Last updated on February 27, 2023
The name of gemstone cut usually describes both the face-up appearance and the arrangement of facets, also known as gemstone cutting styles. Cut and shape combinations are endless and not always easy to identify; however, all cutting styles have specific characteristics that help recognize them.
What Are Gemstone Cutting Styles?
The term “gemstone cutting styles” refers to the arrangement of a gem’s facets. There are three basic cutting styles – brilliant, step and mixed, which can be applied to any shape. Each gemstone cutting style has specific characteristics, which enhance certain properties in a stone. For example, the term “round brilliant cut” means that the gemstone has a round shape and a brilliant facet arrangement, which is designed to maximise its optical performance.
The art of gemstone faceting traces back to 14th century Europe when lapidaries fully realised the potential of gemstones to reflect and refract light. That is when they started to employ precise geometry in the development of various facet arrangements. Nowadays, lapidaries combine different cutting styles to create various gemstone designs.
Basic Gemstone Cutting Styles
The basic gemstone cutting styles are brilliant, step and mixed cuts.
The brilliant is probably the most popular cutting style applied to both diamonds and coloured gemstones. It features triangular and kite-shaped facets of various sizes both on the crown and the pavilion of the gemstone. The brilliant cut is designed to optimise a stone’s optical performance and maximise its fire, brilliance and scintillation. Examples of brilliant cuts include round brilliant and oval brilliant cuts.
The step cut, also known as trap cut, is another popular cutting style mostly applied to coloured gemstones such as emeralds and tourmaline. It features a series of four-sided facets parallel to the girdle both on the crown and pavilion of the stone. The facets are usually long and narrow unless they are placed at the corners of the stone. The step cutting style is designed to enhance a gemstone’s colour and clarity, especially if the material is not deeply coloured. Examples of step cuts include emerald, Asscher and baguette cuts.
The mixed cut combines both the brilliant cut and step cut styles. It features brilliant facets on the crown and step facets on the pavilion of the stone or vice versa. An example of the mixed cutting style is the cut-cornered rectangular mixed cut, which features step cut facet arrangement on the crown and brilliant cut facets on the pavilion. This technique is usually applied to coloured stones to break up the entering light into another pattern and evening out the overall colour of the gem.
Unique and Non-Faceted Cutting Styles
In addition to the basic cutting techniques, there are also unique cutting styles which include the rose cut. The rose is a popular cutting style usually applied to diamonds. It features a round shape with a unique facet arrangement. This style does not have a pavilion and features a wide, flat bottom instead. The crown has a dome shape formed by triangular or diamond-shaped facets.
The non-faceted cutting styles include bead and cabochon and are mostly applied to coloured gemstones.
The bread cut usually features a ball shape of various sizes; however, it can come in a variety of shapes. This technique is applied to both transparent and opaque material and is often pierced for stringing or threading.
The cabochon, also known as the cab, is a popular cutting style used on more opaque gemstones to display visual effects or on softer material. The two types of cabochons are simple and double. The simple cabochon features a rounded top and flat bottom, while the double cabochon has both a rounded top and bottom. Cabochons traditionally feature an oval shape; however, round cabochons are also somewhat popular. The cabochon cut is used to enhance the play of colour, chatoyancy and asterism.
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