Princess Cut Diamonds and Engagement Rings Buying Guide

The princess cut is one of the most popular diamond shapes. The traditional round brilliant shape still outsells the princess cut by a large margin, but princess cut diamonds outpace virtually all other “fancy shape” diamonds in popularity today.

Note: This article pertains primarily to natural diamonds although most of the information is also relevant to lab grown diamonds, with some differences discussed below. 
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What is a Princess Cut Diamond and Why is it so Popular?

The princess cut diamond was developed in the 1960s. With a square to slightly rectangular outline, the princess features a brilliant style of cutting rather than traditional step-cut configurations of the emerald cut and Asscher. The extra facets on the princess allow it to have more brilliance and scintillation. This enhanced performance tends to hide inclusions and make body color less noticeable from the face up direction. It is essentially a square version of the round brilliant, and is thus technically referred to as a "square modified brilliant" cut.
Princess Cut Diamond
The appeal of the princess cut diamond is rooted in its brilliant appearance combined with a rectilinear outline. It also enjoys a price advantage as a result of cutting efficiency. Therefore, if you are looking for a certain size natural diamond, for example 1.00 ct, you might find a princess cut to be affordable whereas the same budget will buy only a .70-.80ct round of equivalent quality.
History and origins aside, the magic of a princess cut diamond is unmistakable; from its brilliant sparkle to the clean, straight lines of its angular shape, it is a diamond that offers a range of excellent options for the smart shopper. It lends itself to unique ring designs for the woman who wants something different than the traditional round solitaire. And it is affordable!

Princess Cut Diamonds and Overall Value

In terms of overall value, the princess cut may be unsurpassed in natural diamonds. Because the shape is very compatible with the shape of the most common type of rough diamond crystal, the carat weight yield of a princess cut is generally much greater than for round. Unlike a round brilliant which utilizes only around 50% of the rough crystal, a princess cut will utilize approximately 70% of the rough diamond. As a result of this, buyers will often note a marked difference in the prices between a natural round brilliant and a princess cut of the same carat weight and quality. For example, a rough diamond that would produce a .75ct round diamond, might produce a princess cut of 1.00 carat. With the cost of the rough the same for both, the bigger princess cut can be sold for same price as the smaller round, which is significantly less on a per carat basis. Therefore, buyers looking to get the biggest stone for the money often find princess cut diamonds to be of outstanding value.

Lab Certification of Princess Cut Diamonds

Princess Cut Diamond Certificate
Click to enlarge
Princess cut diamonds, referred to as "square modified brilliant" on lab reports, are especially challenging for shoppers interested in making sure they buy a diamond with top light performance. Only the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL) issue light performance based cut quality analysis on the princess cut (and several other diamond shapes). The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) on the other hand issues cut grading reports only on the round brilliant. The cut-related aspects of polish and symmetry are reported by GIA, but this does not tell the full story of light performance. In fact, it tells very little. By contrast AGSL cut grading criteria are so stringent that only a fraction of the princess cut diamonds on the market can boast an AGS 0 (Ideal) certificate. But diligent shoppers who seek them out are rewarded with sparkle and fire unmatched by ordinary princess cuts.
*For an in-depth look at this subject please see our article about princess cut grading at AGSL. A summary version of the article can be found here.
A CUT ABOVE Princess Diamonds

Ideal Cut Princess Diamonds

With diamond prices generally rising through time, many buyers find it necessary to make trade-offs in order to afford a diamond of the size they are interested in. Most buyers are comfortable making small concessions in color as long as the diamond appears near-colorless, and small compromises in clarity as long as the stone is eye-clean. Many buyers today understand that diamond cut quality is of paramount importance and are more often seeking ideal cut diamonds. For those buyers AGS 0 certified princess cut diamonds are the answer, delivering maximum brilliance and fire and the largest size possible within their budget. For ultimate beauty and light performance in a princess cut the A CUT ABOVE® Princess Super Ideal is considered by many experts to be the finest princess cut in the world.
Diamond Image
Diamond Image
Ideal Scope Image
Ideal Scope Image
ASET Image
ASET Image
It is important to be aware that some merchants claim the princess cuts they offer are Ideal Cut, while only offering a GIA report with no overall cut grade, much less one stating a grade of Ideal. Blue Nile is one such company. This article examines their claims and compares the Blue Nile Signature Ideal Princess vs A CUT ABOVE® princess.

