Ask a Diamond Pro: Choosing an Emerald Cut Diamond for a Petite Pavé Setting

Michael Fried
Michael Fried

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Buying an engagement ring can be a dynamic process. It’s far from uncommon to get started with certain expectations regarding diamond shape, carat weight or setting style, only to have them change as you learn more about your options.

Recently, we were contacted by a reader looking for help choosing an engagement ring. Their requirements were fairly open — they were searching for a diamond and matching setting for a total of around $15,000, with no specific requirements other than a platinum pavé ring.

Here’s the reader’s original email:

“Hello! I’m in the market for an engagement ring and have been checking out diamonds on Brian Gavin and James Allen. Honestly, I’m lost :)… I’d love to find a stunning diamond to place in a platinum solitaire paved engagement ring. I was hoping you could help me find the balance between size, color, and clarity with an amazing cut… My budget for a ring and diamond is $15kish… 

Thanks!”

We responded with a few options, including this 14K white gold petite pavé setting and this 1.82 carat, I color, VVS2 clarity diamond from James Allen. We also pointed out that we usually don’t recommend spending extra money on platinum over far more affordable white gold


As is often the case, this reader replied to us in a second email with more specific requirements:

“Hello, Thank you so much for your reply. Based on the info I gave you, it looks like you nailed it, but further conversations with my GF have me shifting gears… It appears that I was way off.

Now, the hunt is on for a simple solitaire, emerald cut diamond engagement ring. I’m hoping you can help, now that I truly know what I’m shopping for…”

This is absolutely no problem, as it’s normal for your wants and expectations to change during the process of buying an engagement ring (especially after talking to your partner). 

This reader’s preference for an emerald cut diamond is a great choice. The emerald cut looks fantastic, with its long step cuts allowing for strong white and colored light reflections. 

Because relatively little of the rough diamond is wasted during the cutting process, the emerald cut is also one of the most affordable diamond shapes. This allows you to go with a larger stone than would be possible with a round brilliant cut diamond.

There are a few things to look out for when shopping for an emerald cut diamond in the $15,000 range. The first is clarity, as the large table and straight, linear facets of the emerald cut make it easier to spot inclusions and blemishes.

The second is cut quality. As a type of fancy diamond shape, the emerald cut doesn’t receive a cut grade from the GIA. This means that you’ll need to pay close attention to cut parameters by yourself when you’re choosing an emerald cut diamond.

With the right approach to cut quality and careful attention to detail, you can find a truly stunning emerald cut diamond in the $13,000 range (leaving 2k for the setting), such as this 1.71 carat, H color, VS1 clarity diamond from James Allen or this elongated 1.66 carat, H color, VVS2 clarity diamond from Blue Nile

We’ve gone into more detail about these factors below and shared some examples of gorgeous emerald cut diamonds (and matching settings) in this reader’s price range.

Finding the Right Emerald Cut Diamond for $15,000 or Less

As a diamond shape, the emerald cut has a lot of advantages. It has a large table, creating the appearance of a diamond that’s physically larger than it really is. The large table of this cut also provides deep clarity and allows for abundant reflections off the diamond’s long facets. 

Although the emerald cut has a square or elongated shape, it has cropped corners that give it a greater degree of durability than most square diamond shapes. 

Arguably the biggest advantage of an emerald cut is its price point. Because a small percentage of the rough diamond is lost during the cutting and polishing process, emerald cut diamonds are significantly more affordable on a per-carat basis than round brilliant cut diamonds.

In fact, in our comparison of diamond shapes and pricing, we found that the emerald cut was 34 percent more affordable, on average, than an equivalent round brilliant cut diamond of the same carat weight. 

With this said, there are some minor downsides to the emerald cut. The first is that it’s not quite as brilliant as other diamond shapes due to its step cut facet pattern. The second is that it tends to display inclusions more clearly than shapes like the round brilliant cut or princess cut. 

Like with all diamond shapes, finding a good emerald cut diamond is all about keeping the four Cs of buying a diamond (cut quality, clarity, color and carat weight) in mind, then prioritizing the factors that have the biggest impact on the diamond’s appearance.

