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Bottom Line Recommendation:
Going higher in diamond color (to D, E, F, or G Diamond Color) will give you an incremental benefit, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the incremental price.
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. If you can find one, and verify that it’s clean to the eye (with, for example, James Allen’s Diamond Display Technology), then that’s even better.
VS1, VVS2, VVS1, and Internally Flawless (IF, or FL) are great, but why spend more money if they all look the same (clean)?
According to Wikipedia’s article on Diamond Cut, the modern Princess Cut was first introduced in 1960 by A. Nagy of London.
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.
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.
So the 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).
Now that you’re more familiar with the background of the Princess Cut, lets get right to the information that’s pertinent to the consumer.
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.
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.
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 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).
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’s 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.
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
As I mentioned earlier in the Bottom Line 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%. As I alluded to in the introduction, 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.
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