Princess-Cut Diamonds: the Ultimate Guide
Learn the pros and cons of princess cuts and how to choose a high-quality stone for your engagement ring.
Pros and Cons of Princess-Cut Diamonds
Ultimately, whether you choose a round or princess cut for your engagement ring may be a matter of personal style. However, you should also take some practical considerations into account.
It’s no secret that princess-cut diamonds are less expensive than rounds. This is because of the octahedral shape of a rough diamond. When gem cutters split the rough in half, they can cut two princesses with minimal waste. (The two halves look like pyramids). In contrast, round-cut diamonds waste more rough, so they cost more than princess cuts. Based on these 1-ct ideal-cut, G color, VS2 clarity diamonds, a princess-cut diamond can cost 30% less than a round of equivalent carat weight!
Princess cuts can show exceptional brilliance. However, they still don’t live up to the brilliance of round diamonds. No fancy cut can match their optimal light performance. So, while princess cuts can have great sparkle, they’ll never sparkle better than an ideal round.
If you compare a princess and round diamond of the same carat weight, you’ll see that the round will have a slightly larger face-up surface area. However, princess cuts can often appear larger, since they have such large diagonal measurements.
That said, you’ll still be able to get a significantly larger princess cut than a round cut while staying in your engagement ring budget.
Since the corners of a princess-cut diamond may snag, they’re likely to chip. Their corners should always be protected with prongs to reduce the risk of damage to the stone. Although round diamonds can still chip, they don’t have any weak points so prone to chipping.
Engagement Ring Styles for Princess-Cut Diamonds
Of course, you can’t consider different diamond shapes without taking style into account! Although round diamonds are a standard, classic shape, princess-cut diamonds are the most popular of the fancy shapes. They work well in many styles, including solitaire and three-stone engagement rings.
The brilliance and geometric shape of princess cuts make them a great choice for sleek modern styles.
However, princess-cut diamonds can also work well in ornate vintage styles.
Judging the Princess Cut
A diamond’s sparkle comes primarily from the quality of its cut. Unfortunately, you’ll find evaluating a princess cut is bit more difficult than evaluating a round. Most gemological laboratories don’t grade the cut quality of fancy cuts, including princesses.
While the James Allen and Blue Nile websites do provide cut quality grades for princess cuts, these are less robust than those for rounds. Still, they make it possible to weed out some of the less impressive stones. Compare this “Good” cut to a “True Hearts” cut. There’s no denying the difference!
If you’re looking for an easy way to focus your search, filter the James Allen database for princesses with “True Hearts”-quality cuts only. Your results will show you princess-cut diamonds that perform well. However, you might miss out on a deal by ruling out the next-best cut grades!
Anatomy of a Princess Cut
All fancy cut diamonds have too many variations for standardized cut grades. Unlike the round brilliant, there’s no set expectation for what a princess cut should look like. Princess cuts can differ by the pattern on the crown as well as the number of cuts on the pavilion. While neither impacts value or quality, you’ll just prefer one to the other.
The crown of a princess — the part on the diamond that faces up when you look at it — can have either French corners or bezel corners. (Princess cuts with bezel corners have diamond-shaped facets extending from the table corners to the stone corners; those with French corners have star facets that point to the stone corners).
Since bezel corners are more durable, stick to this design unless you have a strong preference for French corners.
On the pavilion or underside of a princess cut, chevron shapes produce the diamond’s brilliance. Princess cuts can have two, three, or four chevrons. Stones with two chevrons produce larger, bolder flashes of light and color, while four chevrons will scintillate more, but with smaller facets. Those with three chevrons create a middle ground.
When a diamond is cut too shallow or too deep, the light that enters the stone doesn’t properly reflect back to your eye. When searching for a princess cut, limit the depth percentage to 65-75%.
The table percentage describes how large the top facet is compared to the width of the diamond. Keeping the table to 75% and below will help you find a great princess!
A small minority of diamond dealers prefer a princess with a very small table, under 68%. If you prefer small tables, prepare to do some searching, as these are less common than larger tables.
For a square princess cut, stick to length-to-width ratios (L/W) of 1.05 and below. Above 1.05, the diamond appears off-shape.
Rectangular princess-cut diamonds should be sufficiently rectangular that they don’t simply appear off-shape. At a L/W ratio of at least 1.2, the diamond will appear rectangular.
Because of the fragile corners, check that the girdle is thick enough to support prongs. While most princess girdles will support prongs, “Extremely Thin” girdles make the diamond more susceptible to breaking.
Polish and Symmetry
Even diamonds have imperfections. Clarity grades describe how noticeable these imperfections are. For a princess cut, an SI1 or VS2 diamond (slightly included or very slightly included) will give you eye-clean clarity at a great price point.
SI2 and I1 (included) diamonds can also be eye-clean, and could make great options for those on a tight budget. However, you’ll normally find relatively few princess cut-diamonds in these clarity grades. If you’re looking at these clarity grades, avoid dark inclusions near the center of the stone.
In addition, watch out for inclusions in the corners of a princess cut. Inclusions in these areas make the corners even weaker and more likely to break.
Always take advantage of the free expertise at James Allen to help you determine whether the diamond will be eye-clean or more susceptible to chipping.
Princess-cut diamonds, like other fancy shapes, show color more than a round diamond. Still, there’s no reason to pay extra for the top color grades. Though there’s a slight difference in color, it’s impossible to notice unless you’re looking at the diamonds side-by-side.
For rose gold and yellow gold rings, a J color diamond will look great and save you some money!
Since diamond color grades come from their body color, rather than their face-up color, some diamonds below J color will face up whiter. Though it will take some time and effort, searching for these diamonds can be worth the discount for those on a tight budget!
Sorting Through the Options
Still not sure where to start? Just click here to search James Allen’s diamonds based on our recommendations. Once you add in your budget, you’ll see how many options you have — and whether you need to broaden your parameters!
Lower clarity grades are a great way to stretch a budget, but always ask the experts if the diamond will be eye-clean or susceptible to breaking.
Compromising on diamond color can be trickier, but it’s a great option for rose gold or yellow gold rings.
If you’re looking at larger sizes, you may have to look at higher clarity and color grades to get the most sparkle in your diamond!
Buying Princess-Cut Diamonds Online
When making a purchase online, use a reputable dealer and look at their policies on returns, exchanges, and resizing. Whether you’re buying princess-cut diamonds for an engagement ring or earrings, both James Allen and Blue Nile have large selections to choose from. In addition, both companies utilize 360° magnified videos of their diamonds. These allow you to scrutinize a diamond’s performance, clarity, and color before you buy.
However, James Allen has a larger selection of rings. This will help you select an engagement ring design that matches your style. Their in-house diamond experts will also review your diamond choices with you. Just what you need to make sure that your diamond is eye-clean and performs well in your ring!
If you’re looking for rectangular princess cuts, Blue Nile does have a slight advantage. Their search function allows you to filter for L/W ratios.
If you just can’t seem to find what you want, consider getting a custom design at CustomMade. Their jewelry experts will help you create your perfect ring!