Gemstone Shapes vs. Cuts: What's the Difference?

Written by ChenJackie


Posted on June 19 2024

If you're on the lookout for that perfect engagement ring, a heartfelt present, or just a little something for yourself, getting to know the different shapes and cuts of gemstones can be super helpful. In this piece, we're diving into how gemstone shapes differ from cuts, how they work together, and the role they play in making jewelry stand out. So if you're ready to pick a gem that's as unique as your occasion, read on to make a choice with confidence!

What's the Difference between Gemstone Shape and Cut

Gemstone shapes include:Round,Oval,Square,Rectangle,Triangle,Heart,Pear,Marquise

Gemstone Shapes

Gemstone shape refers to the overall outline or form of a stone, regardless of its facets or dimensions. The shape of a gemstone is often determined by the rough stone's original form, as well as the lapidary artist's vision for the final product. Some common gemstone shapes include:

  • Round
  • Oval
  • Square (Princess, Cushion, Asscher)
  • Rectangle (Emerald, Baguette)
  • Triangle (Trillion)
  • Heart
  • Pear
  • Marquise

Each of these shapes has its own unique characteristics and can be used to create various styles of jewelry.

Gem shapes include: round, oval, square, rectangular, triangle, heart, pear, marquise, etc.

Gemstone Cuts

Gemstone cut, on the other hand, refers to the arrangement and style of a stone's facets. The cut of a gemstone is crucial in determining how well it reflects and refracts light, which in turn affects its overall brilliance, fire, and scintillation. Some common gemstone cuts include:

  • Brilliant cut: This cut features numerous facets arranged in a specific pattern to maximize the stone's sparkle and brilliance. The most well-known example of a brilliant cut is the Round Brilliant cut.
  • Step cut: Step cuts feature long, rectangular facets that resemble steps. The Emerald cut is a classic example of a step cut.
  • Mixed cut: Mixed cuts combine elements of both brilliant and step cuts. The Princess cut is a popular example of a mixed cut.
  • Rose cut: This vintage cut features a flat base and a domed top with triangular facets, resembling the petals of a rose.
  • Cabochon cut: Cabochon cuts have a smooth, polished surface with a rounded top and a flat or slightly domed base. This cut is often used for opaque stones or those with unique optical properties, such as star sapphires or cat's eye chrysoberyls.
Brilliant cut

A well-executed cut can greatly enhance a gemstone's beauty and value, making it a crucial factor to consider when selecting a stone for jewelry.


Gemstone Shape

Gemstone Cut


Overall outline or form of a stone

Arrangement and style of a stone's facets


Determines appearance and style

Affects brilliance, fire, and scintillation

Common Types

● Round

● Oval

● Square (Princess, Cushion, Asscher)

● Rectangle (Emerald, Baguette)

● Triangle (Trillion)

● Heart

● Pear

● Marquise

● Brilliant cut (e.g., Round Brilliant)

● Step cut (e.g., Emerald cut)

● Mixed cut (e.g., Princess cut)

● Rose cut

● Cabochon cut

Impact on Value

Affects appearance and desirability

Greatly enhances beauty and value

Emerald cut

The Relationship Between Gemstone Shape and Cut

While gemstone shape and cut are distinct concepts, they are intimately connected and heavily influence each other. The shape of a gemstone can often dictate the optimal cut to maximize its beauty and value, but the relationship between shape and cut is not always straightforward.

For instance, a gemstone with a square shape doesn't necessarily need to be given a princess cut. The lapidary, or the person who cuts and polishes the stone, may determine that the unique features of the gemstone make it better suited for a different type of cut, such as a radiant cut, an Asscher cut, or a cushion cut. Each of these cuts has its own distinct arrangement of facets that can interact with the square shape in different ways, affecting the stone's overall appearance and brilliance.

Similarly, a round-shaped gemstone may be best suited for a Round Brilliant cut, which is designed to maximize the stone's fire and brilliance. However, a round shape can also be paired with other cuts, such as a rose cut or a briolette cut, depending on the desired aesthetic and the specific characteristics of the individual gemstone.

It's important to note that each gemstone shape can be cut or faceted in a multitude of ways. For example, a square-shaped stone can be given a trapezoidal step cut, a radiant cut, a mixed step cut, or various other cuts. The shape of the stone remains the same, but the manner or style of faceting can vary greatly, resulting in distinctly different appearances and optical properties.

Princess cut

The Role of Gemstone Shape and Cut in Jewelry Design

Gemstone shape and cut play a significant role in the style and aesthetics of jewelry. Here are some common effects they can bring:

  • Defining Style and Character: Each gemstone shape carries its own personality. For instance, the Round Brilliant is a staple of tradition and romance, often chosen for its timeless elegance. An Emerald cut exudes sophistication and a vintage appeal, whereas a Marquise can lend a touch of royal flair due to its boat-like shape.
  • Enhancing Aesthetics Through Light Performance: The way a gemstone is cut affects how light dances within it. A well-executed cut will maximize the stone's brilliance (white light reflection) and fire (dispersion of light into colors). A jewelry piece with a superbly cut gem will be eye-catching and lively, contributing to the piece's overall beauty.
  • Influencing Perceived Size and Shape: Certain cuts can make a gemstone appear larger than it actually is. For example, oval and pear-shaped gems tend to look bigger than round stones of the same carat weight due to their elongated shapes. This can be a strategic choice in jewelry design to create statement pieces without the added cost of a larger stone.
  • Complementing the Wearer: Gemstone shapes can be selected to flatter the wearer's hand or body. Elongated cuts such as ovals or rectangles can make short fingers appear more slender, while angular shapes like squares or rectangles may suit long fingers better.
Gemstone shapes include: round, oval, square, rectangular, etc.

Make Your Gemstone Shine with Right Gemstone Shape and Cut

Getting to grips with gemstone shapes and cuts is key while you're out jewelry hunting. Think of shape as the gem's basic outline, and cut as the arrangement of its facets – like the difference between the outline of a house and its interior design. Some shapes are just asking for certain cuts that really make them shine. So, when you're picking out a sparkler, weigh up the shape and cut carefully – they should not only make your gem look its best but also suit the style of the piece and the vibe you're going for. Now with this knowledge mastered, you'll be sure to find your ideal gemstone with ease.


How do I know if a gemstone is cut well?

A well-cut gemstone should display even facets that are symmetrical and proportional, ensuring maximum light reflection. It should also be free of any noticeable 'windows' (transparent areas where light passes through instead of being reflected back) and have a good balance between brilliance and fire.

Do all gemstones suit all types of cuts?

No, not all gemstones are suitable for every type of cut. Factors such as hardness, cleavage planes, and color distribution within the gem can limit the suitable cuts. For instance, softer stones like opal might not be ideal for a high facet cut like the Round Brilliant because they can scratch easily.

What is the hardest and easiest gemstone respectively to cut?

The hardest gemstone to cut is the diamond because it ranks highest on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes cutting and shaping it a task that requires specialized tools and techniques. On the other hand, the easiest gemstones to cut are those with a lower hardness on the Mohs scale. Some of the softest gemstones include:

Amber (Mohs hardness: 2-2.5)

Pearl (Mohs hardness: 2.5-4.5)

Opal (Mohs hardness: 5.5-6.5)

Turquoise (Mohs hardness: 5-6)

Which cut is commonly used for different gemstone shapes?

The choice of cut for a particular gemstone shape depends on various factors, including the stone's inherent properties, the desired aesthetic, and the intended use of the gemstone.