Types of Diamonds
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Diamonds: Shape of Things 
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Diamonds - Shape of Things

When you are asked to picture a diamond in your mind, what does it look like? If you're like the great majority of people, you will envision a round, brilliant gem covered with sparkling facets. But be aware that while the round brilliant is far and away the most popular diamond shape, it is by no means the only one!

In addition to the round brilliant cut, you can choose a pear, oval, emerald-cut, marquise, princess or heart-shaped stone. All have the same fiery sparkle, but each is shaped and faceted in a different way.

Ideally, a diamond is formed in the earth as a twelve-sided, octahedron crystal, but because they are found in nature, diamond crystal formations will differ from stone to stone. The final shape of a diamond will be determined by the shape of the rough crystal. The cutter's goal is to produce a diamond with the greatest size, minimum flaws and maximum brilliance.

The Kindest Cut The round brilliant cut, which accounts for more than 75% of all the diamonds sold today, is based on an exact formula of mathematical proportions: It has 58 facets divided among the crown (top), the girdle (widest part) and the pavilion (base) of the stone. This precise formula was developed more than 75 years ago by master gem cutter Marcel Tolkowsky. The 58-facet cut, believed to provide the most fire, brilliance and beauty, has become a standard for all diamond cutting since its introduction.

Other popular diamond shapes, such as ovals, marquises and pears, are actually variations on the brilliant cut. Most often, they are used for rough stones that are not suited to a round shape. All are cut for maximum fire and brilliance, but the shapes of the facets will differ for each cut.

Specifically, the oval is an elliptical shape with 56 facets. When buying an oval-shaped diamond, look for a stone with an even, perfectly symmetrical design. The elegant marquise cut, according to legend, got its name from the Marquise de Pompadour's smile. It seems the Sun King was so enamoured with the shape of the Marquise's mouth, he ordered a diamond to be cut in that form. The elongated shape, with its pointed ends, looks beautiful as either a solitaire or embellished with smaller diamonds at the sides. The pear, actually a combination of the oval and the marquise, is shaped like a sparkling teardrop. While a pear shape diamond can be styled into a beautiful ring, it is most often chosen for a pendant or earrings.

Show Your Hand
Any of these shapes are a good choice for a woman who likes a classic look but wants something a little less traditional than the round brilliant. Oval, marquise and pear shapes are also popular styles for a woman with a small hand or short fingers, because the diamond's elongated shape will give her hand the illusion of length. Many times, designers will advise choosing a ring with a vertical or diagonal design that will be most flattering to a hand with short or average-length fingers.

For the true romantic, however, nothing could be more perfect than a heart shape, signifying love and romance. This cut is simply a pear shape with a cleft at the top. Heart-shaped cuts differ according to the skill of the cutter. Look for a stone with an even shape and a well-defined outline.

For emerald and princess-cut stones, the diamond is given what is known as a step cut. The emerald cut, a rectangular shape with cut corners, has broad, flat planes resembling the steps of a stair. When buying an emerald-cut diamond, look for a stone with good clarity and color, as inclusions and poor color are more evident in this shape.

The princess cut, a square with many sparkling facets, is one of the newest choices for a solitaire engagement ring, and is especially flattering to a hand with long fingers. Many times, a ring with a princess-cut center stone will be embellished with triangular stones at the sides.

Taking Your Fancy
Finally, for those who want something really different, recent advances in cutting technology have produced a breathtaking range of innovative new shapes such as flowers, cloverleafs, stars, triangles, kites and all manner of fancies. Some of the new designs are variations on standard shapes, aimed at creating the illusion of a bigger, more perfect stone, others play with the natural rough crystal formation of a diamond and still others are fashioned into a revolutionary new shape.

The important fact to remember is this ever-widening choice of shapes and designs is being created to suit a variety of individual styles and tastes. No one cut is more beautiful than another. The magic of nature and the artistry of the diamond cutter combine to make each diamond a unique work of art.