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Why Do Cushion Cut Diamonds Look So Different?

May 08, 2013 2 min read

The cushion cut diamond has become an increasingly popular fancy cut in today’s diamond market. Celebrities such as Jennifer Garner and Molly Sims both have cushion cut diamond engagement rings, but each stone takes on a unique shape and appearance. Increased popularity for a cushion cut diamond has stimulated diamond cutters into experimenting with different ways to cut for maximized brilliance, fire and sparkle. The different cushion diamond cutting styles result in visually different looking stones.

Cushion cut diamonds are a fancy cut diamond cut into the shape of a pillow. The cushion cut diamond developed from an older cut diamond called an ‘Old Mine Cut’, which was one of the original diamond cuts known for having steeper crowns, smaller tables, and larger culets. Today, cushion cut diamonds are cut with a variety of different faceting patterns resulting in drastically different looking stones. Gemological laboratories recognize two different cushion diamond cuts known as “Cushion Brilliant” and “Cushion Modified Brilliant.”

The difference between a cushion brilliant and cushion modified brilliant is often described by cushion enthusiast as having “broad facets” vs. a “crushed ice” appearance. The term brilliant refers to the kite shape faceting applied to many diamond cuts, cushion being one of them. The difference is in the faceting of the pavilion, where light hits and returns to the eye. A cushion brilliant is cut like a round brilliant, with large pavilion main facets reaching all the way up to the girdle edge. Cushion brilliant diamonds yield diamonds which give broad flashes of light. Cushion modified brilliants are cut with extra faceting on the pavilion, breaking up the broad flashes of light, known as crushed ice. Most cushions in today’s market are cushion modified brilliants because the extra faceting is believed to produce more brilliant stones.

As if it is not already confusing enough, there is a 3rd kind of cushion cut available in the market. Diamond cutters have developed a hybrid cut which has more faceting than the cushion brilliant but less than the cushion modified. The result is a visually happy medium between the crushed ice and broader facet look. The hybrid cut is still is graded by GIA under the broader term of cushion modified brilliant, but you identify it based upon the plot on the certificate. If you are looking into purchasing a cushion cut diamond it is important to look at the faceting on the plot of the certificate to confirm whether you are purchasing the brilliant, modified, or hybrid version.


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