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The History of Cushion Cut Diamonds

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For those with a deep appreciation for diamond history, and a love for modern styles, the cushion cut may prove to be an ideal choice for today’s collector. Its very name conjures up images of a sumptuous, sparkling pillow. It might seem like modern and ancient diamond cuts have no point of intersection—but you’d be wrong in that assumption. Some call the cushion cut diamond an “old new classic.” Let’s learn how this is true.

The cushion cut diamond has origins dating back to the very earliest diamond cutting styles. As old as it is, it’s finding favor once again with savvy diamond collectors. Today, this timeless cutting style has become one of the top choices for engagement rings around the world.

Time Saving Shortcut

See all cushion cut diamonds at…

James Allen
White Flash
Blue Nile

Paying Tribute to the Old Mine Cut

The modern-day cushion cut owes its facet design to an ancient diamond cut called the Old Mine cut, which dates back to the 1700s. In the 1700s, much of the world’s diamond mining occurred in Brazil after the first mines in India (the original source for diamonds) began to dry up. The Brazilian stone cutters utilized the Old Mine cut most often since it maximized carat retention with the rough crystals often produced in diamond mines there. The breathtaking Hope diamond, on view in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is one such famed diamond displaying the historical cut.  The legendary Regent diamond, a 410 carat Indian origin diamond is another spectacular example of the early Old Miner’s cut, dating to 1701.

From the 1800s well into the early 1900s, before round brilliant diamonds took over as the most prized diamond cut, the Old Mine—precursor of the Cushion cut–was the most widespread style of diamond shape. Typical Old Mine cut diamonds had a rounded corner, squarish shape and a noticeably high crown with a small table facet. On the pavilion side, you would find a deeper pavilion and an open culet. While those elements don’t make for the most brilliant light return by today’s standards, it was the pinnacle of sparkle in those days. Cutters were concerned with not only saving weight with this cutting style, but it took less time to execute the cut.

10.02 ct H VS1 Cushion Cut Loose Diamond White Flash
Including the best of both worlds, this modern squarish cushion cut diamond also boasts an open culet, which is highly desirable by the cognoscenti. © White Flash

Both today’s cushion cut diamonds and the Old Miners share noticeable similarities and a few differences. The Old Mine cut had 58 facets, while the modern cushion cut typically has 64 facets, which aids with its eye-catching sparkle.  

Cushion Duet Halo Diamond Engagement Ring in 18k White Gold (1/2 ct. tw.)
Find this Ring at Blue NileThe cut may be sumptuous but the affordable price can still make you smile. © Blue Nile

Diamond historians are quick to point out that the modern-day cushion cut also drew inspiration from earlier cuts well before the Old Mine cut, such as the table, Peruzzi, and candlelight cut.  Over time however, the cushion-cut diamond progressed thanks to a better understanding of diamonds and to the cleaving process as a whole. Early diamond cutting was a labor-intensive effort lacking the technology, tools and knowledge that cutters enjoy today. So, we have grown to appreciate these antique stones for their backstory.

Modern Cushion Brilliant Cut Diamonds

Nowadays cushion cut diamonds are popularly referred to as cushion brilliant cut diamonds, since they incorporate both the old cushion cut patterns while integrating additional aspects of the round brilliant diamond—the most popular diamond shape of all.

Modern cushion brilliant cut diamonds are distinguished by their square or squarish-rectangular outline, and include curved sides that are either rounded or have slightly pointed corners.  In most cases, a modern cushion cut stone will have four or eight main kite-shaped facets between the girdle and its culet. But you can also see some versions of this cut that have been modified to include extra crown facets or more on the pavilion. These are distinguished as modified cushion cut brilliant diamonds.

4.31 Carat cushion modified diamond
Modified means extra glamor as shown in this luxurious loose diamond. © James Allen

There’s more to the clever cushion cut than first meets the eye. The artful facet patterns making up the cushion cut design allow more light to flow through the stone and return to the eye. Some claimthis shape is one of the most brilliant of all diamond cuts because the angles of light streaming into each facet work wonders in obscuring tiny imperfections inside the stone.

Cushion cut’s myriad reflections work together to echo the stone’s natural color better than other diamond cuts. This is why many fancy colored diamonds like those found in bubble gum pink, canary yellow and other vivid colors get the cushion treatment. For colorless diamonds, experts recommend that to get the most dazzling look from your cushion cut stone, consider selecting at least a color grade of H (or higher) when making your choice.

Fancy Yellow Cushion 0.91ct Diamond Ring Brian Gavin
Find this Ring at Brian GavinBrian Gavin makes fantastic use of a fancy color diamond interpreted in a scintillating cushion cut.

Unlike many other diamond cuts with less cutting distinctions, a cushion cut is created in several variations that individualize its appearance in areas of fire and brilliance. Depending on how the cutter decides on his proportions, a cushion cut’s final appearance can vary greatly in dimension and shape. However, modern cushions mostly vary between a rounded corner rectangle and a roundish square. In the case of modern cushion cuts, you can be sure that your diamond has a unique appearance. It’s just a matter of finding the one that speaks to you.

For the romantic at heart, chose a cushion shaped diamond mounted in a feminine setting:

Petite Twist Diamond Engagement Ring in 14k Rose Gold  Blue Nile
Find this Ring at Blue NilePetite Twist Diamond Engagement Ring in 14k Rose Gold (1/10 ct. tw.) © Blue NIle

Quick Tips for Cushion Cut Shoppers

Here’s a hint—the rectangular shaped cushions often appear larger in carat size than the squarer ones on the hand. Give them a test drive and see for yourself which one is best for you.  The elongated cushion-cut diamonds are produced far less often than squarish shaped stones and, thus, are harder to find in high quality. Be patient in searching for that perfect stone if you’re shopping for an elongated cushion. It will show up –and you’ll be glad you persisted.

Hand Made Cushion Bezel Pendant 18K Rose Gold bRain Gavin
Find this Necklace atBrian Gavin DiamondsCushions can also be a delightful choice for other jewelry you want to wear often. © Brian Gavin

You may hear the phrase crushed ice when describing the look of a certain cushion cut stone. That was achieved by the addition of more small pavilion facets that creating mirror-like reflections back to the eye after light enters the stone. On your search, you may also encounter some stones referred to as chunky cushions. With chunky stones—your eye has a better opportunity to look into the stone and capture the pavilion facets. Not to be missed are the Hearts and Arrows Cushion cut diamonds. Their hidden hearts and arrows facet pattern viewed through a loupe is a charming draw for many collectors. 

Even today, you may notice  that countless celebrities are spied sashaying down the red carpet at Hollywood events wearing . . . you guessed it, diamonds cut in the cushion style. They simply defy both fads and trends. And they may be calling your name. If you’re one of the fortunate people to own a cushion cut diamond, we have an idea you’ll still be admiring it decades from now—just as much as the day you first laid eyes on it.