Ask a Diamond Pro: Chunky Cushion Cut Diamond for $1,000

Michael Fried
Michael Fried

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We’re often contacted by readers looking for diamonds in the $1,000 price range. Over the last few years, smaller diamonds have become more popular, both for the value for money they can offer and for the fact that they’re easy to wear on a day to day basis.

A few years ago, a reader in Singapore contacted us asking if it was possible to find a beautiful cushion cut diamond for $1,000. We provided some advice to help her locate a stunning F color, SI1 diamond from James Allen, all for far less than the price in a Singapore diamond store

Here’s part of the reader’s original email:

“Before i begin, i would like to say that if it wasn’t for your blog, i would not have found James Allen. (I was super impressed with BlueNile initially and i decided to read up on reviews..Thats how i found your site :)) 

Ok here’s my story 

My boyfriend gave me a budget of USD$1,000 (Singapore $1,250. Budget has to include the Singapore 7% Tax. 

To choose my own Center Diamond picked this out for myself.. 

I followed your advice and went to James Allen searching for it. 

My 4Cs priority:

1.Cut 

2.Carat 

3.Colour- Colourless range preferably 

4.Clarity-As long its eye clean. 

Shape-CHUNKY Cushion (I do NOT want a round cut diamond because ”It is not me”..”

Carat weight-0.45-0.50

Here’s the best i found however its over budget of SGD$30. (After calculating tax) 

Is there anything equally as pretty AND Chunky AND Big for less? (Willing to go down colour and carat grade if difference is negligible.)

I would really like your opinion..if something equal in terms of beauty for less, i’m open to it.”

This is an excellent question. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about something that often isn’t very well covered — how to find a gorgeous diamond for $1,000 or less (in this case, it’s a cushion cut diamond).

Cushion cut diamonds can offer excellent value for money — in fact, the cushion cut is one of the most affordable diamond shapes per carat. The key to getting good value is to select a diamond that’s eye-clean (typically a clarity grade of SI2 or better) and colorless in relation to its setting.

Like with other fancy shape diamonds, we recommend viewing cushion cut diamonds manually using the high-resolution imagery provided by James Allen and Blue Nile.

Micro pave setting from Blue Nile
An Example of a Micro pave setting with a half a carat cushion cut diamond from Blue Nile

We’ve expanded on what to look for, as well as how to get a great deal on this type of diamond, below.

Buying a Cushion Cut Diamond for $1,000

Diamonds come in lots of different shapes, from the popular round brilliant cut to fancy shapes, such as the cushion cut

Cushion cut diamonds combine the brilliance of the round brilliant cut with the more traditional facet pattern of old mine cut diamonds. They’ve grown in popularity over the last decade for a variety of reasons, one of which is the value for money they offer. 

As we’ve covered in our guide to which diamond shapes are the most affordable, despite their popularity, round brilliant cut diamonds are by far the most expensive of all diamonds, at least when it comes to the carat weight you receive versus the amount you pay. 

This is because the process of cutting a round diamond is quite wasteful. On average, only 40 percent of the original rough diamond is used to produce a finished diamond in this shape. As such, the final stone is quite costly relative to its carat weight.

The cushion cut diamond is the opposite — thanks to its more square shape, less of the rough diamond is discarded during the cutting process. This means that you, as a consumer, end up paying less for the diamond than you would for a round diamond of the same carat weight.

This makes the cushion cut a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable diamond, like our reader. 

To put this difference in perspective, compare this 0.44 carat, G color, SI1 clarity round diamond to this 0.60 carat, G color, SI1 clarity cushion cut diamond

Both diamonds are approximately the same price. They have the same color and clarity grades, and are certified by the same grading entity. However, the cushion cut diamond is more than 30 percent heavier than the round brilliant cut diamond.

