A Complete Guide to Cushion-Shape Diamonds

A Complete Guide to Cushion-Shape Diamonds

When celebrities like Kim Kardashian start sporting cushion cut diamonds on their engagement rings, then you know they’ve well and truly hit the mainstream. The past decade has seen this antique romantic cut diamond gain a legion of new fans amongst jewellery aficionados; and a great part of that appeal lays in the staggering amount of variety you’ll find within the cushion shape.

What Is A Cushion Cut Diamond?

Cushion diamonds combine elements of modern round brilliant and old mine cut diamonds; the resulting shape is a squarish diamond with softer, rounded corners; similar to a pillow (which explains the name).

The shape was first pioneered in the 19th century, and was initially referred to as a candlelit cut diamond. Over the years advancements in machining tools, and cut research initiated by the likes of Marcel Tolkowsky; have seen refinements to the traditional cushion cut, with improved cut angles and larger tables allowing for better light dispersion in these diamonds. However, even in its most modern iterations the cushion cut diamond retains an antique appeal, highly valued by buyers today.

Standard vs. Modified Cushion Brilliant

Modern cushion cut diamonds appear in two recognizable styles. The standard cut has larger facets similar in arrangement to round brilliant cut diamonds. These extend out from the centre to the edges of the diamond, in a star-like pattern. Because of this clearly defined facet patter, the standard cushion cut is sometimes referred to as a “chunky” cushion.

Modified cushions have an extra layer of facets lining the edge of the diamond shape, these facets act as a barrier between the central extending pattern and the outer perimeter of the diamond (girdle); this creates a more flower-like appearance. Modified cushions are known for their peerless sparkle, often described as a “crushed ice” quality by jewellers. However the more traditional chunky cut stones are still far more widely preferred.

What to Look for in a Cushion Cut Diamond

Because of the diversity of cushion cuts available, often decisions on colour, clarity and cut are left to personal preferences. However there are some basic guidelines you can follow if you’re looking to get a diamond of the best quality.


As a rule cushions and other radiants retain colour much better than their round cut counterparts. This means you should either opt for a yellow gold, or brass setting to offset the natural colour of the stone; or you should do as most experts recommend, and opt for a diamond of at least colour grade H, or better.


If you’re looking for a cushion-cut that’s eye-clean then you generally have to look at diamonds that are SI1, or above. Because of the larger table of these shapes, it’s harder to find an eye-clean cushion-cut at lower clarities. Be sure to note whether you’re looking at a modified or standard cushion-cut as those diamonds that have a “Crushed ice” appearance, generally hide inclusions better than standard equivalents


Look for well-proportioned diamond with depth and table under 70%, these should have a cut grade of at least Very Good, and a polish and symmetry rated at Excellent. While cushion cut diamonds are not quite as brilliant as round brilliants, they are renowned for their peerless fire. The prismatic effect created as the light plays across the stone’s surface can often make these diamonds appear larger than they really are.