Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, but you’d rather wear your cushion—diamond, that is.
Even before Catherine Middleton seamlessly blended old and new tradition when she wed Prince William, brides were blending antique-style jewelry with modern strapless dresses. The cushion-cut diamond, with its romantic vintage appeal, is a perfect center stone for antique-inspired rings with delicate details like scrollwork, engraving, and millegrain settings.
The cushion cut is a very old style of diamond cutting, dating back hundreds of years. Until the late 1800s, diamond-cutting technology had not advanced enough to produce the brilliant cut (characterized by kite-like facets radiating from the center of the stone), and it wasn’t until 1919 that mathematician and master diamantaire Marcel Tolkowsky devised a set of proportions that came to be the standard for an ideal-cut round brilliant. But until then, the cushion cut, along with the old mine and old European styles of cutting, were the best methods known to maximize a diamond’s natural sparkle. The cushion cut was favored for larger stones.
The cushion cut, also occasionally called a pillow cut, refers to its shape, which is a rectangle with rounded corners. Unlike the oblong emerald or radiant cut, however, a cushion cut is a short rectangle: its length-to-width proportion should differ by no more than 30%, and often it is much less.
Cushion cuts also feature larger facets than a brilliant cut, which give it a soft radiance more like an emerald cut than the fiery sparkle of a brilliant. But its larger facets can make inclusions and off-color more visible, and the quality of the cutting is absolutely central to the stone’s beauty. Because it’s not as forgiving as a brilliant cut, a cushion typically will be a higher-value stone than a comparable-size brilliant. But high-quality cushions are greatly prized by collectors, so it’s a sound choice for those who are worried about the long-term value of their diamond as well as its current romantic appeal.
Once the brilliant cut was devised, cushions grew rare. For a long time, the best—if not only—place to find one was in estate jewelry. But when the vintage look grew popular, diamantaires again began cutting cushions; this time, however, with modern technology that ensures a more consistent quality. Lucky is the bride today who doesn’t have to hunt that elusive but just-right piece of estate jewelry—she can simply recreate the look with a soft, super-feminine cushion cut diamond.