Oval-Cut Diamond Buying Guide: Beyond the Bowtie


Summary
Considering an oval-cut diamond for your engagement ring? This shape is perfect for trendy East-West rings as well as more classic styles. However, these diamonds don’t receive cut grades from gemological laboratories, so assessing their quality can be difficult. Oval cuts also show a dark area commonly known as a bowtie.

Nevertheless, you can still find a great looking oval diamond. Learn the pros and cons of this shape and how to buy the best oval-cut diamond for your own ring.

Reading time: 6 min 28 sec
oval-cut diamond guide - oval solitaire engagement ring
Channel-set accent diamonds give this 1.7-ct, G color, VS2 clarity oval diamond extra sparkle in a classic style engagement ring. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

The Pros and Cons of an Oval-Cut Diamond Ring

When choosing between an oval or round diamond, consider the following factors.

First — style! While oval-cut diamonds may have a classic look, round brilliant diamonds are timeless. However, ovals and other fancy shapes have become trendy for engagement rings in recent years. When aligned with the finger, an oval shape has an attractive lengthening effect. On the other hand, East-West rings, with the oval aligned perpendicular to the finger, are gaining popularity and show off a unique style.

oval-cut diamond guide - east-west engagement ring
The elongated shape oriented across the finger in this East-West engagement ring is beautiful and eye-catching! © James Allen. Used with permission.

If you can go stylistically with either oval or round, then an oval-cut diamond is well worth considering. The shape of the diamond directly impacts price and face-up size. This means that an oval cut can cost at least 25% less than a round cut of the same weight. Since the oval diamond has a larger surface, it will actually appear bigger than a round.

However, purchasing an oval-cut diamond has one major downside. Round brilliants can be ideal, with nearly all the light entering a diamond reflecting back to your eye. Ovals just can’t do this. Every oval-cut diamond will show a bowtie across the middle — some prominent, some subtle.

Still, ovals can be one of the sparkliest diamond cuts on the market.  Unfortunately, gemological laboratories don’t grade oval diamonds. Fancy diamond cuts have so much variation that grades, especially for the cut, are more like judgments based on a stone’s overall appeal. This will make your search more difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Here are our recommendations for finding your oval-cut diamond — and staying in budget for your engagement ring!

Judging the Oval Cut

Although there’s no laboratory grade for them, there are still well-cut and poorly cut oval diamonds. Generally speaking, the best cuts offer more sparkle. There’s no shortcut to figuring out which oval diamond will perform best. You’ll simply have to look at them!

When searching online, limit the depth to 58-63% and the table to 53-63%. This will eliminate at least some of the stones with poor performance.

Shape

Ovals can come in many shapes.  Avoid off-shaped ovals, with pointed or squared ends.

oval-cut diamond guide - off shape diamond
This pill-shape diamond is an extreme example of poor oval shape. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Similarly, look for symmetry in the overall shape of the oval. Egg shapes aren’t desirable in an oval-cut diamond. This differs from the symmetry in a laboratory report, which assesses facet symmetry.

Length-to-Width Ratio

You can also consider how elongated you’d like the oval. The length-to-width ratio (L/W) in an oval diamond is a matter of preference, but most prefer ratios between 1.3 and 1.5.  For example, compare the shapes of the following three diamonds.

Oval Cuts and the Bowtie

All fancy shape diamonds have some light leakage. In oval cuts, a bowtie shape forms across the middle of the stone. While an oval-cut diamond will always have a bowtie, not all bowties are alike. They can have differing degrees of prominence as well as effects on performance.

While some consumers consider a bowtie a fatal flaw, others may embrace this pattern in the middle of an oval cut. The best way to find an oval cut you like is to simply look at them and find what you prefer. Do you like the aesthetic of a dark bowtie or a light one? Do you prefer a bowtie that’s only noticeable at certain angles?

oval-cut diamond guide - bow tie
Take a look at the video of this diamond. Although this diamond scintillates well, you can see the dark bowtie even when zoomed out. © James Allen. Used with permission.

If you prefer to minimize the bowtie, you’ll have to spend some time looking for one. There’s no shortcut to finding these diamonds, but they do exist! Check out this 0.70-ct diamond.

oval-cut diamond guide - little bow tie
The bowtie is hardly noticeable in this oval diamond, especially when you zoom out to see how it would look on the hand! © James Allen. Used with permission.

Regardless of your preference, try for a diamond that shows sparkle throughout, even in the bowtie region. A diamond with a large dead area right in the middle isn’t worth your money.

Clarity

Due to the high brilliance of this cut, imperfections in the diamond are usually difficult to see. A diamond with a clarity grade of VS2 or SI1 will most likely appear clean to the naked eye. SI2 stones may appear eye clean as well. Take care to avoid dark inclusions near the center of the diamond, since these are the most noticeable.

Color

While color plays a minimal role in round diamond quality, lower color grades in ovals stand out much more. For this reason, stick to color grades of H or better.

oval-cut diamond guide - K color diamond
Oval diamonds like this 2.14-ct K color stone show color in the ends, while the bowtie region has less color. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Keep in mind that color is more noticeable in larger diamonds. If you’re looking at diamonds above 2 carats and the H color looks off, try an F or a G color.

That said, there may be I and even J color oval diamonds that face up white, but these may take some time and effort to find. Alternatively, off-color ovals can work well with vintage styles in yellow or rose gold.

Where Should I Buy an Oval-Cut Diamond Ring Online?

When purchasing online, be sure to use a reputable dealer and remember to look at their policies on returns, exchanges, and resizing.

Because no laboratory grades exist to assess cut quality in ovals, you absolutely must look at your diamond in 360°. Both Blue Nile and James Allen make it possible for you to view your diamond online in this manner, giving you an informed idea of the diamond’s performance and the bowtie effect.

While both have extensive databases of diamonds, James Allen has many more options for ring settings. Furthermore, James Allen allows you to see ring and diamond combinations that others have purchased. This will help you get a better idea of the finished engagement ring.

However, Blue Nile has one advantage over James Allen for oval-cut diamonds. Blue Nile’s search allows you to limit the L/W ratio. If you’re picky about the shape or replacing a stone for an old setting, Blue Nile might be a better option.

If searching for the perfect oval-cut diamond frustrates you, consider working with the jewelers at CustomMade. With their expert help, you’ll be able to find the diamond that’s best for you and place it in a custom engagement ring you’ll cherish.

oval-cut diamond guide - engagement ring with emerald accents
Subtle design and emerald accents make this oval diamond engagement ring unique. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

About the author
Addison Rice
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison's interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth's geological processes began in her elementary school's environmental club. When she isn't writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
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