Small dictionary of Cuts

Main cuts used in jewelry


Rectangular, with its flat upper part, owes its name to the typical French bread loaf, of which it recalls the elongated shape. It belongs to the family of stepped cuts and is one of the oldest and most traditional cuts, as it offers some not inconsiderable advantages: in fact it can also be achieved with modest tools and technologies and involves a lower weight loss than, for example, brilliant cut . In addition, in a pavé, baguette buds leave less space between one stone and another, with aesthetically pleasing results. Often the stones cut into baguettes are small in size and, in a jewel, they serve to surround the central stones, of different cut: it is rare that a baguette-cut stone is used as the main stone. The optimal length / width proportions are 1.5: 1, but there are many variations: for this reason it is not easy to find series of baguette-cut gems identical in size.

In addition to diamonds, it is used to cut baguette all the other precious stones and gems that present this form already in the rough, as is often the case of tourmalines. The “taper” is called the “baguette” cut which has a trapezoidal shape, with one of the two short sides longer than the other.


When we speak of brilliant cut, we usually mean the round brilliant cut used for the diamond (so much so that many people misuse the term “brilliant” instead of “brilliant cut diamond”). It is a cut with 57 facets: 33 in the upper part (table plus crown), 24 in the pavilion and a so-called 58th facet, the small “lower table” or apex, at the end of the pavilion, which is the meeting point of all the facets.

The brilliant cut was specifically designed for the diamond, although it is suitable for any gem, respecting the proportions. It is universally accepted that it was developed towards the end of 1600 by the Venetian clipper Vincenzo Peruzzi. The fortune of this cut – which revealed all the brilliance and perfection of the “king of gems” – was immediate, also because it coincided with a greater availability of the same diamonds in Europe, after the discovery of the Brazilian deposits in the early 1700s (until at that moment, only the Indian ones were known).

In 1919 Marcel Tolkowski formalized a series of mathematical formulas (based on optical studies), which established exactly the angles and proportions of the facets to maximize the brilliance and fire of the gem (the “ideal brilliant cut”). It should be noted, incidentally, that fire is an optical effect typical of the faceted diamond and consists in the variety, brightness and intensity of the colors of the iris that are produced and are visible to the naked eye when the diamond reflects the light.

It is important to know that the brilliant cut involves a considerable weight loss of the stone (up to 60-63%), to the benefit, however, of its beauty, and can be applied to shapes other than round (in fact, the cut A brilliant is, more properly, a family of cuts that also includes oval, teardrop, navette and heart cuts, derived from the standard round cut). Among the famous gems cut brilliantly the sapphire “Reward of Faith”, found in 1975 in the mining field of Reward, Australia: weighs 52.36 carats and has an extraordinary cherry color.


The term “cabochon” comes from the French “caboche” (head), in turn from the Latin “caput”. The cabochon cut, in fact, resembles the top of a head and is characterized by one or two convex surfaces, rounded, polished but not faceted. The bottom of a cut stone can also be flat or even concave in order to give more light to the gem and bring out its color.

The cabochon cut is lost in the mists of time. All the cut stones of antiquity were engraved or cabochon, since they were only rounded and polished. Twenty two cabochon gems adorn one of the most famous goldsmith objects of the early Middle Ages: the iron crown, preserved in the Cathedral of Monza and used, until the nineteenth century, to crown the kings of Italy.

Things changed in the fifteenth century, when the cabochon cut was literally supplanted by the novelty of the moment, the faceted cut. After centuries of oblivion, it came back into vogue in the years of Art Nouveau jewelry, when it was considered an effective cutting method to bring out not only the hard stones but also those of color, then so fashionable. Among the latter, the most suitable for cabochon cut are amethyst, citrine, rhodolite and tourmaline, but also rubies, sapphires and emeralds – rich and intense color. Cabochons are not suitable for the cut, however, all those stones that reveal inclusions or fractures that reach the surface, since they could break at the time of cutting.


The heart-shaped cut is part of the brilliant cut family and features 59 facets. The cutting parameters are, in most cases, determined by the shape and nature of the rough stone: the presence of large inclusions, for example, and the need not to lose too much weight, can lead to the decision to realize a cutting of this type.

