August 8, 2023
Gemstone Cut types & shapes

Gemstone Cut Types

In the world of gemstones and jewelry, experts focus not only on color and the purity of the gemstone, but also on the shape and cut. The difference is not always visible at first sight to the layman. With the shape yes, but also with the cut? What is the difference between the two?

Both terms are often confused or treated synonymously. This is wrong, it should be called: Cut vs. Shape

Let us take you on a journey of discovery where we reveal the fine line between these concepts and explain what we mean when we refer to the cut of gemstones. Understanding the difference between shape and cut will help you understand what gemstone cutting is all about for a reliable baseline knowledge when making your gemstone purchase or selecting and making a piece of gemstone jewelry.

Cut is one of the clearest categories on which to evaluate gemstones, as cuts and shapes are made by human hands. It is a description of the appearance as well as the combination and arrangement of the surfaces (facets) of the gemstone.

At the beginning of the entire cutting process, the cutter decides, based on the characteristics of the gemstone, how to transform the raw mineral into a shimmering jewel. In other words the natural gemstone in its raw form dictates to the experienced cutter how it wants to be cut for the best brilliance and luster.

(1) Round brilliant, top view (2) Oval brilliant, top view (3) Rose cut, top view (4) Round brilliant, side view (5) Cushion brilliant, top view (6) Rose cut, side view (7) Step cut, octagon (8) Pear brilliant, top view (9) Step cut, oblong (10) High cabochon, side view (11) Cabochon, side view (12) Lentil-shaped, side view
(1) Round brilliant, top view (2) Oval brilliant, top view (3) Rose cut, top view (4) Round brilliant, side view (5) Cushion brilliant, top view (6) Rose cut, side view (7) Step cut, octagon (8) Pear brilliant, top view (9) Step cut, oblong (10) High cabochon, side view (11) Cabochon, side view (12) Lentil-shaped, side view


What is the difference between cut type and shape?

There is no universally accepted system of gemstone cuts. That is why you can find different classification attempts in the literature. However, it is possible to differentiate between cut types and cut shapes.

What is the difference between cut type and shape?

There is no generally valid system of gemstone cuts. That is why you can find different attempts of classification in the literature. However, it is possible to differentiate between cut types and cut shapes.

Gemstone cut styles

If one starts from the optical impression of the cut gemstones and precious stones, one can recognize 3 main types of cut, called cut types. The smooth cut, the facet cut and the mixed cut.

1. Smooth cut

A smooth cut can be flat (plane), muggy (curved) as a so-called cabochon, or spherical. No facets interrupt the even stone surface. It is also called "Plain Cut". These cuts are characterized by the absence of facets. Gemstones are cut into smooth tablets ("tablet").

The plain cut is preferably used for cutting certain types of gemstones such as agate and opal, or for other opaque gemstones and jewelry stones. Where only the otherwise inconspicuous surface of an opaque stone is to be made visible, enlivened, clarified or embellished, a flat cut surface is usually sufficient. Spheres are made from both transparent and opaque stones.

A cabochon can be more appealing just by its shape. The number of possible layouts is almost unlimited, although raw material, color and stone pattern influence the particular shape. The cabochon cut has a smooth or slightly curved base surface. The top of the stone is cut in a semicircular shape and then polished. Therefore, the cabochon is not a faceted cut, but a smooth cut. Traditionally, people associate cabochons with opals, star sapphires, moonstones, onyx, and turquoises, but almost every type of gemstone is available on the market in a cabochon cut.

A stone is cut as a cabochon when:

- the stone is opaque (opaque) or translucent (translucent), and/or

- when asterism (star effect) or chatoyance (cat's eye effect) is to be well accentuated and/or

- if the raw material has too many inclusions for a facet cut.

A special feature of the cabochon is the sugarloaf ("Sugarloaf") and at first glance it looks very similar to the classic cabochon. It has a rounded, pyramid-shaped top instead of the typical domed profile. The edges of the pyramid are rounded and not sharp. Because of the four-sided pyramid shape and a high domed, non-faceted cut, this variation of the classic round or oval cabochon allows more depth and light to penetrate the stone.


2. Facetted cut

The types of cuts refer to the shape and arrangement of the facets. The three most basic cut types are brilliant, step, and mixed. Learn what characterizes these cuts and how cutters combine them to create many different gem designs.

The facet cut gets its character from a multitude of small surfaces, from the facets. It is used primarily on translucent gemstones and precious stones. Most facet cuts can be traced back to two basic types, the brilliant cut with a round base and the staircase cut with an angular shape. In addition, there is also often a combination of both on the top and bottom as a mixed cut.


