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Ask a Diamond Pro: Princess Cut Diamond & French Pavé for Under $2,500

By Mike Fried,

We often receive emails from readers interested in fancy shape diamonds, such as the princess cut. These diamonds offer greater affordability than the round brilliant cut and often have unique features that set them apart from the crowd.

Recently, a reader contacted us to ask for help choosing a beautiful princess cut diamond with a budget of just over $1,000. They were looking to set the diamond in a French pavé engagement ring and wanted to make sure they chose a high-quality center diamond. 

Here’s an abridged version of the reader’s original emails:

“I have a couple of questions. I am a first-time diamond buyer so please bear with me.

1. Firstly, which online vendor do you recommend? 

2. Why do diamonds with the same specs have different prices? 

I am looking for a diamond for this ring: 18K WHITE GOLD 0.32CT FRENCH CUT PAVE DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING.

What do you think about this one? 


I ordered it yesterday and I have time to cancel it as per their policy. Please confirm if this is ok in your opinion. If you can recommend something from their website it would be great… Budget is around $1400 CAD for the diamond.”

A princess cut diamond can look absolutely gorgeous in a pavé setting, but this reader’s choice of diamond isn’t ideal. It has medium fluorescence and a very high color grade, meaning it might look overly hazy. 

To avoid this problem, we recommended that the reader switch the diamond to this 0.52 carat, H color, VVS2 clarity princess cut stone, which has a lower color grade but no fluorescence.

This email presents a great opportunity to talk about a popular topic: choosing the right princess cut diamond and pavé setting with a total budget of $2,500. 

What to Look For in a Princess Cut Diamond

The princess cut is one of the most consistently popular fancy diamond shapes, and for lots of good reasons. Not only does it offer excellent fire and brilliance, but it’s slightly more affordable on a per carat basis than the round brilliant cut

The main reason for this is that the princess cut is less wasteful to produce, as a larger amount of the original rough diamond can be maintained throughout the cutting process.

In addition to its financial advantages, the princess cut has a timeless, elegant shape. Trends in engagement rings come and go, but a princess cut diamond and a pavé setting will always look elegant and attract attention for all the right reasons. 

It’s for these reasons, among many more, that the princess cut is consistently one of the most popular diamond shapes. As the GIA explains, in a display case full of diamonds in the round brilliant or emerald cut, “the princess cut can stand out as something different…beautiful…unusual.”

So, assuming you have a budget around $2,500 to spend on an engagement ring and you like the princess cut, what should you look for in this type of diamond?

Princess cut diamond rings varientions

Like with other diamonds, it’s important to aim for a balance of the diamond 4 Cs when you’re looking for a princess cut diamond. Of these, the factor that will have the greatest impact on a princess cut diamond’s appearance is its cut quality.

Assessing a princess cut diamond’s cut quality can be a little tricky, especially when compared to the round brilliant cut.

With a round brilliant cut diamond, everything you really need to look for is provided in the GIA or AGS cut grade. For the most part, the process involves finding a diamond with an Excellent or Ideal cut, then checking for certain secondary characteristics.

With a princess cut diamond, the GIA only provides polish and symmetry grades, meaning you are left largely on your own to find a well cut diamond.

A GIA certificate example for a princess cut diamond
An example of a GIA certificate for a princess cut diamond

In general, we recommend looking for a princess cut diamond that has a total depth of between 68 and 74 percent. Diamonds in this range generally offer the best balance of physical size and brilliance. 

If you’re struggling to find a diamond in this depth range, it’s okay to loosen your parameters to between 65 and 75 percent. 

The diamond’s table should be 75 percent or less of its total width, and its polish and symmetry grades should be either Good, Very Good or Excellent. To look square, a princess cut diamond should ideally have a length/width ratio of 1.00 to 1.04. 

While these parameters can seem intimidating, it’s relatively easy to filter your search for loose princess cut diamonds that match them using the search tools provided by online vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile.

As one of the most brilliant diamond shapes, the princess cut is very good at hiding inclusions and color. We recommend sticking to the SI1 to VS2 clarity range, then checking diamonds for visible inclusions and eye-clean clarity using the 360°, high-resolution photos provided online. 

Pro Tip: Be aware of any inlcuison in its coreners. Because the corenrs are sharp and pointy, any type of an imperfection can make a princess cut more prone to chipping when it hits something.

For color, the H to I range will usually provide a diamond that appears colorless in relation to its setting. Going above an H color grade generally doesn’t provide any significant improvement in whiteness, at least not in comparison to the added cost. 

Because of the princess cut’s popularity, finding a diamond with the parameters above typically isn’t that much of a challenge.

french pave setting with a princess cut diamond
A French pavé setting with a princess cut center diamond (photo: James Allen)

For example, this 0.56 carat, I color, VS1 clarity princess cut diamond from James Allen is available for just over $930, leaving approximately $1,500 to choose a setting, assuming the ceiling of your budget is $2,500.

If you’re aiming to spend a little more, but still less than $3,000 in total, this 0.60 carat, H color, VVS2 clarity princess cut diamond from James Allen is also an excellent choice at $1,490. 

Both of these diamonds can look stunning in this French pavé setting, as the reader suggested, with the first offering an attractive engagement ring for $2,320 and the second for just under $2,900. 

Our Recommendation

A princess cut diamond is a timeless, elegant option that can be a great alternative to the more common (and slightly more expensive) round brilliant cut. 

Choosing a princess cut diamond can seem intimidating at first. However, once you’re aware of what to look for, narrowing down your options from a vendor like Blue Nile or James Allen isn’t too much of a challenge. 

For the best combination of quality and value for money, use our recommended parameters of a depth from 68 to 74 percent, a table of 75 percent or less, a length/width ratio between 1.00 and 1.04, and polish and symmetry grades of either Good, Very Good or Excellent.

Paired with a clarity grade in the SI1 to VS2 range and a color grade of H or I, these parameters can give you a gorgeous princess cut diamond that allows you to put as much of your budget as possible towards carat weight. 

If you need help choosing a princess cut diamond, or with any other diamond-related question, feel free to contact us. We help hundreds of readers purchase diamond engagement rings and other diamond jewelry every month, and our team of diamond experts is happy to help you.

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.Save 25% on settings at Blue Nile!

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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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