamonds is also a good idea. They do not have any significant incentives to misgrade such color range stones. 

    Suggested carat weight, cut, color and clarity of Cushion Cut Diamond for people with budget constraints:

    Excellent Choice:

    • At least 1.0 carats in Weight
    • Very Good to Excellent Polish and Symmetry
    • G or above in color
    • SI1 or above in clarity
    • No Florescence
    • Length/width ratios: 1.0 -1.05 for square or 1.12-1.30 for rectangular shape

    Very Good Choice:

    • At least 0.90 carats in Weight
    • Good to Excellent Polish and Symmetry
    • H or above in Color
    • SI1 or above in Clarity
    • None, faint or medium blue florescence
    • Length/width ratios: 1.0 -1.05 for square or 1.12-1.30 for rectangular shape

    Good Choice

    • At least 0.80 Carats in Weight
    • Good to Very Good Polish and Symmetry
    • I or above in Color
    • SI1 or above in Clarity
    • None, faint or medium blue florescence
    • Length/width ratios: 1.0 -1.05 for square or 1.12-1.30 for rectangular shape

    Frequently asked questions about Cushion Cut Diamond:

    Are cushion cut diamonds popular?

    Yes, after round and oval cut diamonds, cushion cut diamonds are among the top sellers. They have beautiful facets and a unique look to them, and thus you cannot go wrong with them. However, if you are unsure about its shape or brilliance, we recommend that you visit a store and compare them with round and other shape diamonds.

    Which one is the most popular of the cushion cut diamonds among cushion brilliant, cushion modified, and cushion hybrid?

    By looking at the supply side of the diamond industry, we notice that several diamond dealers are increasingly cutting rough diamonds into the hybrid cushion cut. It is likely popular because it combines the best of cushion brilliant and cushion modified. It also sparkles more and has an elegant look to it, one reason why they are high in demand, hence more supply.

    Why are cushion cut diamonds cheaper than round cut diamonds?

    They are not necessarily cheaper than round cut diamonds. It is essential to understand that it takes a bigger rough cut diamond to cut a 1 carat round diamond than a 1 carat cushion cut diamond. The average diameter of a 1 carat round diamond is about 6.4mm, while it is in the range of 5.4mm for square cushion cut diamonds.

    Why are rectangular cushion cut diamonds more expensive than square cushion cut diamonds?

    Again, if you pay attention, the overall spread of a rectangular cushion cut diamond is larger than that of a square cushion cut diamond. This means that a diamond dealer has sacrificed a bigger rough diamond to cut a 1 carat rectangular cushion cut diamond than he would for a square cut.

    Should I set a cushion cut diamond into a halo setting or plain solitaire?

    First, it depends on your taste. Second, if the stone is small (since cushion cut diamonds are generally small in overall spread), it is better to set them in halo settings. It will allow the stone to be surrounded by other diamonds to give it a bigger look.

    Recommended Proportions - Cushion Cut
    Depth% Table Girdle Cullet L/W Ratio
    60-68% 59-67% See Below None See below