Choosing Between Oval vs. Cushion Cut Diamonds: Key Differences

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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In a world full of princess and round brilliant cut diamonds, the quiet elegance of the cushion cuts can often go unnoticed. The two latter diamonds have the distinction of having graced the heads of royalty. An oval stone is set at the front of the crown belonging to the Queen Mother of the United Kingdom!

Oval cut diamonds have existed for centuries; however, the modern variation was only invented in the late 1950s. The designer of the original cut, Lazare Kaplan, was trying to improve the quality of diamonds dubbed worthless or flawed when in a twist of fate, he developed a different cut altogether. And since then, the bursting brilliance, fire, and sparkle of oval cut diamonds have captured the heart of women and dazzled them into saying yes.

The cushion cut also has a long history of wowing diamond enthusiasts since its invention in the 1800s. With the invention of electricity and more cutting-edge technology, the cut has undergone some needy changes while maintaining its renowned timeless and classy elegance. The pillow-like shape, rounded corners, and beveled edges are favorites among vintage and antique sets. Given the illustrious clientele and the long history in the market, we would be remiss were we not to discuss how exactly the oval stacks up against the cushion cut.

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Cut Differences

The oval cut falls under the category of diamond cuts termed ‘brilliant cuts’ because the cut is designed to maximize brilliance. An excellent cut will produce a beautiful stone with superb brilliance and fire. However, achieving a good cut in an oval diamond is often unattainable. The stone has a complex and unique structure that requires superhuman precision to meet the precise standard parameters for an excellent cut. Given this difficulty, the cut quality should be determined by what you can see- sparkle, fire, and clarity. Watch out for the bowtie effect caused by the uneven light distribution- magnified by a too-shallow cut and absent in a too-deep cut. The bowtie is a dark shape that stretches across the center of the crown. The effect is glaring in some stones and barely visible in others. An oval diamond cut well will have a tiny bowtie or none. Use James Allen's 3D Video Technology with 40X Magnification to assess the diamond for large bowtie effects before buying it. 

ideal oval cut ratio

Ideal Length to Width Ratio of 1.45

The lack of a bow tie effect in the cushion cut gives it a leg over oval cut diamonds. Cushion cut diamonds come in various variations, but the cushion brilliant shines brightest. Its exceptional sparkle and fire are attributed to clear faceting and even better light dispersion. When observed from the top, a crisp, clear pattern is visible. It also has a larger face-up appearance because of the lower depth percentage. Admittedly, the cushion brilliant variation costs more, but its fiery brilliance makes it worth every extra buck.

cushion cut

Hiding Inclusions

The oval cut and the cushion brilliant are very good at hiding inclusions because of their unique shapes and superb brilliance. So, what does this imply? You can choose a lower clarity grade and still get an eye-clean diamond. Generally, an oval or cushion cut with clarity grade SI1 and SI2 will have no visible imperfections. One should ensure they physically examine the stone or its accompanying magnified photos. GIA reports will only indicate the existence of flaws and not the location of the inclusions. If the imperfection is at the edge, it can easily be covered by an appropriate setting. Don’t be quick to rule them out.

diamond clarity chart

Showing Color

The exquisite faceting pattern of the cushion and oval cut makes them pretty good at hiding the diamond color. This means you can choose a lower color grade and save up to improve on other qualities such as cut and clarity. In most cases, the difference in color grades is barely visible to the naked eye, but the price difference will be in hundreds of dollars. Nonetheless, if you want nothing but the best, go for the D-F colorless grades, which exhibit more sparkle and fire. Don’t stop lowering the color scale and trying out a warmer tint. Just because everyone likes colorless doesn’t mean you have to; choose the color that appeals to you.

Maximizing Weight

The main focus of the cushion and oval cut is to maximize light performance rather than weight. That’s why the stones have such superb brilliance and fire. This helps distract the eye from noticing the hidden weight in the pavilion. But because a significant percentage of the rough stone is discarded, very little goes into making the final diamond. Manufacturers end up using more rough stones to meet a specific carat weight. Resulting in comparably higher prices charged per carat for oval and cushion cuts.

Picking Setting

Both the stones have excellent brilliance, and with the right setting, you can be sure that viewers will stop and notice. Given the diamond cuts have no vulnerable edges, a protective setting will be unnecessary. Pick a ring setting that allows more light to reflect on its surfaces, such as a four-prong or hallo setting. If the cushion variation is not as sparkly as you'd like, mount the stone on a halo setting and surround it with bright clear gems. It will make a world of difference in the overall appearance.

Which one will it be?

Choosing between the oval cut and the cushion cut will be difficult. Both diamonds hold up their own in the brilliance and unique shape department. They are also very good at hiding color and masking imperfections such that you can go for SI1 clarity and G color and still get a colorless diamond. Nonetheless, there are some notable differences; the cushion cut stones have a little more shine in their brilliance. And when an oval cut and a cushion cut stone of similar carat weight are placed side to side, the oval diamond will have a larger face-up appearance. Even so, the bowtie effect is only present in oval cut diamonds, which makes your choice even more difficult. You must admit, though, it’s a good problem to have.