What Are Step Cut Diamonds, How Are They Different Than Brilliant Cut?

What do we think about when we think about diamonds?

When many of us consider a diamond — and some of us think about diamonds a lot, like it's our job or something — we often concentrate on its shape: Round, oval, the occasional pear. It stands to reason, as the shape is right there, so in-your-face (often literally, accompanied by joyful tears).

But an equally important characteristic to consider is a diamond's cut. The cut is directly related to the shape, and how a diamond will sparkle in its setting. Most of us are familiar with the basic cut of a round or oval diamond, which results in gorgeous faceting that glimmers like fire. Yet you may not be familiar with step cut diamonds, which are striking, stylish and quite trendy at the moment. Here are the basics, so you can decide if a step cut is right for you.

What shapes are step cut diamonds?

The most popular step cut diamond styles are emerald, asscher, baguette and carré. All of them are cut with rectangular (or square) facets that graduate from the diamond's face like a set of steps. The emerald cut's long, rectangular facets create a flash known sometimes called a "hall of mirrors" effect. The asscher cut is a square-shaped style, with X-shaped facets running from its corners to its center culet that create mesmerizing sparkle. A baguette diamond is a rectangular step cut that may have straight or tapered edges. And the carré cut is a square shape whose facets may resemble a pyramid when viewed from above.

step cut diamonds shape comparison

What's the difference between brilliant cut and step cut diamonds?

The key difference between a step cut diamond and the brilliant cut is the amount of sparkle. Brilliant cuts, most commonly round cut diamonds or princess cut diamonds, have maximum sparkle. They possess more facets than step cuts, and the facets are triangular and kite-shaped, lending the diamond a fiery light performance. You can simply think of facets as faces that bounce light around your diamond.

step cut diamonds illustration of facets

Step cuts also have sparkle or fire, but a bit less than brilliant cuts. They're considered very elegant, but because they have fewer facets, they don't reflect as much light as brilliant cuts.

Benefits of step cut diamonds

Step cut diamonds have a lot to recommend them — specifically, two celebrities. Ever since Kate Middleton and Lady Gaga flashed emerald-cut engagement rings, step cuts have experienced a surge in popularity. They have a sleek look that appeals to fans of vintage jewelry or minimalist-leaning fashion. Because step cuts preserve more of the rough diamond's carat weight, they cost less than brilliant cuts (in which more of the raw diamond is discarded) on average. And although step cuts may sparkle less, they provide a better showcase for a diamond's clarity.

Concerns of step cut diamonds

In thinking about the four C's of a diamond — cut, clarity, color and carat — if a step cut diamond appeals to you, you may need to prioritize clarity over other characteristics, because any natural inclusions won't be as hidden as they would by the faceting of other cuts.

step cut diamonds inclusion comparison

How the cost compares

Experts agree that the round brilliant diamond is the most expensive diamond cut, because of the precision cutting required to create a greater number of facets and the amount of raw diamond that is lost in the process. Because of their lower facet count, Emerald and Asscher cuts are among the most affordable diamond cuts, with baguette and carré styles in the middle of the mix.

But it’s worth noting that baguettes and carré stones aren’t those you would seek out for the center of your engagement ring. Both cuts are traditionally used as side stones in rings featuring multiple diamonds.

And remember, more facets don't make a more beautiful diamond — it's all about your personal style.

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