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Ask a Diamond Pro: Marquise Cut and a Three-Stone Setting for £4,000

By Mike Fried,

As a worldwide site, we’re often contacted by readers located in the UK interested in getting our opinion on the best way to buy a diamond engagement ring. 

As we’ve covered before in our guide to buying diamonds in London, buying diamond jewelry in the UK generally isn’t a great deal. Prices are significantly higher than from online vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile, and the selection is often only a fraction as large.

Luckily, both of these vendors offer shipping to the UK (Blue Nile even has its own operations in Europe), making it easy to access the value for money available in the United States even if you live across the pond. 

Marquise diamond rings in different carat weights

A while ago, a reader sent us an email to ask for our help finding a marquise cut diamond with a three-stone setting. Their budget was £4,000 for the diamond and they, understandably, wanted to find and buy the best cut marquise diamond that they could afford.

Here’s the reader’s original email:

“Hi there, I’m looking at an unusual ring setting from James Allen – with a marquise central stone flanked by trillion diamonds.

The problem is, when searching for a loose marquise, the cut grading disappears off the options slider. I’m wondering how to find the best cut marquise for my money – or whether one of the other C’s is of more importance when choosing this fancy shape? Are you able to advise, please?


I’m looking to spend a maximum £4,000 on the marquise center stone. I’ve done some research on the marquise, and have read that the french tip is a more safe cut to go for, minimizing the risk of breakage?”

This is an excellent question, and a common one when looking at fancy shape diamonds. The reason for this is that unlike with the round brilliant cut, the GIA and AGS don’t provide any cut grades for fancy shape diamonds (a category that includes the marquise cut). 

This means that, to a certain extent, you’re on your own when it comes to assessing whether or not a marquise cut diamond is nicely cut and worth buying, or poorly cut and best ignored.

Below, we’ve explained what to look for in a marquise cut diamond, from cut quality to additional factors such as clarity and color. 

We’ve also shared several example marquise cut diamonds that match this reader’s budget and tastes to give you an idea of what to look for if you’re in the market for a similar diamond.

How to Find a Marquise Cut Diamond for £4,000

The marquise diamond dates back to the 18th century, when King Louis XV of France asked for a diamond to be cut to match the lips of his mistress, Jean Antoinette Poisson, the Madame de Pompadour. 

This diamond shape has an elegant, unique look, with 56 facets, an elongated shape and sharp points at either end. This elongated shape can make it appear larger than other diamonds of the same carat weight, such as the round brilliant cut or princess cut.

Like with other fancy shape diamonds, there’s no GIA or AGS cut grade provided for a marquise diamond, meaning you’ll need to pay close attention when comparing diamonds to ensure you’ll end up with a stone that offers good light performance and doesn’t appear “dull.”

As we often say, cut quality is the most important of the diamond 4 Cs. For a marquise cut diamond, a good cut is about identifying a diamond that fits within the right general parameters, then ruling out diamonds that display visible issues.

In general, we recommend limiting your search to diamonds with a table of between 53 and 63 percent, a depth of 58 to 62 percent, a very thin to slightly thick girdle, no culet and a length to width ratio of between 1.85 and 2.00. 

These guidelines will typically provide an attractive diamond that will reflect light well and offer a high degree of brilliance.

As for things to avoid, the biggest flaws with marquise cut diamonds are a visible bow tie (which is a common issue for many diamond shapes) and an overly slender shape. 

A bow tie is a dark line area that runs across the center of a diamond. You can often perceive it in a marquise diamond when the stone is viewed from the front. Here is an example of a clearly visible bow tie that detracts from the beauty of a marquise diamond:

In general, it’s best to look for a marquise diamond without a dominant bow tie. There should be either no bow tie at all, or one that’s so minor it’s barely noticeable with the naked eye.

The second flaw to avoid is a diamond that’s overly slender. This type of marquise diamond can look like a football. An overly slender, narrow shape not only affects the shape of the diamond — it can also have a negative impact on its light performance and brilliance.

We recommend the 1.85 to 2.00 length to width ratio range for a marquise diamond that’s nicely cut and aesthetically balanced.

Marquise diamond with perfect proportions vs. too slender

Like all diamonds, a marquise diamond should be eye-clean. Many marquise cut diamonds that are in the SI1 and SI2 range appear eye-clean, although you may need to compare a variety of different diamonds to find one with acceptable clarity.

It’s also perfectly fine to select a diamond with VS1 or VS2 clarity to simplify the process. Going beyond this level rarely provides additional clarity that’s visible to your eye. However, it will have a real, noticeable impact on your budget. 

As for color, the marquise cut does a relatively good job of concealing it. As such, a color grade of G or H will provide the best mix of value for money and a colorless look, provided you plan to pair the diamond with a white gold or platinum setting.

For yellow or rose gold, you can often lower your color choice down to the I, J or K range while still maintaining a diamond that appears colorless in relation to its setting. 

However, you’ll want to avoid dropping overly low in terms of color for a three-stone setting, like the type of ring this reader is planning to purchase.

Our Recommendation

With these guidelines in mind, we recommended several diamonds to this reader. The first was this 1.02 carat, G color, SI1 clarity marquise diamond from James Allen. It’s beautifully cut and offers excellent value for money, thanks to its G color grade and SI1 clarity.

We also recommended this 1.00 carat, H color, VS2 clarity diamond and this 1.03 carat, H color, SI1 clarity diamond, both of which are great choices that can easily be delivered to the UK from James Allen. 

This reader ended up going with the first diamond we recommended, giving them the stone they were looking for at a significantly lower price than what they’d pay from a UK-based jeweler.

If you’re looking for a similar diamond and would like expert help comparing your options (or just getting started with your search), feel free to contact us.

We help hundreds of readers find and purchase diamonds each month, and we’re happy to help you with every aspect of the process of buying an engagement ring, bracelet or other jewelry.

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.
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.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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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. 
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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