The Diamond Pro

Princess Cut Diamond: Cut Quality & Engagement Ring Settings

By Michael Fried
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What is a Princess Cut Diamond?

A Princess Cut diamond is traditionally a square diamond that offers excellent fire and brilliance. This fancy shape diamond is designed from the inverted pyramid of the rough diamond stone. Princess Cuts are among the most brilliant of all diamond shapes and are a popular choice for engagement rings.

The Princess Cut – Modern Cut Gaining in Popularity

According to Wikipedia’s article on Diamond Cut, the modern Princess Cut was first introduced in 1960 by A. Nagy of London.

Princess-Cut-Top-Side-Small

The Princess Cut is universally regarded as the runner-up to the Round Brilliant in today’s market.  According to the chart from Jogia Diamonds’ blog that I refer to in my article about Diamond Shapes, a full 23% of searches on their site are for Princess Cuts.

That’s still a far cry from the 64% for Round Brilliants, but consider that the second runner up was the Emerald Cut with only 3% of searches.  The Princess Cut is squarely in 2nd place.

A Diamond Manufacturers Dream

diamond-rough

As I mention in my article about Diamond Shapes, the Princess Cut is a favorite of diamond cutters for one very important reason — its yield from rough.  Take a look at the picture on the left.

Now imagine cutting that piece of rough in two down the middle.  What you’d be left with, basically, are two princess cuts!  All that’s left to do is add some structure to the top of the stone and some brilliant faceting.

Now imagine just how much diamond material you would lose if you were to cut a Round Brilliant out of that piece of rough.  The difference is quite stark.

Why Princess Cut Diamonds Are Cheaper

A Round Brilliant will yield usually around 40% (meaning a sawed 1 carat piece of rough will yield a 0.40ct polished round diamond) while a Princess Cut will yield in the 80%-90% range!  This is the primary reason why all else being equal, a Princess Cut is cheaper than a round diamond.

Another outgrowth of this phenomenon is that since Princess Cuts are only made from rough diamond crystals that are very high quality and very well-formed, that usually correlates with cleaner rough as well.

Clarity Grades

This selection of clarity grades on Princess Cut Diamonds is notably skewed to the high end.  You will never find a large selection of SI2 and I1 Princess Cuts.

In fact, this always caused a problem for my former employer, Leo Schachter, since they were supplying major Princess Cut programs to the major retail chains.  It was always a problem to meet SI2 and I1 Princess Cut demand.

On the flip side, the fact that they have larger tables means that its more likely an SI clarity diamond will not be eye-clean as you can see with this diamond. There is a higher chance that it will be visible if you look straight down into the diamond (the common way people look at a diamond once its mounted in a ring).

Eye-Cleanliness is Paramount

In our opinion, a consumer’s goal should be to find the cheapest (in regards to clarity; other factors matter as well) “eye-clean” diamond you can find. We use “eye-clean” to describe diamonds that may have inclusions if you look at them with a magnifying glass (or microscope or loupe), but the typical person can’t see the inclusion with their naked eye.

We have recently developed Ringo, a patented artificial intelligence model, that can examine videos of diamonds and determine if they are eye-clean. Ringo will also filter for other parameters like making sure the diamond is well-cut, doesn’t have fluorescence issues and will match the style setting you choose. 

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Buying the Best Diamond for a Princess Cut Engagement Ring

Now that you’re more familiar with the background of the Princess Cut, let’s get right to the information that’s pertinent to the consumer.

Before you dive into it, check out the size differences between the different carat weights compared to a US quarter.

size differences between carat weight of princess cut

Color

When it comes to Color, you need to be a little more careful with a Princess Cut diamond than you would with a Round Brilliant.  Since both are brilliant cuts, they both succeed in chopping up the light so the true color of the rough material is harder to perceive.

But since the light return on the Round Brilliant is superior, it is also better at keeping the true color of your diamond a secret.  Because of this, I recommend when buying a Princess Cut diamond that you either pick an H or I Color diamond for the best value.