2.1 Brilliant cut

Brilliant facets are triangular in shape and are designed to maximize the light that is reflected from inside the stone back to the eye.

Brilliant cuts consist of triangular and kite-shaped facets that spread outward from the center of the gemstone. As its name implies, the brilliant cut is the most radiant of all cuts. It is especially popular for diamonds.

• Diamond / Classic Brilliant cut

A typical example of the art of cutting is a stone that has been cut and shaped into a classic round diamond, where 33 of the total 58 surfaces are on the crown, while the remaining 25 form a pavilion. Although the facets have different shapes, they have one thing in common: they are always two-dimensional. Originally, the cut was designed for diamonds, but today it is also used for other gemstones.

However, there are other brilliant cuts:

• Concave cut: This type of cut is characterized by the grinding of facets in a three-dimensional shape. The technique, invented at the end of the 20th century, enables the cutting of conical, three-dimensional facets, which are characterized not only by length and width, but also by depth.

As a result, the light in the gemstone is better refracted and reflects more rays of light, transforming them into stunning brilliance. This cut is more suitable for larger stones and you can buy citrines, amethysts, topazes or quartz with this cut.

• Portuguese cut: This original cut combines two rows of diamond facets and three rows of triangular facet directly above and below the roundel - in a modification with one or two rows of mixed facets. These additional faceted lines are cut to increase the brilliance and luster of the gemstone. These added planes reduce the size of the table. Portuguese cutting usually involves shaping stones into round or oval shapes, and this is how lighter, translucent crystals like pink tourmaline and spinel are usually cut.

• Penduloque (Briolette): Popular as a pendant, the drop (drop earrings) is pear-shaped and covered with facets over the entire surface, which adds to the price. You won't see the tablet with this stone, just a series of glittering surfaces that can reflect light from all angles.

Faceted gemstones and cabochons
Faceted gemstones and cabochons

2.2 Step cut

Step facets are rectangular and are designed to bring out the color of the stone by holding back the reflection of light inside the stone. This is the most commonly used cut for colored gemstones (sapphire, ruby, emerald) and all other gemstones.

Step cuts consist of rectangular facets that rise in the crown and fall in steps in the pavilion. Examples of step cuts are the emerald and baguette cuts. They are popular because they bring out the color and purity of the stone and create a subtle shimmer.

2.3 Mix cut

A cut of this type combines a brilliant cut and a step cut.

Oval and cushion shaped gemstones are often cut with brilliant facets on the crown and step facets on the pavilion, or vice versa. This refracts the light into a different pattern. Mixed cuts can even combine cutting and faceting techniques.

A few examples in mixed cut:

• Ceylon Cut: This cut has a step cut pavilion and a brilliant cut crown. This ancient cutting technique is still used in Sri Lanka today.

• Barion Cut: The exact opposite of the Ceylon cut, it works the crown in a step cut and the pavilion in a diamond cut. The cutter Basil Watermeyer, who came up with this idea, thus discovered an excellent way to add brilliance to a gemstone in a simple way.

Overview of faceted , cabochon and mixed cut
Overview of faceted, cabochon and mixed cut

3. Mixed cut

Mixed cut is a mixture of faceted and plain cut. On the upper (or lower) part the gemstone has facets, on the other it is smooth, rounded or flat. Occasionally, there are cut shapes where the cut is mixed on the same half of the stone.

• In the buff-top cut (cut with a smooth crown), the top part is domed and cut in cabochon cut, while the bottom part of the stone is faceted in pavilion. The mixture of cabochon cut on the top and faceted cut on the bottom creates the illusion of depth as the eye is drawn to the center. This cut is very popular in men's jewelry.

• Rose cut gemstones are a faceted cabochon with a flat bottom and domed top with triangular facets. Often the facets are arranged in two rows so that the top of the stone ends in a point. Rose cut/facet cut cabochons come in all different shapes.

• The Double Rose Cut, also known as the Dutch Rose Cut, is a variation of the Rose Cut that is usually taller and has more facets that resemble a geometric dome or briolette.

• The checkerboard cut only the convex crown of the gemstone, which are dominated by the diamond facets that resemble a checkerboard. The pavilion remains uncut and is usually flat. The surfaces of the crown reflect light, increasing the luster of the stone and especially its surface. The checkerboard often shimmers in aquamarines, citrines, ametria, smoky quartz or black tourmalines. The gemstones are cut into a round, oval, heart or cushion shape.

Gemstone shapes

From the basic types of gemstone cuts, the cut types, there is an abundance of derived shapes, the

cut shapes. These can be round, oval, conical, square (carré), rectangular (baguette), triangular (triangle) or polygonal according to the classic measurements.

