A Guide to Marquise Cut Diamonds

One of the most distinctive and iconic of all diamond shapes is the marquise (pronounced mar-keez). Marquise cut diamonds have enjoyed considerable popularity over time, but as with any unusual shape, market trends oscillate. Other fancy shapes today have grabbed more of the spotlight and market share, and marquise cut diamonds currently take a back seat to shapes like princess cut, cushion, oval, emerald cut and Asscher. But it is certainly reasonable to expect that the marquise cut will one day soon see a resurgence in popularity. It is one of the most eye-catching of all diamond shapes.

The emergence of lab grown diamonds has created more interest in a range of fancy shapes, marquise cut included.  And while this article is primarily based on natural diamonds, most of the information below also applies lab grown marquise cut diamonds. 
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What is a Marquise Cut Diamond?

The marquise is essentially a very elongated oval with points on each end. It features a brilliant style facet arrangement that, when properly crafted, produces a sleek and scintillating gem which turns heads and demands attention.
Marquise Diamond
Marquise Diamond Facets
Actual photo and facet diagram of a marquise cut diamond
A brilliant style facet design is characterized by vertical facets on the pavilion that extend from the girdle and converge into a culet. A well-crafted marquise cut will have outstanding brightness and plenty of sparkle. But cutting faults can have pronounced negative effects on fancy shapes resulting in light leakage, unattractive bow tie effect, or other deficits that detract from overall performance and visual appeal. Cut quality is always critical to diamond beauty, but can be more obvious in fancy shapes such as the marquise cut when lacking in execution.

Light Performance of Marquise Cut

While shape and outline are basic aspects of eye appeal in diamonds, actual light performance is where the real beauty of a diamond is generated. And the most important factor in determining the optics of a diamond is Cut Quality. Unfortunately, this is also the most challenging aspect for consumers to assess given that a GIA report on fancy shape diamonds (non-round) does not contain an overall cut grade. And for that matter, a GIA report contains limited actionable information that might reveal the level of light performance to expect from a given diamond under consideration. Consumers are then left to rely on their merchant and their own untrained eye to make this determination.
This is the reason why advanced imaging is highly recommended. ASET images in particular, and Ideal Scope images to a lesser degree, along with HD video are indespensable tools for selecting a top performing marquise cut.
An ASET image provides a color coded ‘light map’ that indicates high intensity light return, lower intensity light return, light leakage, and structured contrast. These are arguably the most important factors in determining a diamond’s overall performance and beauty. While fire is possibly the most magical optical property of diamonds, a factor that cannot be understood from an ASET map, a light performance grading report from AGSL does calculate this property. A grading report of Ideal indicates that there are no meaningful deficits in fire or the other three critical optical components.
ASET light map, along with actual diamond photo, and IdealScope image of a high performing marquise

Lab Certification of Marquise Diamonds

As mentioned above, most certified marquise cut diamonds come with grading reports from GIA and these reports do not contain much information pertaining to cut quality. The report will identify the diamond as a “marquise brilliant” referencing the brilliant style facet arrangement. GIA reports do provide measurements enabling you to calculate length to width ratio, an important factor in eye appeal. They also provide a view of table size and depth, and an assessment of the level of polish and symmetry. But because of the complex interaction of proportions with dimensionality and facet precision, it is largely impossible to make an accurate assessment of light performance from the information on a GIA report.
GIA Certificate
click to enlarge

Length to Width Ratios of Marquise Cut Diamonds

The outer dimensions of a marquise cut will impact eye appeal significantly. But to a large extent this is a matter of personal taste. Some like a very elongated and slender shape, while others like the robustness of a somewhat broader shape. Looking at a selection of different styles will help you determine your preference.
Length to width ratio is simple to calculate. It is simply length divided by width. In the example of the marquise above the dimensions in millimeters are 11.02 (length) x 5.01(width) x 3.05 (depth), so length to width ratio is 11.02/5.01 = 2.19 Length to width.
As a general rule nicely proportioned marquise cut diamonds will have a ratio of 2 or slightly higher. Below 2 the shape is broader and shorter. Above 2.2 the shape is longer and skinnier. Most people prefer to stay in a range that avoid ‘footballs’ or ‘splinters’!
It is also more likely that light performance will be better with a balanced length to width ratio. As a visual reference the marquise shape diamonds in this article are between 2.1 and 2.2 length to width.

Bow Tie Effect

The bow tie effect is a common feature of marquise cut diamonds. Contrast along the horizontal centerline of the cut can produce some darkness that resembles the shape of a man’s bow tie. The ASET image in the series below reveals that the darkness is a result of contrast (blue). If minimal, this contrast is only operative at close viewing distances and is a result of head shadow of the observer, also known in gemology as obscuration.
The dark bow tie effect in the centerline is very common in marquise cut diamonds
The presence of a bow tie in a fancy shape diamond is not necessarily a problem unless it is overly large and distracting. The diamond in the images above is an example of a reasonably well cut marquise with minimal bow tie.

