Princess cut diamond

Written by: Hagai Bichman

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Time to read 8 min

Tracing the Origins and Evolution of the Iconic Princess Diamond Cut

With its dramatic square silhouette beaming light from flat planes, the princess diamond cut brings a bold, contemporary look to fine jewelry. Though a staple in today's engagement rings and fashion collections, the princess cut only emerged in the late 1970s as an innovative new shape. Advancements in cutting techniques and consumer tastes propelled its rise to popularity.

Debut as Barion Cut in 1970s

The original princess cut diamond first appeared under the name “Barion cut” in the early 1960s. Cutting expert Basil Watermeyer leveraged new technology to craft diamonds with perfectly square outlines and sharp corner edges. While striking, early versions lost most incoming light through the pointed corners and sides. These first princess cuts remained niche.

Princess cut diamond Rebranded for 1980s Popularity

By the 1980s, improved optics gave princess cuts stronger brilliance to complement their style and edge. More jewelers promoted the inventive shape, now rebranded with its current feminine name, to fashionable working women of the era. The 1980s also ushered in an appetite for bold gold jewelry and statement gems perfect for showing off princess cuts.

Surge in Bridal Demand

Princess cuts surged further into the bridal scene the 1990s and 2000s thanks to celebrity engagements. Both Princess Diana in 1981 and Kate Middleton in 2010 received blue sapphire engagement rings, subconsciously priming public affinity for princess-shaped sparklers. Affordable pricing compared to rounds also attracted cash-strapped couples during the Great Recession.

Current Preference for Modified Designs

Today’s princess cuts strike a balance between durability and dazzle that early versions lacked. Many now feature rounded corners or indented sides to prevent chipping while maximizing brilliance. Mixing princess and baguette accent stones also remains on trend. Modern innovations elevated princess cuts as a bridal category leader.

Once an era-defining novelty, the princess diamond cut is now a timeless icon celebrated for its geometry and edge. Improving an original great idea through cutting expertise and better gem selection made today’s princess cuts sparkle.

loose princess diamond

Why Princess Cuts Require Precision Cutting and Protection

With their dramatic square silhouettes and sharp corners, princess cut diamonds dazzle from across the room. However, the angular geometry that lends such unique beauty also renders princess cuts more vulnerable to chipping if not expertly cut and protected. Avoiding damage requires skill in faceting, setting, and wearing for diamonds to maintain their edge.

Delicate Corners Risk Chipping

Unlike round or oval diamonds cushioned within circular bezels, princess cuts’ precisely squared corners jut outward, exposed on straight planes. This leaves microscopic vulnerabilities where facets join at right angles. Even subtle knocks risk causing concealed fractures inside corners unseen by the naked eye. Insecure prong setting exacerbates stresses.

Precision Cutting Minimizes Hidden Flaws

In the hands of master cutters, princesses better withstand mishandling. Talented faceters carefully polish seams smooth using high magnification to remove minute defects before setting. They also slightly round sharp corners to distribute impacts and add durability. Such intricate craftwork remains critical but time intensive, contributing to princess cuts’ higher pricing.

Protective Settings Shield Edges

Protecting delicate princess cut corners equally demands experienced jewelers. Tight 4- or 6-prong basket settings surround diamonds most securely. Shared-prong bands with rub over edges add buffering too. Bezels fully encircle princess cuts but dull sparkle. Textured bands also disguise faint nicks over time. More metal weighs down aesthetics and limits styling though.

When exquisitely cut and set, princess diamonds balance beauty with resilience. But the breathtaking geometry still deserves special care in wearing despite best efforts. Their dazzling splendor rewards those willing to mother such high-maintenance gems.

How Princess Diana and Other Celebrity Brides Made Princess Cuts Famous

While princess cut diamonds already attracted industry buzz in the 1980s for their contemporary style, celebrities put the innovative shape firmly on the consumer map in the 1990s and 2000s. High society weddings and splashy starlet engagement announcements propelled princess cut diamonds to wide public recognition and bridal demand.

Princess Diana's Sapphire Spurred Affinity

When Lady Diana Spencer debuted her eye-catching 12-carat oval blue sapphire engagement ring in 1981, its silhouette evoked associations with princess cuts. The ring soon became iconic as millions watched Diana's wedding to Prince Charles. Though accent stones, the ring's princess-evoking shape primed public affinity as princess cuts debuted.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis Flashed an Early Celebrity Princess Cut

Former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a worldwide style icon, helped set early precedent for princess cuts' high-fashion styling. Paparazzi captured Kennedy Onassis wearing a showy 40-carat marquise and princess cut diamond necklace to a 1975 gallery opening. The jaw dropping photos graced tabloid covers, serving big princess cut exposure.

1980s Television Dramas Celebrated Bold Jewelry

Primetime soaps like Dynasty and movies targeted at young professional women showcased over-the-top jewelry perfect for princess cuts' bold statement appeal. Their young, upwardly mobile characters unapologetically flashed chunky gold accessories and substantial gemstones. These entertainment fantasies cemented princess cuts as symbols for aspiration and arrival.

Engaged Celebs Sparked 2000-2010 Princess Cut Craze

Finally, a wave of Generation X celebrity engagements in the early 2000s sealed princess diamonds' mass appeal. Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Victoria Beckham all donned princess cut center stones. And America’s collective sweetheart Jennifer Aniston sported princess cut side stones flanking her engagement ring's emerald center diamond. Affordable yet substantial looking, princess cut diamonds signaled relatable luxury.

