The Art of the Sparkle

Posted by Lee Donaldson on

What would a gemstone be without its distinctive sparkle? There are many qualities that create a beautiful precious stone but the one thing which is man-made is the sparkle.

Lapidary, the art of cutting gemstones, is an ancient art which has transformed lumps of rock into coveted gems for centuries. We take the sparkle for granted, but the shape of the cuts have been perfected throughout history to create a shape that reflects light in the most attractive way possible.

We look at some of the most popular and timeless cuts available.

The Technical Bit

If we’re going to get a little bit technical here (and we are) there are a few basic things we need to know about the parts of a cut diamond. The flat polished top of the stone, the one you usually see at the centre of your stone, is called the table. This table is surrounded by a variety of angled surfaces called facets. How light reflects off these surfaces gives the stone its distinctive sparkle. The section of the stone you can see when you look at your jewellery is called the crown, and the bit you can’t see (usually because it is set in a metal surround) is called the pavilion.

The Brilliant Cut

This is the diamond’s ‘perfect’ cut to maximise the brilliance of the sparkle in the gemstone. It is used for different gems, but is traditionally associated with the diamond. When you look at the stone itself it is cone shaped. It has a round crown with an octagonal table and is surrounded by a range of faceted surfaces which maximises the sparkle.

Although it’s not the simplest of cuts it is a classic style that remains the height of fashion. The brilliant cut also lends itself to different shaped stones where the flat table is a different shape to reflect the shape of the stone:

Marquis cut

A long, almost oval shaped stone with pointed ends. The marquis cut balances length and width of the stone to give each one a distinctive appearance.

Pear cut

A pear or teardrop shaped stone. The appearance of the stone is dependent on its length and width – it can be elongated for a different look.

Heart cut

Another brilliant cut stone, with a distinctive shape. This time the heart cut has, you’ve guessed it, a heart shaped table.

Emerald Cut

This is a very different style of cut to the brilliant cut and is a flat style used on square shaped stones. The pavilion (the underside of the stone usually set in gold or silver and hidden from view) is square cut in a series of gradients which alters how light reflects from the stone. This creates a very different type of sparkle to the brilliant cuts. It has a large table which is rectangular and its corners are softened with a faceted surface. The table is surrounded by a series of stepped surfaces.

Princess Cut

Traditionally a square or rectangular shaped stone, this cut can be any length or width and so can look remarkably different depending on the size and shape of the stone. The princess cut has a very geometrical shape with a large square or rectangular table reflecting light from the top of the stone. It is surrounded by an attractive geometric shape of reflective facets. These facets run the length of the base of the square crown, with triangular surfaces softening the shape of the four edges of the stone.

An Art and a Science

How a gemstone is cut and polished gives it a distinct appearance and sparkle. A skilled gem cutter can use classic designs to help unlock the lustre and beauty of your stone. No gem is complete without its distinctive sparkle and there a variety of classic cuts to help achieve it.

By Sharon Coleman

Sharon Coleman is a freelance writer and loves to write about consumer products. You can find more of her articles at


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