Why Are There So Few Ideal Cut Princess Diamonds On The Market?

The short answer is because GIA has elected not to put an overall cut grade on princess cut diamonds, as they do for rounds. While GIA reports on princess cuts (modified square brilliant) do contain aspects of cutting - polish and symmetry - this does not begin to tell the story of light performance. In terms of fire, brilliance and sparkle, there is a huge difference between mediocre princess cuts and ideal cut princess diamonds.
The result is a market increasingly full of princess cuts with reports showing Excellent / Excellent (Polish/Symmetry), the highest grade for cut quality available in a GIA report for a princess. However, very few of them have top light performance! The reason for this is that cutters can retain more weight by making princess cuts with proportion sets that are less than ideal, while at the same time achieving the top grade from GIA for marketing purposes. The fact that many buyers equate Excellent/Excellent with a top overall cut grade perpetuates this trend.
  • GIA does not have an overall cut grade for Princess
  • Cutters can take liberties with overall cut quality in order to increase yield without being penalized
  • Cutters aim for good grades for polish and symmetry without concern about light performance
  • Merchants tout polish and symmetry grades as representative of overall cut grade
  • AGS Ideal light performance is a very stringent standard that many cutters do not have the skill to achieve
  • It is easier and more profitable for cutters to maintain the status quo
While AGS Laboratories does perform comprehensive cut quality analysis on princess cut diamonds, their grading criteria is extremely demanding. Even the most skilled cutters find it challenging to meet all the requirements for AGS 0 Ideal Princess, and they therefore represent a very small slice of the overall market. Only consumers who have researched cut quality will even be aware that true Ideal princess cuts are available. Thus, the sad truth is that many manufacturers have determined that it is simply not economic to make top quality princess cuts.
Super Ideal Cut Princess Diamond
Super Ideal Cut Princess Diamond
Poorly Cut Princess Diamond
Poorly Cut Princess Diamond
Unless and until awareness and demand reach a critical mass, it is unlikely that the status quo will change with respect to princess cut quality. However, there has been a small revolution in round diamonds that at least gives hope for the princess cut. The turning point for rounds corresponded to a confluence of events. Knowledge of the importance of optical symmetry and Hearts and Arrows patterning, along with the development of simple viewers to assess patterning and light return were important developments in the 1980s. The launch and rise of AGS Laboratories and the popularity of the AGS 0 Ideal Cut Diamond Quality Document (DQD) in the 1990s served to propel awareness and demand in the market. These developments, combined with the explosive growth of information technology and e-commerce, have resulted in something of a sea change in the demand for ideal cut round diamonds. The GIA introduced their overall cut grade for rounds in 2006 and today the market is flush with GIA Excellent, AGS 0 Ideal Cuts, and branded Hearts and Arrows Diamonds. More and more manufacturers have developed expertise in making high performance rounds and have found the market ready to reward them.

What are Chevrons and Why Should I Care?

The princess cut does not have a set number of facets. It can vary according to the particular facet design. The most variable factor is the number of ‘chevron’ facets on the pavilion. These are sets of facets that look like boomerangs. Princess cuts typically have 2, 3, or 4 chevron patterns. As you can see from the diagrams below, the more facets you put on a given size surface the smaller those facets will be. The visual appearance of a 2 chevron princess is therefore very different for a 4 chevron princess of similar size. The larger the facets the bolder the sparkles they can produce. Very small facets will produce a more subtle twinkling effect.
As the size of the diamond gets bigger, the number of chevrons can grow while still producing some bold flashes. The smaller the size of a princess the fewer chevrons it can tolerate without sacrificing the larger sparkles.
Princess Diamond Pavilion Diagram
Princess Diamond Pavilion Diagram