In addition, there is a variety of imitated shapes any models, such as drops, shuttle (navette or marquise), heart or trapezoid. The so-called free forms do not go back to any basic or standard model. They are pure fantasy cuts. The shape of these fantasy cuts is determined by the most economical use of the rough stone for the lowest possible grinding loss.

Blue sapphires from Sri Lanka
Blue sapphires from Sri Lanka
(Source: Ceylons Munich)

A selection of well-known ground shapes is worth taking a closer look at and understanding.


The round cut is probably the most popular cut. It is available as a brilliant cut or a staircase cut. The facets are cut in a way that optimizes the light scattering in the stone, this cut used to be exclusive to diamonds.


Modern forms of the square cut include the princess cut, the second most common cut in diamonds, and the Asscher cut, as well as the carré and cushion cut in a basic square shape. Square cut refers to any type of gemstone that is cut in a square shape.


The most common rectangular gemstone cut is the emerald cut. Other cuts include the radiant cut and the scissor cut, as well as the baguette or cushion cut. Rectangular cut is any type of gemstone that is cut in a rectangular shape.

Cushion Cut

The cushion cut is called a pillow or cushion because the cut is reminiscent of softness. The cushion cut, or antique cut, has gently rounded corners and maximizes the rough stone while creating luster and brilliance.


Developed in the late 1950s, the oval cut offers the brilliance and fire of round cut gemstones, but in a more unique shape. The elongated silhouette also helps create the illusion of a larger gemstone.


The teardrop cut resembles a pear shape, which reflects light beautifully and shows off the color. As with the marquise cut, symmetry is important to the gemstone's perfection, and they require a 6-prong setting to provide proper support.


The marquise cut also known as navette, is cut to reflect the lightest and offer maximum brilliance and depth of color. Perfect symmetry of the two endpoints is important to ensure that the stone sits properly in the setting to minimize chipping or breakage.


A playful and feminine shape that is especially popular with romantic souls. Proper placement in jewelry and a large number of facets give the gemstone stunning fire and brilliance.


The triangular shape is characterized by the equal length of at least two sides. It is also often referred to as a trilliant or triangle, although the two differ based on the shape of their corners.


A trilliant cut, sometimes called a trillion, is a triangular gemstone cut. This cut has many variations. It can have curved or non-curved sides. The shape of the top, the table, also varies. However, it always has rounded corners compared to the triangle with sharp or pointed corners.


The rectangular shape is usually long and narrow, in exceptional cases it may approach a square appearance. Gemstones in a step cut or as a cabochon are used both as side stones (they go well with other stones) and as central elements of single rings, earrings or necklaces.


The emerald cut was originally developed for the emerald (emerald cut), with this shape an effect is achieved that emphasizes the cut and the color, as the color comes out very vividly with this cut pattern. In this cut the shape is like a rectangle from above with reduced corners and the light jumps out brightly between the stair cuts.


If the octagon cut has slightly cut corners when viewed from above, it is actually indistinguishable from an emerald cut. The difference only becomes clear when you look at the side profile and see that the parallel facets are not the same distance apart.


The Asscher cut is a mixture of the princess and emerald cuts. The Asscher cut features a distinct X on the table of the gemstone, clear edges, and a square shape in the step cut to maximize the clarity of a gemstone. The name of this cut is a proper name that comes from the Asscher brothers, who developed the cut in 1902.


The princess cut is very popular as the round brilliant cut. A multitude of facets is given in this cut and is characterized by sharp corners and a square design. The numerous facets of the pavilion are small and concentrated, adding to the stunning sparkle of the gemstone.


Unlike the Princess shape, the corners are always rounded. Although comparable in terms of sparkle, this can be square as well as rectangular. This shape can be securely fastened with classic lobing, and its corners do not need to be protected by V-shaped drops.

Blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka
Blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka
(Source: Ceylons Munich)

Choosing the right cut and shape for your jewelry

There is such a wide variety of gemstone cuts for every occasion, whether it's for an engagement or a wedding, or just a beautiful piece of jewelry depending on your taste and personality. There is no excuse to limit yourself to the classic round brilliant cut.

Below are some tips to help you decide which shape might best suit your loved one and their character.

Round brilliant cut = Classic and elegant

The round brilliant cut is undoubtedly the most popular diamond shape for engagement rings, accounting for more than 75% of all diamonds sold. It is the most classic of all cuts. Round diamonds have 58 facets that refract light reflected from the bottom of the diamond through the top, creating an incredible sparkling effect. The shape is extremely versatile, elegant and timeless. It looks clean and modern in simple settings, but is also beautiful in more elaborate settings especially with colored gemstones.