As you can see from this stunning diamond, an I color can look perfectly clear in a princess cut, so long as the proportions are fine and its eye-clean.

Things to Consider

You can go higher than H, but I, personally, don’t believe the incremental whiteness you’ll gain is worth the incremental price you’ll have to pay.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is if you are buying your diamond to have it set in an engagement ring, then you need to make sure the color of your center stone matches the color of the accent diamonds. Unless you’re choosing a yellow gold or rose gold setting, I don’t recommend J color with Princess Cuts because they retain color slightly more than round brilliants.

You can go through recently purchased rings from our highest rated retailers to see some examples.

Clarity

Regarding Clarity, a Princess Cut is likewise similar to the Round Brilliant in that it’s a decent hider of inclusions.  One thing you need to remember with Princess Cuts, though, is that there are serious issues of durability.

Since Princess Cuts have four sharp corners, they are prone to chipping (and you thought Diamonds Were Forever!). If an inclusion is in one of the four corners of the diamond, that will greatly increase the chances of the diamond chipping.

If you’re buying the diamond already set in a ring, this is less of an issue unless you think that you might want to have the stone reset in a new ring in the future.

Recommended Clarity for Princess Cuts

With Round Brilliant Cuts, I recommend buying SI2s or even I1s that are confirmed to be eye-clean.  With Princess Cuts, though, it’s a bit harder to do since they are so few and far between.

So, with Princess Cuts, I recommend buying VS2 or SI1 clarity diamonds that are confirmed to be eye-clean (you can do this with a tool such as James Allen’s Virtual Loupe). SI2 and I1 clarity Princess Cut diamonds are in very short supply due to the high quality of diamond rough that Princess Cut diamonds are cut from, but if you can find an eye-clean one, it would offer you incredible value. 

VS1, VVS2, VVS1, and Internally Flawless (IF, or FL) are great, but why spend more money if they look the same as VS2 or SI1?

Cut Quality

Perhaps the trickiest part of buying the best stone for a Princess Cut Diamond Ring is cut quality.  With Rounds, it’s easy.  GIA tells you their opinion, and you can trust it.

With Princess Cuts, though, you’re pretty much on your own.  GIA will only grade Polish and Symmetry on a Princess Cut diamond.  Unlike Rounds, there’s really no industry-wide consensus on what parameters make up the perfect Princess Cut.

There is good reason for this, of course.  As I mentioned earlier, the whole genesis of this cut sprang from a desire to minimize diamond loss on the polishing wheel.  As opposed to premium cut Round Diamonds, Princess Cuts are cut to fit the shape of the rough, and not the reverse.

Diamond Rough

So if a piece of diamond rough happens to be shaped like a well proportioned Princess Cut diamond, then it will, by chance, end up as one. But if a piece of diamond rough happens to be shaped like a very deep and not well proportioned Princess Cut, then it will, unfortunately, likewise end up as one.

Diamond cutters don’t want to be forced to adhere to one specific standard of Princess Cut diamonds precisely because of this.  They need the flexibility to be able to adapt their polished diamond to the rough diamond.

Total Depth Recommendation

Look for a Total Depth between 65% and 75%.  Generally, lower is better.  I prefer stones in the 68% to 73% range.  They seem to give the best balance of brilliance to size.

For Table Percentage, I recommend staying under 75%.  In general, there are two schools of thought regarding Princess Cut table sizes.

If you’re going to focus on small table princess cuts, then these generally look better with depth percentages in the 74-77% range.

Tables and Depth Size Schools of Thought

One camp swears by small tables (68% and below) while others claim it really doesn’t matter, so they just go with what the rough naturally produces – slightly larger tables in the 73%-78% range to go along with depths creeping into the 76/77% range.

Small tables are the serious minority in the industry, so just be aware that if that is your taste, you might have a harder time finding a diamond.

If you are interested in some fantastic alternatives to our traditional princess cut recommendations, great options would be to check out Brian Gavin’s Signature Princess cuts, or Blue Nile’s Astor Princess Cuts.