Due to its unique shape, the cut to heart represents a real challenge, and is the result of a great craftsmanship: the cutter, in fact, must be able to obtain the maximum brilliance from the stone, through a cut that presents considerable difficulty and requires correct proportions.

The origin of this cut is uncertain, although it is believed to have been developed in India. For obvious reasons, the stones cut to heart are the favorite as a gift for the anniversary, the birthday or on the occasion of Valentine’s Day and their popularity has peaked at the end of the Nineties, thanks to the film “Titanic”, where the love story of Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo Di Caprio) is told starting from a necklace with a sapphire pendant cut to heart and surrounded by diamonds. Among the gems cut to heart is to mention the diamond “Heart of Eternity”, found in South Africa in 2000, characterized by a beautiful deep blue color and weighing 27.64 carats: the name of its current owner is unknown.


Derived from brilliant cut, the drop-shaped one, otherwise known as pear, is extremely widespread. The brightest part of the gem is the round one. The standard number of facets is 71, while the ratio between length and width is to some extent subject to personal taste. In fact there are many possible variations: the romantic shape – which is reminiscent of a drop of water, or a tear – is a cross between a round brilliant cut and a navette cut, and is particularly suitable for pendants and earrings , but also for engagement rings and other types of jewelry.

The Cullinan I (or “Stella d’Africa”) was cut from the drop, which was made from the largest rough diamond ever found. It is set in the British royal scepter, guarded in the Tower of London, and seems to be still the largest cut diamond in the world.

But, perhaps, the most “popular” drip diamond, the one that made a generation of women dream, is the “Taylor-Burton”, a splendid gem of almost 70 carats donated by Richard Burton to his wife Elizabeth Taylor. After the divorce, in 1978, the actress announced that she wanted to sell it to donate part of the proceeds to the construction of a hospital in Botswana. The diamond reappeared the following year, when the New York jeweler Henry Lambert took possession of it for 5 million dollars. It is believed that today the Taylor-Burton belongs to the Lebanese collector Robert Mouawad.


Navette is a French term that means small boats: the navette cut has in fact an elongated oval shape, with the curved sides that join at the ends to form two points. There is therefore a larger and very bright central area, which must also have a certain depth, otherwise the light would pass through it without giving rise to optical phenomena of any relevance, to the detriment of brightness.

Normally, the proportion between the length and depth of a gem cut to shuttles is 2: 1, while the standard number of facets is 57, as in the round brilliant cut from which this cut derives.

The navette cutting is very difficult to achieve and requires great experience, especially considering the relative fragility of the tips. It is also known as a “marquise” cut because, according to tradition, it was commissioned to its personal clipper by Louis XV of France, who wanted a diamond with a perfect shape like the mouth and smile of his favorite, the cultured and brilliant Marquise de Pompadour.

Among the most famous gems cut into shuttles is the Cullinan VI, one of the nine main gems obtained from the enormous Cullinan diamond (3,106 carats from raw, equal to 621 grams). Another spectacular gem with shuttles is the 69.80 carat diamond made, together with other twenty minor stones, by the Excelsior diamond – which after the Cullinan is probably the biggest diamond ever found. From the Excelsior another 18-karat gem with a navette cut was created, a gem that De Beers presented in 1939 at the New York Expo.


The modern oval cut, from the family of brilliant cuts, was developed by Lazare Kaplan in 1957. Born in Belgium in 1883, descendant of generations of jewelers, Kaplan opened his own business in the diamond industry at just twenty years, soon becoming one of the most important Antwerp cutters.
Usually this cut consists of 57 veneers, like the round brilliant one. An oval cut diamond, if well proportioned, has almost the same brightness as a round diamond because the cutting angles of the facets are very similar. An oval cut gemstone looks larger than a round stone of the same size; a length-width ratio of 1.33-1.66: 1 is universally considered optimal for oval shapes, although there is a certain tolerance left to personal taste (up to 1.75: 1).