Emerald = Glamorous & Art Deco

If you're into art deco glamour, this diamond is for you. It has a rectangular shape with long, angular facets, but it's the large table that shows off the diamond's clarity better than any other cut. What it lacks in brilliance, it more than makes up for in undeniable elegance. Think Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly - who wouldn't want to follow in the footsteps of these icons.

Princess = Sophisticated and glittering

The name says it all. The princess cut is a classic, elegant choice that is similar in appearance to the round brilliant cut, but has a more modern, straightforward look. Flirtatious and playful, the princess cut is most often set as a solitaire and is the second most popular shape. In recent years, it has seen a revival. As the extra facets add more brilliance and enhance its sparkle.

Asscher = vintage and glamorous

The Asscher cut is striking and dramatic, strongly reminiscent of the 1920s to 1930s and Art Deco. The Asscher cut is a beautifully simple cut with classic elegance. It has similar characteristics to the emerald cut, meaning color and clarity are important factors when choosing a diamond in this shape. The only real difference between the Asscher and emerald cuts is that the Asscher cut is square, not oblong.

Cushion cut = Romantic and whimsical

For the woman who knows what she wants, it's probably the romantic cushion cut that she craves. Cushion cuts can be either square or rectangular with rounded corners and have larger facets to increase their brilliance, which is why they are rarely cut in smaller carat weights and sizes. One of the most popular diamond and gemstone shapes a century ago, the cushion cut reflects an era of romance and elegance.

Oval = Innovative and Creative

Oval gemstones are in no way inferior to brilliant cut rounds and are characterized by a wonderful brilliance. This even and symmetrical shape looks good as a solitaire on people with smaller hands or shorter fingers, as the elongated shape of the oval gives the hand the illusion of length. The oval is often set with smaller diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, or other gemstones, which appeals to a wide range of tastes, and makes for a very personal and unique design.

Marquise = Dramatic & Striking

Like most things interesting, the majestic marquise is swathed in dramatic history. Legend has it that this cut was invented during the 18th-century reign of Louis XIV, allegedly named for his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, and inspired by her smile. The unique cut, essentially an oval with rounded sides and points at each end, is distinctive and dramatic. The marquise cut can look larger than it actually is, and due to its elongated shape, can make fingers look more slender….now that’s a winner! It’s ideal for those looking to maximize carat weight, and for those who like a little opulence and are after a statement piece of jewellery rather than following the crowds.

Pear = Unique & Feminine

A winning combination of the marquise and the oval, this cut resembles a twinkling teardrop. Popular for pendants and earrings, the pear shape is also a unique and excellent choice for engagement rings, and can be “fatter” or more elongated, depending on your preference. Due to its unbalanced shape, it’s not usually set with elaborate accent stones however it does look wonderful with a diamond halo surrounding it or complimenting diamond set shoulders.

Heart = Sentimental & Soft

This cut is the ultimate symbol of romance and sentimentality. Often more of a novelty and not commonly used for engagement rings, a special and select few do choose a heart shape. The way they are cut is similar to the pear shape they can be “fatter” or more elongated, and it’s the skill and precision of the diamond cutter that defines the sparkle and beauty of this shape.

Radiant = Stylish & Confident

This cut can be hard to find but most definitely not impossible. The radiant marries the elegant glamour of the emerald cut shape with the brilliance of the round, resulting in a rare sparkly square with trimmed corners. Its extra special sparkle is the result of the way its underside is cut, with 70 facets to be exact. I personally love the fact that this shape isn’t worn by many, so if you are after something totally different to your friends this is the perfect option.

Sapphires in various shapes and cuts set in jewelry
Sapphires in various shapes and cuts set in jewelry


Cut is one of the most comprehensive categories on the basis of which gemstones can be evaluated. It is actually a description of the appearance as well as the combination and arrangement of the surfaces (facets) of the gemstone. At the beginning of the whole process, the cutter decides, based on the characteristics of the stone, how to transform the raw mineral into a shimmering jewel.

This article was intended to show the different types and shapes of cuts and to find a clear demarcation between the terms. It is necessary to become familiar with the different types of cuts when buying gemstones. Some of them are not cut (the so-called cabochons), others let traditionally cut facets shine, others make the so-called brilliant cut shine, and still others are given maximum sparkle and brilliance with modern faceting techniques with a mixed cut.

You have the beautiful variety to choose from for the gemstone cut and shape that is personally preferred for you. Of course, there are more common and less common cuts and shapes by gemstone type. It is in the end an interplay on your preferred gemstone type, color as well as cut and shape and the design of your individual piece of jewelry.