Let’s start with cut quality, which is typically the most important of the four Cs. With an emerald cut diamond, it’s important to select a diamond with the right table and depth measurements, as well as a length to width ratio that gives it a pleasing shape.

We recommend sticking to the following cut parameters for an emerald cut diamond:

  • Table: 61 to 69 percent
  • Depth: 61 to 67 percent
  • Length to width ratio: 1.40 to 1.50

We also suggest choosing a diamond with a very thin to slightly thick girdle, and preferably with no culet. 

A length to width ratio in the 1.40 to 1.50 range provides an emerald cut diamond with a classic shape, all without appearing overly square or elongated. However, this is ultimately a subjective aspect of the diamond’s appearance, and it’s always best to go with your own personal tastes.

Because of its large table and step cut facets, the emerald cut displays inclusions more clearly than other diamond shapes. We suggest a VS2 clarity grade (or better, if your budget allows) to ensure your diamond is eye-clean and free of visible blemishes. 

The large table and lesser brilliance of the emerald cut also means that it displays internal color more than other diamond shapes. 

Because this reader specifically mentioned a platinum setting (we suggest white gold, but that’s something we can discuss more below), it’s essential to choose a diamond with a color grade of I or better. 

Below this level, you’ll likely be able to see a slight yellow tint to the diamond, especially next to its white metal setting. With a colored metal, such as yellow or rose gold, it’s okay to drop down to a J color grade without much of a change in appearance once the diamond is in its setting. 

We’ve discussed these factors more, as well as other things to know when selecting an emerald cut diamond, in our guide to emerald cut diamonds

With these cut quality, clarity and color parameters in mind, you can find some beautiful emerald cut diamonds in the $15,000 price range, such as this 1.80 carat, F color, VS1 clarity stone from James Allen or this 1.90 carat, H color, VVS2 clarity diamond

Deciding Between a Pavé and Solitaire Setting

When it comes to settings, there are two key decisions to make as a buyer. The first is the type of setting you’ll choose for your engagement ring. The second is the metal for the setting, be it yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum or palladium.

Let’s start with the second factor first. In this reader’s initial email, they mentioned preferring a platinum setting. Platinum is a rare, prestigious metal that has certain advantages, such as the fact that it’s hypoallergenic (meaning it’s unlikely to trigger skin allergies).

However, it’s also aesthetically virtually identical to white gold, in spite of its significantly higher price. Put a platinum setting and a white gold one next to each other and you’ll struggle to see any difference, unless you look at the respective price tags. 

If you’ve read our other diamond buying guides, you’ll know that we usually suggest spending your budget on the things you’ll actually notice in a diamond or setting, all while minimizing the amount you spend on things you won’t notice. 

In general, unless your partner has a metal allergy that could be triggered by 14K or 18K white gold, we recommend choosing white gold over platinum. 

This frees up a significant amount of money (often several hundred dollars) that can instead be put towards a larger, higher quality diamond or a more impressive pavé or halo setting. 

When it comes to the actual type of setting, the most important factor is your own preference. A beautiful emerald cut diamond can look its best in a classic solitaire setting such as this comfort fit engagement ring, or in a pavé setting such as this white gold petite pavé ring

Our Recommendation

When it comes to the emerald cut, the same “rules” of choosing a diamond still apply, just with more of a focus on identifying good cut quality. Look for the right table and depth percentages using the parameters above, then select a diamond with a balanced length to width ratio. 

In the end, this reader selected the stunning 1.80 carat, F color, VS1 clarity diamond we linked above, as well as this timeless 14K white gold petite pavé setting. The two look great together, and we’re sure the finished engagement ring will make all the right first impressions. 

If you need help choosing an emerald cut diamond or any other diamond jewelry, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our experts help hundreds of readers find and purchase diamonds every month, and we’re happy to help you find the ideal jewelry for your preferences and budget. 

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 10% off select lab grown diamonds and 25% off ring settings during limited time sale!
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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 $1000 purchase)

Please enter your email address to receive your personal one-time use unique coupon code:

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)
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