Side stones are diamonds or, less often, gemstones that straddle the center stone in three- and five-stone rings. They are also used in earrings as matched pairs.
Side stones are judged by how well they are matched to each other in size, shape, color, faceting pattern, and, to a lesser degree, their clarity. The carat weight is secondary because it usually does not correspond to the stones’ dimensions. Side stones must complement the center stone they are supporting without overshadowing it.
Side stones are usually one color grade lower than the center stone. Elongated side stones such as straight baguettes, radiants, emerald cuts, ovals, and marquises can be positioned parallel to the finger (North-South) or across the finger (East-West). Common diamond cuts, such as rounds, pears, emeralds, etc., can be both centers or sides. Specialized cuts such as shields or bullets are used exclusively as side stones.
Baguettes are the most common side stones in three-stone rings. Baguette was recognized as a distinct diamond cut at the dawn of the 20th century. Until then, the slender shards of a diamond crystal left after cleaving a diamond were discarded as unusable.
There are two types of baguettes – straight and tapered. The short sides of a great majority of baguettes are parallel to each other. Straight baguettes are rectangular. Square step-cut baguettes’ length and width are equal. They are called “carré,” which is “square” in French.
A straight baguette is close relative to an emerald cut but with fewer facets and unbeveled corners. In a three-stone ring, straight baguettes can be positioned in both North-South and East-West directions. Straight baguettes are usually staggered next to each other to form a ladder descending from the center stone.
The tapered baguettes’ width gradually decreases toward one end. Its longer sides angle inwards at approximately 5 to 8 degrees. The tapered baguette’s wider end abuts the center stone, while the narrow end points toward the shank. Sometimes a baguette three-stone ring is called a solitaire because, structurally, the baguettes are parts of the shank. Tapered baguettes and bullets are set lower and positioned at a steeper angle.
Typically the bullet’s point is protected by a V-shaped prong to underscore the bullet’s exquisite shape. There are several kinds of diamond bullets: straight or tapered, step-cut, or brilliant-cut, long or short.
Each bullet style has its fans and advantages that depend on the specific application. Tapered bullets, just like tapered baguettes, are generally more pleasing to the eye. Bullets combined with diamond half-moons, or diamond trapezoids, make the two most popular five-stone ring styles.
Brilliant cut bullets are less common and used for brilliant-cut centers or colored stones and colored diamonds.
Step-cut bullets compliment an Asscher or Emerald cut diamond.
Straight bullets were common during the Art Deco era, often bezel-set to highlight their shape. Elongated bullet-shields are bullets with blunted or clipped corners. They are usually larger stones.
Cutting smaller diamonds as bullet shields is not practical. The regular tapered bullets will do the job. The trimmed corners make room to blend in prongs holding the stone.
Step cut trapezoids work great with an emerald or an Asscher cut. Brilliant cut trapezoids are usually matched with brilliant-cut diamonds such as radiants, cushions, and princess cuts. They work well with colored diamonds and colored stones.
French cut trapezoids work well with antique cuts such as the Asscher’s or Old Miners. Crescent trapezoids’ longer sides are caved in to fit flush against a rounded stone. The sharp points of the crescent are prone to breaking. In most cases, the curve is unnecessary. A skilled jeweler knows how to set the three stones tight without the need for a caved-in diamond side.
The most common and eye-pleasing shields are slightly elongated. Small shields can substitute for bullets. They are beautiful, versatile, and can be paired with virtually any center stone.
Step-cut shields work best with step-cut center stones. Brilliant-cut shields are typically paired with brilliant-cut centers and colored gemstones.
Heater shields present an opportunity to reuse broken marquise diamonds. Marquise points are prone to chipping, rendering the whole diamond unusable.
Diamond cutters saw off the broken tip giving the stone a clothing iron shape, hence the name. These recycled marquises lack the elegance of a pear-shaped diamond, which would be a better choice. Their crushed-ice brilliance makes them a poor choice for most diamond shapes, except for a princess cut.
Royal shields are a rare and unusual step-cut, best paired with a round brilliant in the center.
Chevrons and Epaulettes
Chevrons have a sharp point vs. an obtuse point on Epaulettes. Chevron’s three points are close to the equilateral triangle, with its vertex angle less than 140 degrees. Step-cut chevrons can be used with any center stones.
Brilliant-cut chevrons are sometimes confused with trillions. Brilliant cut chevrons are too flashy and tend to compete with the center stone they purport to enhance. The Crescent chevron’s longest side is caved-in to better fit against a round, oval, pear, or marquise.
Using a laser to indent a diamond seems impressive to an average person, but jewelers find this feature useless. What looks like a premium feature is, in reality, a creative way to carve out an inclusion. A skilled jeweler knows how to set all three stones tightly together without butchering diamonds.
Epaulettes are generally shorter and less angled than chevrons. The three furthest points of epaulettes form an isosceles triangle with more than a 150-degree vertex angle.
Sometimes called Cadi or Cadillac because they resemble the Cadillac emblem, these stones have limited use. Unlike trapezoids, Epaulettes cannot be combined with bullets or tapered baguettes into the Balle Evasee Martini-glass flute. Brilliant-cut epaulettes are uncommon and not very attractive. Epaulettes can be useful for small fingers.
