Emerald vs. Radiant Cuts | History + Comparison

February 25, 2015

Emerald vs. Radiant Cuts | History + Comparison

Charles & Colvard recently added step cut emeralds to their Forever Brilliant Moissanite collection. They're elegant and sleek, and are the same emerald/octagon shape as the C&C radiant cuts. The two cuts can be confusing, so I put together a comparison and history lesson. Here's a quick video showing both on my hand, outdoors on an overcast day. (My videography leaves something to be desired, but hopefully you get the idea!)

Emerald (Step) Cuts:

Step cuts are a historical cut, and one of the first seen in jewelry. Its origins are linked to single cuts of the 1500's, and also the table cuts of the Art Deco period (early 20th century). The term "emerald cut" didn't appear until the Art Deco era, although the cutting method itself had been seen for quite some time. Its name came about because it was originally used on emeralds (the green gem), which are very brittle and can easily be chipped/cracked during the cutting process. The stepped faceting reduced breakage while cutting the emeralds. But the stepped faceting pattern soon became popular and was extended to other gemstones as well, such as sapphires, rubies, diamonds, etc.

Step cuts are just as they sound -- they're like stairs, or stepped facets, parallel to the stone's sides. The facets are long and linear. Emerald cuts have less fire and brilliance (less sparkle) than radiant cuts. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and many people actually prefer the crisp look. Because the facets are window-like and not great at reflecting light back to the eye, it means we can easily see inclusions within a step cut stone. For that reason, only high-clarity stones are recommended for step cuts. Luckily, Moissanites have amazing clarity and are a perfect candidate for step cutting; the cut actually shows off their clarity.

The emerald cut is sleek and minimalist, and pairs well with a variety of ring styles ranging from Art Deco to contemporary. Personally, I love pairing the geometric cut with a more organic band to play up the contrasting elements. Here's a sample paired with my Feather Band in rose gold:


Radiant Cuts:

The radiant cut is a very new, only dating back to the 1970's. The goal was to create a hybrid cut combining the octagon shape of the traditional step cut emerald, with the sparkle of a modern round brilliant cut. It's the perfect combination of the elegant emerald, but with the sparkle we've all come to expect from Moissanites and diamonds. Radiant cuts have triangular facets, arranged in a non-parallel fashion. Each facet's size, shape, and angle are optimal for light dispersion and brilliance. For minerals with superior refractive properties, such as Moissanite or diamond, radiant faceting creates much more sparkle than a step cut. Radiants can be rectangular or square in shape (both with their corners cut off); I prefer rectangular shapes since they elongate the finger for an elegant look. Here's a sample paired with my Twig Band in yellow gold:



If you see a ring style you love, but wish it was set with one or the other type of Moissanite cut, just shoot me a message. I'm happy to set the other for you. For example, the step cut emerald Moissanite with my Twig Band would be lovely.

A question I'm occasionally asked is, "Why are those radiant rings labeled as "emerald" rings in your shop?" The long and short of it: I use the words "emerald" and "radiant" for the same radiant faceting style in many of my ring descriptions and titles. I use both words since I have to anticipate the search terms clients type into Google, Etsy, and other search engines. If I only used "radiant," and a shopper searches for "emerald," they'd never find my shop. The purpose of using both words is for SEO (search engine optimization). That's why you'll often see "emerald" rings, as well as "radiant" rings in my shop, even though both stone cuts are the same. By varying the titles there's a better chance of being seen by shoppers who may not be typing in the exact same language while searching.

Technically, radiant cuts and emerald cuts are both faceting styles in an octagon/rectangular shape. "Emerald" is the much more commonly used term, often used in conversation to refer to both faceting styles. Because the shapes are similar, they're often interchanged frequently in jewelry stores and in common conversation (even though they're technically different cuts). Using both words in titles/descriptions in my shop likely further confuses the issue. But the varying titles help me to be found by clients who have never even heard the term "radiant" before, and wouldn't know to search for it.

The term "emerald" is so much more popular in our society, and is the search term used much more often by shoppers. It makes sense to use that word in titles and descriptions, even though the faceting style might be radiant. I'm able to look at the search stats for my shop, and see exactly how shoppers find me. For example, the search term "emerald cut engagement ring" is the #2 most searched term on Etsy by my clients. The term "radiant cut engagement ring" ranks around #30. In summary, shoppers often don't think to type in "radiant" when shopping for a rectangular shaped ring. Although they may be searching "emerald," they come upon my radiant cut rings and find what they're looking for. My radiant cut rings are by far my best-sellers, yet the term is barely searched for. If all of my rings were titled, "radiant," the majority of my clients wouldn't find their dream rings.