Professional Jeweler Archive: Emerald-Shaped Gems: Elements of Quality Cutting

June 2004

For Your Staff/Selling Color


Emerald-Shaped Gems: Elements of Quality Cutting

This is the third installment in a series explaining quality factors in a variety of shapes to help boost gemstone selling skills


The emerald cut is designed to showcase a gem’s color, but first a word about the name. Also known as a tapered step-cut, it has a squarish or rectangular outline. Step cuts generally have straight corners, though emerald cuts specifically have tapered corners. Long step-like facets follow the gem’s outline from the girdle to the large table facet and from the girdle toward the base or keel line.

Not surprisingly, the emerald cut was designed for emeralds because:

  • The gem’s crystal shape lends itself to the cut.
  • The cut generally results in better weight retention from emerald rough.
  • The large table facet constitutes a window through which viewers can perceive the depth of emerald’s rich color.

The cut works well for other beryls too, including aquamarine and morganite, and for tourmaline and topaz.

The cut wasn’t designed to show brilliance, though some flashes of light can be seen along the broad facets as the eyes, gem or light source moves. Brilliance isn’t as important with emeralds because they’re often included.

Quality Factors for Emerald Cuts

  • The gem’s facets must align perfectly. Even barely misaligned facets throw a gem off balance.
  • Cutters should try to minimize inclusions, which are common in emerald and are easy to see because of the large table facet.
  • Medium-size girdle width is best; it should be consistent around the gem.
  • Facet misalignment is often “hidden” in the girdle area so girdles are thick in one area and thin in others.
  • Corners are used for prongs, though emerald-cuts are often bezel-set too.
  • Proportions of 1.50:1.75 (length by width ratio) are generally preferred for emerald cuts. Attractive, equal-sided step cuts are acceptable also.
  • Exaggerated proportions in long cuts can be attractive, though they’re fragile because of the length. Long tourmaline crystals lend themselves to exaggerated proportions.
  • Look at the gemstone’s finish. Abrasions are common along the facet junctions, depending on the quality of the cutter and general wear and tear following heavy use.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G

Illustrations by Orasa Weldon
Photo by Robert Weldon

The Importance of Cut

Not so long ago, cutters were instructed to focus on weight retention more than optimum cutting so sellers could garner a higher price for a gem. More recently, a premium has been placed on quality cutting that maximizes beauty.
Three Views of an Emerald-Cut Stone

CORNER
KEEL LINE
TABLE
The top facets.
PROFILE
The girdle around the gem and the culet.
PAVILION
The bottom facets.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications