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The cut of a diamond — its roundness, its depth and width, the uniformity of the facets — all determine a diamond's brilliance. Many gemologists consider cut the most important diamond characteristic because even if a diamond has perfect color and clarity, a diamond with a poor cut will have dulled brilliance.

The width and depth have the greatest effect on how light travels within the diamond, and how it exits in the form of brilliance.

Too Shallow: Light is lost out the bottom causing the diamond to lose brilliance.

Too Deep: Light escapes out the sides causing the diamond to appear dark and dull.

The diamond's proportions, specifically the depth compared to the diameter, and the diameter of the table compared to the diameter of the diamond, determine how well light will reflect and refract within the diamond.

diamond anatomy

Diameter: The width of the diamond as measured through the girdle.
Table: The largest facet of a gemstone.
Crown: The top portion of a diamond extending from the girdle to the table.
Girdle: The narrow band around the widest part of a diamond.
Pavilion: The bottom portion of a diamond, extending from the girdle to the culet.
Culet: The facet at the tip of a gemstone. The preferred culet is not visible with the unaided eye (graded "small" or "none").
Depth: The height of a gemstone measured from the culet to the table.

Polish and symmetry are two important aspects of the cutting process. The polish grade describes the smoothness of the diamond's facets, and the symmetry grade refers to alignment of the facets. With poor polish, the surface of a facet can be dulled, and may create blurred or dulled sparkle. With poor symmetry, light can be misdirected as it enters and exits the diamond. The polish and symmetry grades are clearly listed in each diamond detail page and within the AGSL or GIA diamond grading report. For the most beautiful diamond, look for a symmetry grade of ideal (ID), excellent (EX), very good (VG), or good (G) for an AGSL graded diamond, and excellent (EX), very good (VG), or good (G) for a GIA graded diamond. Avoid diamonds with symmetry grades of fair (F) or poor (P), as the alignment of their facets may misdirect light so severely that it affects the brilliance of the diamond.

Diamond measurements are calculated and applied to a cut grading scale that makes it easy to understand how well each reflect light:

  • For the best value in a brilliant diamond, choose a diamond with a cut grade of good or very good, and polish and symmetry grades of very good or good.

  • In an ideal- or very-good cut diamond with very good or good polish and symmetry, consider less expensive grades of color and clarity — look for a diamond with G or H color and SI1 or SI2 clarity.