Price of Marquise Diamonds

Marquise cut diamonds, as with other fancy shapes, are generally priced lower than round diamonds of comparable carat weight, color and clarity. Industry pricing is largely determined by a relationship of the diamond’s parameters to the Rapaport Diamond List, which actually consists of two separate lists; one for rounds and one for pear shape. The pear shape list which is published monthly is used as a pricing guide for all non-round diamonds. Marquise cut diamonds are therefore priced according to the pear list which may be as much as 30% lower than the round list. Since lab grown diamonds are manufactured and do not have inherent rarity, pricing is not really connected to the natural market.  Rather, pricing of lab diamonds is based upon production costs and quality factors such as cut precision, transparency and other factors including production method (HPHT vs CVD). For more on the unique factors to consider when shopping for lab diamonds, see our guide to laboratory grown diamonds.
Marquise Diamond
The Rapaport list is only a guide and does not fully account for many factors that impact a given diamond’s actual asking price. Cut quality is probably the biggest of those factors, as well as the hardest to assess. But other factors such as length to width ratio, fluorescence, and transparency also enter in to the calculation of a diamond’s price. Taken together, all the additional characteristics not obvious in the list price can make a significant difference in the price of a marquise. For this reason shoppers should be wary of any vendor using the Rapaport list as a selling tool. A seemingly deep discount against the Rapaport list does not necessarily indicate a good value.

Marquise vs Round Brilliant

Though a marquise shape has a brilliant style facet design, an expertly cut round will outperform any other diamond cut across the full range of optical qualities. Because of the overall geometric symmetry of the round, no other shape is capable of optimizing the fundamental elements of diamond performance as a well cut round brilliant. Shoppers looking to maximize the optical effects of brightness, fire and sparkle will not find anything to rival a precision cut round such as the A CUT ABOVE® Hearts and Arrows Super Ideal.

Pros and Cons of Marquise Diamonds

  • Unique and eye catching shape
  • Brilliant style faceting produces abundant brilliance and scintillation
  • Looks large for its carat weight
  • Sleek and slender on the hand
  • Less expensive than round brilliant of same weight and quality (natural diamonds)
  • Not compatible with many ring designs
  • Not as many in the market to choose from
  • Cut quality is more difficult to assess than round brilliant
  • Optical performance will not rise to the level of a precision cut round brilliant

Lab Grown Marquise Diamonds

As mentioned above, lab grown diamonds have recently emerged on the market in a big way. They are real diamonds with essentially the chemical, physical and optical properties as natural diamonds. They therefore have the potential to be just as beautiful and durable as natural diamonds, provided the diamond is well cut and fully transparent. Their popularity has peaked as lab grown diamonds have become available in a wider range of sizes and shapes and their prices have become affordable to most any budget.
There are some differences to be aware of in lab grown diamonds, and some are not reflected in a gemological report. It is therefore important to buy from a merchant who has expertise in lab diamonds and can accurately analyze them.
As mentioned earlier, the price of lab diamonds is not actually connected to the pricing structure of natural diamonds. Because lab grown diamonds are manufactured, they have no intrinsic rarity. Their prices are based on the cost of production costs and quality factors that include some issues distinct to lab diamonds such as method of production, transparency issues, blue nuance, and gray tinge.
The affordability of lab diamonds has created an opportunity for consumers to experiment more with fancy shapes. A lab grown marquise diamond being such a unique style, it is certainly among the mix that modern shoppers are considering. And being so affordable, it can provide an opportunity to get a show stopping designer engagement ring with a center lab grown marquise diamond within budget rather than having to compromise on the ring style itself.

Marquise Diamond Engagement Rings

Marquise cut diamonds make beautiful and distinctive engagement rings. Through the years they have at times be a leading choice for brides to be. But as with other fancy shape diamonds, marquise cut has experienced up and down trends in popularity. Cushion and oval cuts are a bit more popular today, but it is just a matter of time before marquise cut diamonds make a comeback. In this sense, the choice of a marquise cut today is a good one for a trend setter as opposed to a trend follower!
Marquise Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
Marquise Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
Marquise cut diamonds work wonderfully in solitaire styles with no accent diamonds, or with a bit of extra brilliance in the band. But they can work in many different ways including halo styles and three stone rings. As unique as a marquise cut center stone is, it still has plenty of versatility.

Why Whiteflash?

Choosing your vendor is as important as choosing your diamond. Actually, it should be your first order of business. When choosing a fancy shape diamond like a marquise it is very important to work with a vendor who has expertise in both natural and lab grown diamond, and can provide you with advanced evaluations. And since most shoppers are looking for a finished ring, it is highly beneficial to work with a vendor who can provide the finest in designer brand options. And of course, it is vital when buying a product of such financial and emotional importance to deal with a company with a great reputation for ethics and customer care.
Whiteflash checks off all the boxes. As a perennial BBB Winner of Distinction, Whiteflash is laser focused on customer education and protection. On the strength of our internationally acclaimed A CUT ABOVE® Super Ideal Diamonds, we have been at the forefront of cut quality and light performance analysis from our inception. And of course, we are authorized retailers for the finest designer brands including Tacori, Verragio, Simon G, A.Jaffe, Ritani, Danhov, and Vatche. The combined catalogues of these fine brands provide almost limitless design choices, in a quality of craftsmanship commensurate with the importance of the purchase. As one of very few retail jewelers anywhere certified for ISO 9000, our quality standards are the highest in the industry.
It is the Whiteflash mission to deliver a brilliant experience to each and every customer. We look forward to the opportunity to earn your business!

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