Brilliant vs Step Cut Diamond: Which Looks Better?

Last Updated on October 20, 2023 by Juli "Jewels" Church

Do you know the difference between brilliant cut diamonds and step cut diamonds? 

If not, you're in the right place. You'd definitely want to know about these two popular cutting styles before you go picking a rock for your ring, pendant, or earrings. 

In this comparison guide, we'll answer questions you'll need to know to choose your diamond cut. 

brilliant vs step cut diamonds
  • Does a step cut diamond sparkle?
  • Is a round brilliant more expensive?
  • Which diamond cut is better?

Main Differences Between Brilliant vs Step Cut Diamonds

  • Brilliant cut diamonds have more facets, whereas a step cut diamond has fewer facets.
  • Brilliant cut diamonds give off a glittering effect, whereas step cut diamonds give off dramatic flashes of light.
  • There are many brilliant cut diamond shapes, whereas there aren't many step cut diamond shapes.
  • Brilliant cut diamond facets are arranged in a triangular fashion, whereas a step cut diamond's facets are arranged in a stair-like fashion.

What is a Diamond Cut?

A diamond's cut can refer to a few different things. Sometimes a diamond's shape is also called a cut. Princess cut diamond, round brilliant cut diamond, oval cut etc.

A diamond's cut quality refers to the stone's ability to reflect light. Round brilliant diamond cuts will have a cut grade on a grading report or diamond certificate.

Fancy shape diamonds (all shapes beside round) don't usually have cut grades on a grading report because there aren't exact proportions for those shapes. Instead, there's a range of measurements to choose for each shape to ensure high cut quality.

Most modern diamond shapes are divided into two cutting styles: brilliant cut and step cut. Rose cut diamonds and old mine cuts are older cutting styles not often used by retailers. Fantasy cut stones are custom cut to display shapes and etching within the stone. 

What Are Brilliant Cut Diamonds?

A gem cutter looks at a piece of rough diamond and knows exactly what diamond shape it will be before he cuts it. If he plans to cut a brilliant cut diamond, he will need numerous small facets on the gem.

Brilliant cut diamonds feature more facets than step cut diamonds. The effect of this cutting technique is to enhance the sparkle and brilliance of your diamond. Most brilliant cut diamonds have 58 facets, but some have more.

Brilliant Cut Diamond Shapes

Round Brilliant Cut

A round cut diamond may also be called a round brilliant diamond. These are the most popular and most expensive diamond shape on average. Round brilliant cut diamonds are only diamond cut with perfect symmetry and exact proportions, according to the GIA. These are called Excellent Cut Diamonds, or Ideal Cut Diamonds on AGS grading reports.

A round diamond has 58 facets, like most brilliant cut diamonds. Super ideal cut diamonds have more facets, but have a premium price.

Princess Cut Diamonds

Princess cut diamonds are the second most popular diamond shape for an engagement ring. They appear larger than a round brilliant cut diamond of the same carat weight. They are also cut with 58 facets.

A princess diamond cut retains more of the diamond rough than a round brilliant cut. Round cut diamonds retain around 40% of rough diamond when cut by diamond cutters. Around 60% of the rough diamond's carat weight is saved and used in a princess cut diamond. Princess diamonds aren't cut as deep as a round cut diamond, resulting in a bigger face-up view.

Cushion Cut Diamond

Cushion cut diamonds are the third most popular diamond shape. They are also said to have the most affordable price per carat of all the diamond shapes. However, prices start to shift as you journey beyond 2 carats diamonds and further.

Cushion cut diamonds are often separated into two categories: old mine cushion cut and modified cushion brilliant cuts. You can also hear them classified as two different appearances: chunky cushions or crushed ice cushions.

Crushed Ice Look

Chunky Cushion

The old mine cut cushion is a modern brilliant take on one of the very first diamond cuts. Though cut with 58 facets, the facets are more wide and chunky than most brilliant cuts.

Modified brilliant cut cushion diamonds are also called crushed ice. The facets in these are more thin and slender, with star shaped facets in the center. Most diamond retailers won't separate their cushion diamonds by style, so you'll have to sort them for yourself.

elongated cushion diamond

Elongated Cushion Cut Diamond

Cushion cut diamonds also have a smaller face-up view like round diamonds. There are also elongated cushions which still have the cutting style of a cushion, but more similar to a radiant cut diamond.

Radiant Cut Diamond

Radiant cut diamonds have 70 facets, much more than a round diamond cut. The extra facets give them a beautiful radiance, without as much of a cost as a super ideal cut diamond.

You can be pretty flexible with a radiant cut, whether you prefer a shorter or longer radiant diamond. The creator of the radiant cut intended this diamond cut to be a hybrid of the round brilliant cut and the step cut diamond shape, the emerald cut diamond.