The elongated shape of this cut makes it perfect for stones to be set into the rings. An oval gem is suitable to be used either as a central gem, or as a gem to be attached to the main stone.

Surely the most famous gem with this cut is the Koh-I-Noor diamond (almost 109 carats). Its history is documented starting from 1304, when it was stolen from the Raja of Malwa. Its name means “Mountain of light”, and it is said that these were the words exclaimed by a delighted Nadir, Shah of Persia, when it came into possession in 1739. After a series of vicissitudes, this wonderful, almost colorless gem , passed to the English rulers. It is currently part of the Crown Jewels and can be seen in the Tower of London.


The princess cut is probably the best known of mixed cuts, that is to say those cuts that combine features of brilliant cut and stepped cut. In the princess cut, in fact, the crown is cut to brilliant while the pavilion is cut in steps. In the upper part it resembles a truncated pyramid, with a square or rectangular base.

It is a recent cut, the princess: its origins date back to the early sixties, when the Hungarian Aprad Nagy developed a cut known as “Profile Cut”, flatter than the current princess cut. It was Basil Watermeyer, a diamond cutter from Johannesburg, South Africa, who invented, in 1971, the “Barion Cut” with a square profile that, through the table, reveals the characteristic cross pattern that distinguishes the princess cut

There are several rough stones that give better results with a princess cut compared to a baguette or emerald cut. The princess is a cut that is becoming more and more popular, probably because it is brighter and brighter than other square cuts, but above all because, over the last decade, several patents have expired which reduced the possibilities of use. It has a very high number of facets and, precisely for this reason, it is particularly suitable for stones with clear and transparent colors.


It can be said, in a certain sense, that the rose cut derives from the cabochon cut, or rather, its development. In ancient times it was sought to improve the rough stone by removing the roughness and giving it the appearance of the cabochon stone; in later times, in an attempt to improve it further, it began to obtain on its rounded surface the flat areas (facets). This process gave birth to a cut known as a rose cut, whose shape resembles that of a round cabochon, with 24 triangular facets in the upper part. The lower part consists of a flat base and therefore has no veneers. There is also a simpler variant, rosette cut, with a smaller number of facets.

In ancient times it was above all the diamonds to be cut to pink, since many preferred this elegant cut to the first, coarse brilliant cuts. Today, only very few diamonds are cut this way. The pink cut greatly reduces weight loss, so it is particularly suitable for stones of modest thickness. Furthermore, when you are afraid of losing too much weight by cutting a stone bright, sometimes you prefer to make two rose-cut buds.

It is believed that this cut was developed in Holland during the seventeenth century and lost popularity at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when brilliant cut was invented. A certain return came at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially with regard to diamonds.

Famous rose-cut diamonds are the Gran Mogol and Orlov. The Gran Mogol, half-egg shaped, was found in India in the seventeenth century: it seems to have an initial raw weight of 787 carats, reduced to 280 carats after cutting. Today they have lost their traces, but it is fabled as part of the treasure of some Indian prince. According to tradition, the Orlov (almost 200 carats) was originally set as the eye of a deity in an Indian temple, from where it would have been stolen to end at the Russian court, a gift from Count Orlov to Catherine the Great. Today, set in its imperial scepter, it is kept in the Kremlin.


There is not only the precious stone called Emerald: there is also an “emerald” cut, so called because it is the most suitable to highlight the light, the color and the brilliance of the green gem. In fact it was invented specifically to solve the problems of cutting this stone and adapt, in the best way, to its raw form. Naturally it is also used for other precious stones, and is considered a classic cut. It belongs to the family of stepped cuts and its profile, apparently rectangular or square, is actually octagonal because of the truncated corners.

Very fashionable in the Art Deco years, today the emerald cut suffers from the great popularity of the brilliant cut, but it remains a favorite for important gems, used, for example, in the engagement rings of famous nobility characters and of the jet set.

Among the most famous gems with this type of cut is the Liberator I, the largest of the four diamonds made from a rough diamond from Venezuela. The name “Liberator” was given to the stone in honor of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), liberator of Venezuela and hero of the struggle for independence of South America