Loose Gemstone Shapes

Gemstones are usually faceted or cut, to bring out their best features - in other words, to add to its sparkle. Gemstones are cut in accordance to their features (colours, shape, clarity...) but also making sure to retain as much of the stone as possible. If cutting the stone means it loses weight, the stone may well be worth less. But to cut the stone to bring out its brilliance and colour could well mean the stone is worth more. This is the dilemma often faced by a lapidary - a gemstone craftsman.

Over the years, many different styles of gemstone shapes (or facets) have been developed. We have included some basic information about them below, so that you can understand some of the terminology used when buying a gemstone. Where possible, we have also include some images.

Brilliant Cuts

The brilliant cut is popular for colourless stones, such as diamonds. It helps bring out the "fire" in the stones and that as much light as possible is reflected through the front of the stone. The modern brilliant cut is thought to have been developed in the 17th century by Peruzzi, an Italian gemstone expert.

Brilliant cuts can come in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, pendeloque (which is pear shaped) and marquise (which is boat shaped)

Gemstone Facets - Brilliant Cut Shapes

Step Cuts

Step cuts include gemstone shapes or facets such as the table, square, baguette, octagonal (sometimes called the emerald) and the oval step cut. This is often used for coloured stones, and is sometimes referred to as the trap cut. It generally consists of the gemstone having a "table facet" - you could say the "body" of the stone, in a square, rectangular or octagonal shape. Then parallel facets are added to give the stone added depth. The octagonal cut is referred to as the emerald cut as this is the most frequently used cut. The octagonal shape means that corners of the stone can be removed, especially those of fragile stones, to avoid chipping.

Gemstone facets - Step Cut Shapes

Mixed Cuts

Mixed cut stones are a combination of the 2 cuts above. The top parts of the stones (the crowns) may be brilliant cut, but the bottom part step cut. This cut is often used for transparent stones, such as sapphires, and will frequently be seen as a cushion cut, or something referred to simply as a "mixed cut".

Gemstone facets - Mixed Cut Shapes


A cabochon shaped gemstone is in fact not cut or faceted at all. Instead it is shaped and polished, usually being rounded or "organically shaped" on top, with a flat bottom for setting. Although the stone is not actually cut, you may still see the terms "cabochon cut" etc. Cabochon is usually used for opaque rather than transparent gemstones. Faceting or cutting works well for transparent stones, such as diamonds, and helps bring out the brilliance and "fire" in the colour. Opaque gemstones rarely benefit quite so much from faceting, hence them typically being cabochon cut. Cabochon is also beneficial for softer gemstones, where chipping is less likely (no corners) and scratches less evident.