Often a beautiful colored gemstone (sapphire, ruby, emerald) will be adorned with diamonds in a desired shape, in a halo setting with small round diamonds placed around it, or with 2 or more stones on the side to further accentuate the colored gemstone and provide additional sparkle.

Get advice from your trusted goldsmith and describe your wishes as precisely as possible for a perfect realization of your individual production. As a producer and wholesaler we are specialized in fine and fair sapphires from Sri Lanka. Through our expertise, we advise goldsmiths according to the perfect matching sapphire cuts and shapes depending on the customer's request.

Feel free to check out our B2B webshop and get inspired by our various sapphire colors, shapes and cuts.


What gemstone cuts are there?

There are facet cuts (round, oval, cushion / antique, emerald, etc.), smooth cuts (cabochon, sugarloaf, etc.) and also mixed cuts (bufftop, rose cut, etc.).

How is a gemstone cut?

Transparent gemstones are usually faceted. Less transparent, translucent or opaque gemstones are only cut smooth or rounded.

What are the different types of brilliant cuts?

There are two types of round cut diamonds. The old European cut ("old European Cut") and round brilliant cut diamonds. Both cuts have a round shape, but round brilliant cut diamonds are cut with 58 facets and have been considered the standard cut for diamonds since the 20th century.

Which cut sparkles the most?

The brilliant cut has the most sparkle and brilliance due to its number of many small facets, the arrangement of the facets, and the symmetry.

What is the difference between old cut and brilliant cut?

Old cut diamonds focused on maximizing size and enhancing color and clarity. In the round brilliant cut, on the other hand, the focus is on maximizing brilliance, which is the amount of light that is reflected inward and outward from the stone.

How do I recognize old cut diamonds?

Old cut diamonds usually have deep proportions (usually appear thicker than modern round brilliant diamonds), smaller facets on the table, and a flat polished culet (lowest facet of the underside).

Which is the most expensive diamond cut?

The most expensive diamond cut is the round brilliant cut because this cut loses the largest amount of the rough stone, on average about 60%.

Which diamond cut is the best?

The round diamond cut, due to its brilliance and fire with many small facets they are aligned to reflect the light ideally in their round basic shape.

What is the difference between diamond and brilliant?

Diamond is a precious stone. Brilliant is im just a name for a cut shape. This is often mistakenly equated. A diamond can have different shapes and cuts. A brilliant is just a cut pattern that can be cut on any gemstone.

Which is more valuable, a brilliant or a diamond?

A diamond is more valuable. A brilliant is just a cut pattern. However, for a brilliant cut diamond, it is more valuable than a diamond of other shape, with the same characteristics of color, clarity and size.

Is an old cut diamond worth less?

Yes, an old cut diamond is worth less in comparable color, clarity and size because it has more carat weight and less brilliance than a comparable brilliant cut diamond due to its proportions and cut.

What are Princess Diamonds?

The princess cut diamond is characterized by its geometric, sharp-edged shape and great brilliance and luster. It is a modern cut with angular, strong lines and has a pyramid shape with four obtuse-angled sides.

How is a rough diamond cut?

This involves carefully cutting the diamond into the desired pieces using a diamond saw or laser. Due to the natural hardness of the diamond, the saw must be set with real diamonds to cut the rough stone. The diamond is then faceted.

What are cut surfaces of gemstones called?

Facet, flat polished surface of a cut gemstone, usually with three or four sides. The widest part of a faceted stone is the round ledge. The roundiste lies on a plane that separates the crown, the upper part of the stone, from the pavilion, the base of the stone.

How much does a cut amethyst cost?

The price of an amethyst can range from $20 to $50 per carat, depending on various factors. It is important to note that color is the most important feature that greatly affects the price of this gemstone.

What does the brilliant cut look like?

A brilliant is a diamond or other gemstone that has been cut in a special shape with numerous facets to achieve exceptional brilliance. The shape resembles that of a cone and provides maximum light output at the top of the diamond.


Leander Schorr

Leander Schorr, the Co-Founder of CEYLONS MUNICH, is a respected figure in the gemstone industry. With a focus on ethical practices, he ensures that CEYLONS offers a wide selection of fine and fair sapphires, complete with traceable origins. Leander’s & Dr. Janowski's groundbreaking initiative, ECOMINE, stands as the world's first self-sustaining mine for Fair Sapphires, highlighting the dedication to responsible sourcing.

CEYLONS | MUNICH stands for the finest Ceylon sapphires. A brand committed to responsible mining of Sri Lankan gemstones obtained in an ethical manner.

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