However, when you compare the actual size, you’ll notice that despite the bigger carat weight, the cushion cut is slightly smaller than the round (cushion: 4.88×4.65; round: 4.9×4.92). Some people prefer actual size, some prefer more carats — ultimately, it’s up to you what your preference is.

With this in mind, let’s quickly go over the four Cs for a cushion cut diamond in the $1,000 price range, starting with cut quality.

Cushion cut diamonds are well known for their brilliance. Thanks to their facet pattern, they can reflect white and colored light extremely well, with a level of brilliance and fire just slightly below that of a round brilliant cut diamond. 

We recommend the following cut parameters for cushion cut diamonds:

  • Depth of 70% or less
  • Table of 70% or less
  • Polish/symmetry of good, very good or excellent
  • Length:width ratio of whatever you think looks best

These parameters are fairly loose. Like with other fancy shape diamonds, it’s important to look at a cushion cut diamond with your own eyes (preferably using the magnified images available from James Allen and Blue Nile) to see how it reflects light. 

One aspect of cut that isn’t discernible from a cushion cut diamond’s certificate is whether it’s a “chunky” cushion cut or a “crushed-ice” cushion cut. 

Chunky cushion cut diamonds have a more defined facet pattern, with an overall look that many people refer to as “antique.” This 1.20 carat, G color, VS2 clarity diamond from James Allen has a classic chunky appearance. 

Crushed-ice cushions have a much less defined facet pattern. When viewed from above, they’re closer to a radiant cut in terms of faceting than a chunky cushion. This 1.20 carat diamond has a crushed-ice facet pattern.

There’s no “best” type of cushion cut for everyone’s tastes. In this case, the reader is interested in a chunky cushion cut. Choose whichever best matches your tastes — a chunky cushion for a more defined look, or a crushed-ice cushion for a more radiant, less defined appearance. 

Compared to other diamond shapes, cushion cuts tend to show quite a lot of internal color. For this reason, we recommend choosing a diamond with a color grade of H or better. If you plan to pair the diamond with a yellow or rose gold setting, a color grade or J or K is also okay. 

Cushion cut diamonds can also display some inclusions in lower clarity grades due to their large table. For a good balance of clarity and value, look for a clarity grade of SI1 and use the imaging tools provided by James Allen and Blue Nile to verify that each diamond is eye-clean

Eye-clean inspection

With this approach, you can find a gorgeous cushion cut diamond in the 0.50 to 0.65 carat range that appears colorless and free of inclusions, all for approximately $1,000.

Our Recommendation

The cushion cut offers a mix of modern and classic styling, as well as far better value for money than many other diamond shapes. This makes it a great choice if, like this reader, you’re looking for a beautiful, affordable diamond ring that you can wear every day. 

With a budget of around $1,000, you’ll be able to find a cushion cut diamond slightly larger than 0.50 carats, provided you shop strategically.

While the cushion cut offers a unique mix of style and value for money, it’s not the only diamond shape that can be found for $1,000. In fact, with the right approach, it’s also possible to find a ½ carat diamond in one of many shapes at this price point. 

The key, as always, is to put your budget towards the things you’ll see, then spend only as much as needed on the things you won’t see. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a fortune for a beautiful engagement ring.

In the end, this reader chose a beautiful 0.49 carat, F color, SI1 clarity cushion cut diamond from James Allen, then set it in a custom micro pavé ring made by a local jewelry workshop. The ring looks stunning, and it cost a fraction of what a similar engagement ring would sell for locally. 

If you have a similar budget to this reader, you can learn about purchasing a diamond in our full guide to buying an engagement ring for $1,000

If you have a similar budget to this reader, or any questing, you can contact us for personalized help. We’ve found thousands of diamonds and settings for our readers, and our experts are happy to track down the best diamonds for your tastes and price range.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online. Save 25% on wedding rings and  Save 10% off Lab Created Diamonds during limited time sale!
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Blue Nile have generously offered our readers an exclusive one-time use coupon. (Click Here to save $100 off engagement ring settings)

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What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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