Overall Cut Parameter Recommendations for Princess Cut Diamonds:

  • Depth: 68% to 75% (under 70% is very hard to find)
  • Table: Below 75% (There are two schools of thought on this, the Small Table school and the Normal Table School.  Try and look at both – below 68% table and above 70% table and see what you prefer.  Just one note – small tables are much harder to find)
  • Polish/Symmetry: Good, Very Good, or Excellent
  • Length/Width Ratio: 1.00 to 1.05 for Square Princess Cut

Best Setting for Princess Cut Diamond Ring

The best ring settings for Princess diamond rings are the channel and four-prong settings—such as a solitaire or three-stone ring. With a Princess Cut’s pointed edges, it’s important to ensure the corners don’t get chipped or damaged. A channel set or four-prong offers protection without masking the diamond’s beauty. 

Because Princess Cuts are quite versatile, there are several stunning setting options. Here’s the full list of the best settings for Princess Cut diamond rings.

Solitaire

A solitaire setting allows the Princess Cut to take center stage and the maximum light to enter. This classic solitaire is a prime example of a Princess Cut engagement ring that makes a statement.

Channel Set

A channel setting offers security to Princess Cuts. This thin gold channel set engagement ring is a beautiful choice, as well as this 1/4 carat channel engagement ring

Halo

Halo engagement rings feature smaller diamonds that surround the center stone, making it appear even larger. Here is a 1 carat princess cut halo ring in platinum and a more delicate style can be seen in this rose gold princess cut halo ring

Vintage 

Antique style rings have more ornate, unique features, like this regal frame Princess Cut ring from James Allen or this milgrain ring from Blue Nile.

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Shop for princess cut diamond engagement rings here.

Frequently Asked Questions about Princess Cut Diamond Rings

Princess Cut diamond rings are some of the most popular engagement rings. Here, our experts answer the most common questions. 

Are Princess Cut diamonds more expensive?

Princess Cuts are less expensive than Round Brilliant diamonds and many other diamond shapes because most of the rough stone is maintained in the cutting process. The Princess Cut is the second most popular diamond shape yet is affordable and offers an exceptional amount of brilliance. 

For example, this 1.01 carat, I color, VS1, ideal princess diamond is priced at $2,970. Based on cost per carat, this diamond is approximately 40% more affordable than a similar round cut diamond.

Do Princess Cut diamonds sparkle?

Princess Cut diamonds provide a high level of brilliance, which means there’s plenty of white light reflection or “sparkle.” Princess Cuts offer some of the most brilliance of any diamond shape due to the way they’re cut from the rough stone. For example, if you look at the 360° view of this princess cut diamond ring, you can see the level of brilliance or sparkle it offers. 

Do Princess Cut diamonds look bigger?

Princess Cuts tend to look slightly smaller than other diamonds of a similar carat weight because of their square length-to-width ratio. A Princess Cut has a smaller diameter and surface area. 

Are Princess Cut Diamonds cheaper than Round Cut Diamonds?

Yes, Princess Cut diamonds are cheaper than Round Cut diamonds with similar characteristics. Because more of the original stone is retained in Princess Cuts, the cost is significantly lower. For instance, this 1 Carat, I Color, VS1 clarity Princess Cut costs $2,970 while this similar Round Cut stone costs $4,400. However, keep in mind that the princess cut is much smaller (5.44*5.42mm) than the round (6.40*6.35).

How much is a 1 carat Princess Cut diamond?

A 1 Carat Princess Cut diamond with I color, VS2 clarity, and an Ideal Cut costs $3,500 on average. If you choose a 1 Carat Princess Cut with I color, SI1 clarity, and an Ideal Cut, the average cost is close to $3,000. Like any diamond, the price of a 1 carat diamond depends on the Cut quality, Color, and Clarity grades. 

How much is a 2 carat Princess Cut diamond? 

A 2 Carat Princess Cut diamond with I color, SI1 clarity, and an Ideal Cut costs $11,200 on average. The price of 2 carat diamonds depends on the Color, Cut quality, and Clarity grades.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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