Next to color, cut is the most important factor in beauty. Faceted gemstones should have a pleasing shape with a lively display of color and light. The flashes of brilliance a beautiful gem displays are thanks to the skill of the cutter, who selects just the right orientation and angles and proportions to maximize a gem’s appeal.
How can you tell if a gem is well cut? First, it should display brilliance and scintillation evenly across the face of the gem. Unlike diamonds, there is no “ideal” set of proportions for cut: since each variety is different optically, it requires different angles and ratios to look its best.
Move the gem around and see how it handles light. There shouldn’t be any dark lifeless areas or flat washed out zones: light should be reflected consistently back to the eye. Poorly cut gems may have a window: a non-sparkling area in the center where light just shines through the back instead of being reflected back to dazzle your eye. You’ll find that close observation will reveal whether a gem dances with light or just sits there.
Colored gemstones have much more variety in cuts and shapes available than ever before. Standard ovals, rounds, cushions, trillions, emerald cuts, princess cuts, pears, and marquise shapes have been joined by even more options, traditional and new. Opals, chalcedony, cat’s-eyes, star sapphires, laps, coral, turquoise, and other gems with rich deep color are often cut in the smooth dome shape called the cabochon, the favorite shape of the ancient world, which emphasizes color over brilliance.
In addition to standard shapes, the work of today’s innovative lapidary artists also adds unique possibilities to one of a kind jewelry with unusual new shapes and faceting styles.