Skinny half-moon diamonds (those with their length-to-width ratio exceeding 2.0) look pleasant with large ovals and elongated cushion diamonds. They complement many diamond shapes, particularly cushions, ovals, and radiants. Fat half-moons look like Mickey’s ears and should be avoided. There is very little use for fat half-moons in fine jewelry, except in drop earrings.
Step cut half-moons are beautiful, but they are tough to find. Putting steps on a small diamond requires much patience and precision. On occasion, we see step-cut half-moons fashioned from emerald-cut stones. Those do not have an elegant arc of real step-cut half-moons. These step-cut half-moons are not attractive and should be avoided. Crescent-shaped half-moon diamonds with a scooped long side are usually lifeless and dull.
The traditional French-cut has a small rhombus-shaped table rotated 45-degrees to the girdle. French cut crown has nine facets; four of them are triangles pointing to each corner. These facets give the stone its unique four-pointed star look. The pavilion has only four facets.
French cuts date back to the 14th century but enjoyed renewed interest in the late 19th to early 20th century. Sometimes, it is confused with the Peruzzi cut, an obscure transitional cut that is a bizarre cross between French and Old Miner diamond cuts. Small French cuts are typically used in sets or layouts.
They mix well with other antique cuts, such as antique cushions and Asscher cut diamonds. French cuts are typically square or rectangular. There are modern versions of traditional French cuts in trapezoid or tapered baguette shapes. They are very popular with antique diamond cuts. One of our wildly popular ring styles, “Leon Mege MonCheri™” features tapered French cuts calibre.
Calf's Head Diamonds
The unusual triangular step-cut diamonds with beveled points are called “Calf’s Heads.” Properly faceted, Calf’s Heads have more sparkle and fire than brilliant-cut trillions while retaining a noble twinkle of a step-cut diamond. Calf’s Heads run the gamut of proportions, so they should be selected carefully to match the center stone’s faceting pattern.
Brilliant cut calf’s heads look like trillions with broken tips. Recommendation – avoid.
Thanks to the glut of shallow triangular rough called macle that is hard to polish into anything decent, trillions rose to popularity in the late ’60s. It is no surprise that the first triangular diamond was developed in Amsterdam. A trillion looks like something from the Twilight Zone, screaming, “Don’t smoke and cut” at the cutter. Trilliant is the brand name that gave us the trillion, a generic term for any triangular diamond.
For example, other brands have a patented triangular cut with completely straight sides called Trielle. Trillions are a sub-par choice for a ring, no matter what condition your condition is in.
Wildly popular in the acid haze of the ’60s, trillions look dated and mildly tasteless today. Their points are vulnerable to chipping or shattering, the risk apparent during the diamond’s polishing and setting.
Balle Evassee makes a dazzling five-stone ring that can complement any diamond cut in the center as long as it is long enough. The result is guaranteed to be stunning.
Balle Evassee with half-moons can include both brilliant- and step-cut versions, as long as the faceting pattern is proportional to the center stone. Balle Evasee is not recommended for those with petite fingers, i.e., US size four or less, especially when the center stone is large.
Kites, Aces, and Lozenges
The Ace cut is rarely used in rings, and if they are, not as side stones, but rather as accents, similar to pave diamonds. Most Ace cuts are step cuts; brilliant cut Aces are skewed Princess cuts.
In a ring, the diamond kites have limited use. They are not elegant when used as side stones, even the step-cut version of kites. The pentagon kites are sometimes used as a substitute for diamond shields or pear-shapes. Step-cut pentagon kites are one chipped point away from being a shield. Matching pairs of kites often replace briolettes in drop earrings and fringe necklaces.
Caesar is a relatively obscure cushion cut with mixed faceting. The crown has brilliant facets, while the pavilion usually has steps. Because of this “dual-personality,” the Caesar cut can be used with both step- and brilliant-cut center stones.
Sometimes the elongated Caesars are confused with other mixed-cut cushions such as Ashoka or Crisscut. However, the Caesar cut has a different faceting arrangement. It has a superior brilliance when compared side-by-side to Ashoka or other inferior mixed cuts. Caesar cut is not protected by any patent. Anybody can cut one, which makes the Caesar cut affordable. Caesar cut diamonds come in various length-to-width ratios – mostly elongated.
Hearts and Pears
The heart-shaped diamonds are exceptional. There’s no other diamond cut with more symbolism built into its shape. They are a perfect fit for a round, oval, marquise diamond. They look great next to colored cabochons, and they are fantastic flanking a pearl.
Round side stones make any center diamond, except round center, look like it grew Mickey’s ears. Asscher side stones can be combined with an Asscher or with a chubby emerald cut. Radiant side stones can be found next to a Radiant or a large Princess cut in the center. Princess cuts go together only with a princess cut. Oval side stones match the oval center and pretty much nothing else. Single Marquises as side stones are horrific, but they make a lovely cluster to accent any brilliant-cut center stone in combination with other marquises and pears.