While inherently regal in name and geometry, princess cut diamonds relied on celebrity trendsetters to achieve their now broad recognition. Adoption by entertainment icons made the cutting style accessible for mainstream jewelry lovers.

princess diamond ring

Protective Settings that Safeguard Princess Cut Diamonds' Vulnerable Corners

The straight lines and sharp corners that give princess cut diamonds their captivating sparkle also render them more prone to chipping if not securely set. Protecting the integrity of delicate corners and facet junctions demands experienced jewelry design and metalsmithing. Certain settings better shield edges from wear than others.

Prongs That Cradle Rather Than Grip

Rather than gastrop their corners, prong settings work best when carefully cradling princess cuts almost flush to metal behind crowns. This prevents the diamond from torqueing within the setting under blows or snags. Prongs should also overlap crown corners to shield points. Added prongs increase this shielding even if they mute light entry.

Bezels Offer Encircling Protection

For maximum protection, channel-set bands or fully bezel-set solitaires encapsulate the princess diamond's perimeter in metal. The seamless rim acts as bumper absorbing side impacts. While secure, bezels interfere with light returning to viewers’ eyes, reducing brilliance. Wearers prioritizing durability over flash may accept this trade-off.

Rubbed Setting Blends Strength With Beauty

Shared prong settings offer an aesthetically pleasing compromise, with bands crafted from a single frame rubbing over the diamond’s girdle edge. The metal lip adds durability without excess visual clutter while leaving crowns completely open to disperse incoming rays. These seamless bands beautifully integrate with princess solitaires.

Textured Bands and Surrounds Divert Notice

Hammered, twisted or etched wedding bands likewise downplay faint princess diamond nicks better over time. Their shadows and reflectivity offer camouflage along shank lines where claws grasp corners. Contrasting colors or gem accents on bands also divert scrutiny of diamonds themselves.

With mindful, strategic design selections, jewelers can strikingly feature princess cuts’ beauty while mitigating their natural fragility. Prioritizing security over flash helps ensure they withstand lifetimes of everyday wear and tear.

Contrasting the Optical Light Performance of Princess Cuts vs. Brilliant Cuts

With their dramatic square outline and gleaming facets beaming contrast, princess cut diamonds dazzle in their own unconventional way. But their flattened crown and pavilion geometry interacts with light physics distinctly differently than traditional round or square brilliant cuts. Each offers varying visual appeal.

Brilliant Cuts Refract Most Incoming Light

Round, oval and cushion brilliant cuts contain descended pavilions below girdles with angled facets carefully calibrated to refract incoming rays down to viewers’ eyes. Their kite-shaped facets also scatter some light internally to fuel sparkle. In aggregate, brilliant cuts return the highest percentages of light entering stones to amplify fire and brilliance.

Princess Cuts Rely on Reflection From Flat Planes

The princess cut’s straight, crisply delineated planes instead rely almost solely on reflection to throw flashes of incoming light directly into wearers’ sightlines. Perpendicular facets and sharper angles limit the refractive bending of rays into the stone’s belly characteristic of brilliants. More incoming rays bounce cleanly off outside surfaces instead.

Princess Cuts Project More Direct Beamed Light

The princess cut’s skipped pavilion produces a hall-of-mirrors effect distributing incoming rays evenly back from elongated facets on the crown. This creates almost laser-like light beams projecting straight outward. Without significant refraction though, scintillation proves less dynamic during movement.

Choice Depends on Preference for Sparkle vs. Contrast

Brilliant cuts like rounds and cushions scintillate intensely with colorful sparkle from all angles. The princess cut instead trades maximum brilliance for high-contrast flashes of distinct light patterns visible even in dimmer conditions. Choosing between the two comes down to personal taste priorities around movement, projection or dimensionality.

With their stair-step planes ever so precisely aligned, princess cut diamonds put on a dazzling light show sui generis. While unlike traditional brilliants optically, their geometric elegance beguiles in its own right.

Quality Factors That Most Influence Princess Cut Diamond Value

More than other diamond shapes, variations in cut quality and facet precision dramatically impact princess cut sparkle and value. Far more than size or clarity inclusions, expertly aligning straight lines and crisp corner defines an exceptional princess diamond. Subtly inferior optics though can greatly diminish light return.

Precisely Squared Outlines

Uniform length and perfect 90-degree angles along a princess diamond’s perimeter determine excellence to the naked eye. The slightest rounding or asymmetry under magnification jumps out and signals sloppy cutting. Variances as minute as two degrees off right angles or edges 2% unequal length degrade optical symmetry.

Crisply Joined Facet Junctions

Smooth, flush seam lines where crown and pavilion facets adjoin also qualify fine princess cuts. The slightest ridges or irregular steps scatter incoming rays rather than reflecting evenly. Surface precision commands up to 3x premiums for ideal princess makes over poorer performing examples in auction market data.

Corner Parallelism and Tip Sharpness

Consistent angles and straightness where crown facets join at corner points also contributes to brilliance uniformity. Any variance in parallelism or blunting through overly rounded tips mutes contrast. Like scorers in athletic sports, judges deduct points for the slightest corner roughness or skewing under 10x magnification.

Table Centering and Placement

Finally, a precisely centered, symmetrically framed table proves vital for balanced light return to the viewer’s eye. Shifting off center or uneven bezel facets surrounding the table introduce dark areas in sparkle pattern. Slight table / bezel imbalances can cut princess diamond prices 20% or more.

Far more than clarity, masterful execution of precision linear optics differentiates the finest princess cut diamonds. Minor human errors have outsized impact on their exceptionally clean geometries and high contrast flashes. Only 1 in 10,000 achieves ideal standards.