Pear Cut Diamond

Pear cut diamonds are also called teardrop shapes. They have a pointed tip with a round base in the shape of tear. They have 58 facets like most diamond shapes.

These are unique shapes and a favorite of many celebrities and red carpet attendees. They are one of the diamond shapes susceptible to the bowtie effect. The bowtie effect is a dark shape that plays across the table of the diamond.

Prominent Bowtie

Less Prominent Bowtie

The bowtie is often unavoidable in diamond cutting, but a well cut diamond will have a less prominent bowtie than other diamonds. It's an optical effect, so it won't have any impact on the durability of your diamond. Most pear cut diamonds don't usually have prominent bowties.

Oval Cut Diamonds

Oval cut diamonds are another favorite and another diamond shape that appears bigger than a round. It's a great alternative option to a classic round cut, which is often why it's chosen. Many love the elongated look of an oval cut diamond.

Oval diamonds are the shape that is notorious for prominent bowties. Finding a well-cut oval diamond is difficult, so make sure you stay within the ideal proportion range for oval diamonds.

Prominent Oval Cut Bowtie

Less Prominent Oval Cut Bowtie

Marquise Cut Diamonds

Marquise cut diamonds are the thinnest diamond cut for a center stone. They have an elongated design, making them perfect for looking bigger and making fingers appear longer. These diamond shapes are some of the least expensive shapes available due to their small surface area.

Marquise diamond prices will increase to more expensive as you go up in carat weight. They also are susceptible to a bowtie, so make sure you're using a 360˚ viewer when choosing your loose diamond.

Claw Prongs Protect Pointed Tips

You'll also want to be selective of your engagement ring setting with a marquise diamond, alongside other shapes we'll talk about ahead. Shapes with pointed edges are more vulnerable to chipping if not protected well. Make sure your marquise points are covered by a halo, bezel, or prongs for best protection.

Heart Brilliant Cut

Heart cut diamonds aren't near as popular as they used to be. The heart shape is chosen less often for engagement rings and more for gemstone and promise rings. However, if you want a heart diamond for your engagement ring, you'll be joining Avril Lavigne who also has a heart cut engagement ring as of 2022.

V-shaped prongs protect pointed shapes

Normally we don't give a recommended carat weight for a diamond, but heart diamonds appear more defined at .5 carats and above. Going below may cause your heart shape not to have the same distinctive shape. These shapes appear smaller than round diamonds and require a protective prong or setting at the bottom.

Trilliant Cut Diamond

You probably won't find too many retailers carrying trilliant or trillion cut diamonds. Their triangular shape is incredibly difficult to set and to cut. Often times you'll find them more as accent stones than center stones.  

Their prices are less expensive and they have a large surface area. However, the three pointed ends of a triangular shape diamond leave a lot vulnerability. While prong settings can protect the edges, they start looking unappealing to many. 

Not only do you have to find someone who can set the diamond correctly, but you need it to be cut correctly too. With three edges combined with the perfect gemstone cleavage of diamonds, this diamond shape is more likely to chip than any of the others.  

What Are Step Cut Diamonds?

In order for a diamond to be a step cut diamond, it must be square or rectangular. Step cut diamonds have facets cut into parallel lines that resemble steps. Instead of the glitter and sparkle provided by brilliant cuts, step cut diamonds offer long, dramatic flashes of light.

Step Cut Diamond Shapes

Emerald Cut Diamond

james allen loose diamond - emerald cut

An emerald cut diamond is the most popular step cut diamond shape. It has a rectangular shape with cut corners instead of traditional square shape. This is the best representation of the step cut technique.

Emerald cut diamonds have a large face-up surface and are cut more shallow. They have one of the largest face-up sizes of diamond shapes. They are more affordable than most brilliant cut diamonds.

Asscher Cut Diamond

Asscher cut diamonds aren't always separated from emerald cut diamonds. They are often called square emerald cuts. An Asscher cut diamond is branded cut, designed by Joseph Asscher in 1902.

They have cut off corners just like an emerald cut diamond and the same stairlike facets. The light performance offers a unique display of squared steps different than emerald cut diamonds.

Baguette Cut Diamonds

baguette diamond

Baguette cut diamonds are the diamond you'll probably see in your grandmother's wedding rings. These are less often used as center stones and more as side stones or accent stones. A baguette diamond is a long rectangular shape that has been cut similar to an emerald cut diamond.

baguette wedding band

Conclusion: Which Type of Diamond Cut is Better?

It doesn't matter which cutting technique you choose for the center of your diamond engagement ring. Diamond cuts are about personal preference. Both brilliant cut diamonds and step cut diamonds have their benefits and drawbacks.

On average, brilliant cut diamonds are more expensive. Step cut diamonds are less expensive, but require the diamond's clarity to be higher or inclusions on the edge to appear less noticeable.

Both step cut diamonds and brilliant cuts will make beautiful diamond engagement rings, so be sure to choose the one you love. 

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