There are many diamond shapes out there. Some, like the Round Brilliant, Oval, and Pear, are true classics of engagement ring design. Others, like the Rose and Mine cuts, are verging on defunct, primarily because their simplicity (a result of their age) means that they are lacking in the sparkle and bright appearance that today’s most popular cuts are able to offer.
Then again, an abundance of sparkle is not everything – and this is a fact that is reaffirmed every single day by the step cuts. In many ways the perfect opposites of the brilliant cuts, with their dazzling facet patterns and firework-displays of fire and brilliance, the step cuts are a lot more understated, though equally as beguiling to a diamond lover.
Slightly less conventional choices for bridal jewelry, but still classics nonetheless, here is what jewelers mean when they refer to ‘step cuts’.
In a step cut, the facets are arranged parallel to one another, and to the edges of the diamond. This stands in direct contrast to the brilliant and modified brilliant cuts, which feature a higher number of smaller facets, often cut into triangular shapes arranged intricately together.
The most popular step cut, particularly for engagement rings, is the Emerald cut. This cut features a rectangular shape with beveled corners, and a glossy, elegant appearance perfect for vintage, 1920s inspired ring designs.
Another popular step cut is the Asscher – although this shape is also known as the square Emerald cut, as a result of the close similarities between the two shapes. Again, you’ll notice the longer, larger facets that comprise the Asscher look very different to the facet patterns found on other popular diamond shapes.
The Baguette cut is also an easily recognizable step cut, although significantly less common as a center stone than either the Emerald or Asscher. Featuring only 14 facets (very few, compared with the Emerald’s 57), the Baguette is a much better accent than it is a center stone. You’ll find it on the shoulders of engagement rings, or channel set within shanks, rather than taking center stage.
This is largely down to light performance – a major talking point when you’re looking at step cut diamonds…
Yes, but not in the same way that brilliant and modified brilliant diamonds sparkle. Step cut facets are longer and larger, meaning that there is a noticeable difference in light performance.
If you held a Round Brilliant diamond in one hand, and an Emerald cut diamond of comparable weight and quality in the other hand, then there’s a good chance your eye would be drawn immediately to the hand holding the Round Brilliant. Even if you prefer the look of the Emerald cut, the Round Brilliant is undeniably the brighter, more sparkly, and more ‘eye capturing’ option.
Step cut diamonds produce fire and brilliance, though without the ‘glitter’ of the brilliant and modified brilliants. Under a light source, you will notice flashes of white and colored light (provided, of course, that the diamond has been cut to a high standard, and good proportions). The effect is highly valued within the jewelry world, and some of the most influential diamonds ever mined were cut with these facets.
The Krupp Diamond is, arguably, the most influential Asscher cut the world has ever seen, although it has also featured on engagement rings worn by Jessica Alba and Pippa Middleton, sister to the Duchess of Cambridge. More popular still, the Emerald has been worn by Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, Beyoncé, and Angelina Jolie.
Art Deco is an art movement that utilizes geometry, straight lines, and strong, architectural shapes. It is most commonly associated with the 1920s and 30s.
Art Deco is an incredibly popular and versatile style in jewelry. It is one of the best outlets for utilizing elements like the Cathedral setting – grand and elegant, but not too elaborate – bezels or v-prongs, and some truly unique arrangements of accent stones that stray from the traditional halo and pavé designs.
Step cuts may require you to forfeit the electrifying sparkle of the more popular diamond shapes, but there are plenty of pay-offs to be had.
There’s no denying that the step cuts are highly captivating, but they’re not the right choice for every engagement ring…
If you consider yourself a fan of the step cut, but have no idea how it would translate into a ring design, then it’s worth considering some of the most influential step-cut engagement rings the world has ever seen.
Beyoncé’s 18 carat engagement ring may be out of 99% of budgets, but the classic design, which combines the bold Emerald cut with a split shank decorated in pavé. The design is easily translated into something more wearable (and affordable), while retaining that strong silhouette. Jennifer Lopez and Amal Clooney also opted for the Emerald cut.
Asscher engagement rings have been worn by Jessica Alba, Pippa Middleton, Princess Madeleine of Sweden, while Princess Grace of Monaco famously wore a 10.48 Emerald engagement ring, flanked by two Baguette cut diamonds, created by the legendary Maison Cartier.
And, of course, there’s no point overlooking the Krupp Diamond itself – also famously known as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, for obvious reasons. This ring cut encapsulates the glamor and opulence of Hollywood’s golden age – and, with it, an incredible aesthetic.
From the classic solitaire to the ultra-sparkly three stone engagement ring, the step cuts are versatile to be worked into almost any design. Here are a few of our favorites.
Take advantage of the Emerald cut’s rectangular silhouette, and transform it into a much more modern classic by having your jeweler set it horizontally across the shank, rather than in-line with the finger. It’s surprising how such a small change has such a big impact on the traditional solitaire design, and how aligning the Emerald cut’s facets with the shank creates a strikingly linear effect.
Another way to highlight the elegant shapes of the step cut’s facets is to set the diamond within a minimalistic and highly structured bezel setting. Doing so effectively creates an ‘outline’ for the stone, and mirrors the shapes that reflect through the table and deep into the center of the diamond.
A bezel setting does mean that your diamond’s ability to draw in (and, consequently, emit) light will be more limited, but you could off-set this by incorporating a pavé setting into the shank – or simply focus on highlighting the diamond’s beauty beyond its sparkle, which is what the step cuts are so effective at doing.
Whether you choose to go the Grace Kelly route and combine your Emerald cut with a tapered Baguette on either side, or incorporate a little extra sparkle into your ring by combining the emerald with two smaller Pear, Marquise, or Round Brilliant diamonds, these diamonds offer the perfect central stone for any trilogy ring.
As always, work on finding a reputable local jeweler capable of realizing the full beauty and impact of your design – or, if you’re still stuck on the specifics, of drawing up a design from scratch worthy of whatever vision you’ve got tucked away in your head. Step cuts are a beautiful choice if you want something elegantly understated, and incontrovertibly classic.