Exploring Gem Cuts!

All about different styles of gem cuts (and how to know when you're looking at a good one!)


There are two basic components of gem cuts. The “outline” and the “faceting regime”:

  • The outline is the basic pattern or shape of the stone, such as oval, round or square (this is what most people envision when the term “gem cut” is used). It’s actually only one of the components, and for the record, a gem can be cut into almost any shape.
  • The second component is the faceting regime. This is more important than the outline. This refers to how many facets, what shape, and how are they positioned relative to each other.  This is ultimately what will give the gem the sparkle and light return the customer is looking for.


gemstone cuts

A chart featuring popular types of gem cuts (accessed via International Gem Society)


  A facet (French for little face) is a small reflective plane (like a mirror) that re-directs light back up into the stone. This will cause a multitude of visual effects that includes brilliancy (light return), and refraction. Brilliancy is what makes the gem appear brighter. When refraction happens in a colored gemstone, we can see the two or more component colors that make up the overall body color. Most colored gems are doubly refractive, so they naturally split light as it enters the gem...good faceting takes advantage of this. A great example is that of dark rich amethyst. The purple color, as we know is made up of blue and red mixed together. Good faceting allows you to see the purple color and chromatic flares of red and blue all at the same time.

rich amethyst gemstone

An example of fantastic cuts in a purple Amethyst.


  So why aren’t all gems cut well?  The answer is surprisingly simple. Every facet is a “cut” which means a portion of the gem material is cut away and lost forever... this leads to an increase in cost. The more facets, the more gem rough is lost, the higher the end cost. While it is true that doing all this will render a superior gem but the question beckons “will the customer be willing to pay for it”?  Sometimes yes...sometimes no.  That’s the risk every gem cutter and manufacturer takes when deciding how far they want to go with cutting. We skate a fine line between ultimate perfection and consumer affordability. The real challenge is providing a superior cut at an affordable price.