French and Bezel Crown Princess Cuts

In addition to variations in the number of chevrons on the pavilion, princess cut diamonds have two distinct facet styles on the crown at the corners. The Bezel Crown style has an extra set of facets on the crown extending from the table to the girdle (see the yellow colored facet in the illustration below). Neither is necessarily better than the other, though the bezel crown style is not used as much.
Princess Diamond Crown Diagram
Princess Diamond Crown Diagram

How and Where to Buy a Princess Cut Diamond

Like buying any other natural diamond, you will need to make some decisions about the best combinations of cut quality, color, clarity, and carat size (the 4 Cs), and fit them into your budget range. The challenge is a little greater when shopping for princess cuts from the standpoint of the first and most important C- Cut quality. As mentioned above, GIA does not grade overall cut quality on princess cuts. Actually, they don’t grade overall cut quality on any shape other than rounds. And while you can find AGS graded princess cuts in the market, they are rather hard to come by. Whiteflash has the largest number of fully vetted in-stock AGS Ideal Princess cuts of any retailer anywhere.
Most princess cuts in the market have large tables and flat tops. Not only does this limit the amount of fire that can be produced by the diamond, but large tables tend to allow inclusions to be more visible to the naked eye. Look for princess cuts with smaller tables and fuller crowns.
To prevent you from flying blind on something as crucial as cut quality, we strongly recommend looking for a certified AGS Ideal cut princess. If you do find a GIA princess that seems to check off all your other boxes, request an ASET or Ideal Scope image of the diamond before you commit to the purchase. If you are buying online, deal with a merchant who has expertise in light performance. And it is important to deal with a merchant who has the diamond in-stock and that the diamond has been thoroughly vetted, not only for cut quality, but for fluorescence, transparency and durability as well. Certain inclusions in the corners of princess cuts can represent higher risks for damage during setting or during wear.

Key Sizes in Princess Cut Diamonds

The 1 carat princess cut diamond is a target size for an overwhelming number of shoppers looking at natural diamonds. And the good news is that a princess is generally less expensive than an equivalent round by a significant margin, so many shoppers have budget for it. A properly cut one carat princess will have a dimension of approximately 5.5mm square. Because princess cuts tend to look somewhat smaller than rounds, some buyers use the price advantage of a princess to go up in size.
A 2 carat princess cut diamond will have a dimension of approximately 7 mm square- a big look and a reasonable price range for many. Hitting the elite 2 carat mark with a high quality princess cut is a much less expensive proposition than getting the same quality in a round.
This is certainly not to rule out a princess cut of more modest size. A .70ct princess cut can look perfect on the finger, especially as the center stone in a tasteful setting style.

Princess Cut Lab Grown Diamonds

One of the biggest events in the history of the diamond industry is the recent emergence of lab grown diamonds in larger sizes and higher quality. Lab diamonds are real diamonds in that they have essentially the same physical and optical properties as natural diamonds, and therefore have the same potential to be as beautiful and durable as natural diamonds.
A princess cut lab created diamond will have the same attributes as detailed above in this article; the same facet configurations and the same considerations in terms of light performance. Because the starting material is significantly less expensive than natural rough, there is little incentive for cutters to make compromises with proportions or other cut related aspects in order to save carat weight. We expect this to result in generally higher performing princess cuts in the future, at least as pertains to lab diamonds. Higher clarities that typify lab grown diamonds will also improve the general durability of lab princess cuts which will tend to have fewer inclusions in vulnerable areas such as the pointed corners.
From a value standpoint then, shoppers buying lab created princess diamond rings will be able to get larger diamonds that perform well and are more durable, all for less money than in natural diamonds.

Best Setting Styles for Princess Cut Diamonds

When choosing a setting for a princess cut diamond, many styles designed for round diamonds will work just fine. In this way, princess cut is surprisingly versatile. However, certain styles are uniquely beautiful when set with a princess center. This style from Verragio features two additional princess cuts flanking the center princess and embellished with round brilliant accent stones and intricate scroll and bead work.
Verragio INS-7074P Beaded Braid Princess 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Verragio INS-7074P Beaded Braid Princess 3 Stone Engagement Ring
This sleek and modern halo style is about simplicity AND finger coverage, both accentuating and protecting the princess cut. A great selection to maximize the budget.
Ritani 1RZ3780 Cushion French-Set Halo Solitaire Engagement Ring
Ritani 1RZ3780 Cushion French-Set Halo Solitaire Engagement Ring
Due to the popularity of the princess cut there are literally thousands of exciting styles from each of the top designer brands including Tacori, Verragio, Danhov, A. Jaffe, Simon G, Vatche and Ritani. The friendly diamond consultants at Whiteflash are experts at helping you determine the design best suited for your lifestyle and personal aesthetic.

Common Questions about Princess Cut Diamonds

Do princess cuts cost less than other shapes?

Yes! The yield (carat weight) from the rough diamond crystal is greater when cutting a princess. Therefore the cost per carat to the manufacturer is less and that savings is passed on to the consumer.

Is it true that princess cuts look smaller than rounds?

While there is some truth to this, the degree to which well-cut princess cuts look smaller is not as great as many people think. Because the stated depth percentage is normally much greater on princess cuts (75 percent vs 60 percent for rounds), most people think that princess is hiding a lot of weight below the girdle. But the way depth percentage is calculated for princess gives rise to a higher number (shortest distance side to side/ total depth). If princess cuts were measured on the diagonal instead of side to side, the dimensions and depth would be more in line with rounds.

Are princess cuts more prone to damage than other cuts?

Any diamond cut to a point entails additional risk from chipping. A round diamond has only one point (culet) which is almost always protected by the mounting, and which does not require a prong to be set on it. A princess has four points and generally prongs must be placed on them involving some pressure for a secure set. This involves some risk, especially if the diamond has inclusions at or near the point. Expertly vetted princess cuts that are properly set are quite durable for everyday wear.

Do princess cuts show body color more than other cuts?

To some extent all diamonds show more body color from the side than they do face up. This is especially true for well cut brilliant style diamonds such a princess cut which returns a lot of the ambient light to the eye, masking some body color from the face up direction. Mountings that allow a full profile view will reveal more color in every diamond shape.

Is cut quality as important in a princess?

Cut quality is especially important for princess cut. Liberties are taken by most cutters of princess cuts to extract the maximum amount of carat weight resulting in flat tops and heavy bottoms. Such compromises will significantly diminish light performance, as well as other potential negative impacts.

Do princess cut diamonds sparkle as much as round diamonds?

There is no other shape that sparkles more than a well cut round brilliant. However, the princess cut comes close as its facets are arranged in a brilliant style. The key to sparkle is cut quality. Many princess cuts on the market have mediocre light performance, but Ideal princess cuts have brilliance and fire that exceed that of average cut rounds.


The princess cut diamond, technically known as a ‘square modified brilliant’, is a facet design that was developed in the 1960’s and quickly became a staple in the diamond world. It is the second most popular shape next to the round brilliant. In natural diamonds, Princess Cuts are less expensive than round diamonds of equivalent size and quality, and there are thousands of attractive setting designs that work well for princess cuts.

Lab created princess cut diamonds are significantly less expensive than natural and tend to be of higher color and clarity, making them a great option for many shoppers. 
Cut quality is a critical factor in bringing out the fire and brilliance of a princess. A shopper should be mindful of this as cutters tend to take liberties when cutting natural princess cuts in order to increase yield, while sacrificing light performance. It is therefore always best to deal with a merchant who has expertise in this area and can provide comprehensive analysis including advanced light performance imaging.
Seeking out diamonds that have passed the rigorous light performance testing of the AGS Laboratories as Ideal Cut is the best way to ensure you get a truly spectacular princess cut diamond. Whiteflash stocks the best inventory of thoroughly analyzed Ideal Princess Cut diamonds. All are posted to the website with AGS Lab reports and advanced light performance images, and are available for immediate purchase exclusively from Whiteflash.

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