Side stones are matched pairs of gemstones used as accents in three- or five-stone rings. They are also used as links in drop earrings.
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.
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 a 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 commonly staggered next to each other to form a ladder descending away from the center stone.
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.
A brilliant-cut baguette is a novelty. Technically speaking, a brilliant-cut baguette is an elongated princess cut.
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.
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 have a sharp point vs. an obtuse point on Epaulettes.
Chevron’s three points are close to the equilateral triangle, 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. 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. Three furthest points of epaulettes form an isosceles triangle with more than a 150-degrees 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 used for small finger size rings.
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.
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 when it comes to 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.
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, there are other brands, a patented triangular cut with completely straight sides called Trielle. Regardless of what condition your condition is in, trillions are not the best side stones for any ring.
Wildly popular in the acid haze of the ’60s and ’70s, trilliants 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 versions, brilliant- and step-cut 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.
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.
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.
Craftsmanship and design
The angles and curvatures are the keys to the well-balanced, proportionate, and eye-pleasing ring.
Their choice is the most crucial decision a jeweler makes, and they determine the final composition. The precise fit of each prong, joint, and element makes the transition from the center to side stones and further down to the shank seamless and natural.
Hand-forging is the secret to a well-proportioned, properly weighted ring designed to maximize the stone’s best features.
By default, the center stone is always set as low as possible. The ring’s height is determined by the finger size, center stone size, and the type of side stones used. Raising the center stone is a grave mistake that is usually requested for the wrong reasons.
Matching a pair’s physical dimensions often affects the cost more than the carat weight. The actual size and weight do not always correlate. Every set of matching stones is unique, and frequently larger stones weigh less. Therefore, side stones should be evaluated by size, not weight.
Side stones made from inverted rough diamond crystals called “mackle” are flat. These stones look big and weigh much less than well-proportioned stones of the same size. The tradeoff is their lackluster brilliance and glassy appearance. When side stones are too big for the center, they make them appear small and insignificant.
On the other hand, side stones that are too small make the center stone feel like it does not belong to the ring. Side stones noticeably higher in color than the center will make it look dark. Likewise, a poorly matched by size or shape pair of stones will make the ring appear lopsided.
All stones should have similar facets in size and arrangement. Mismatched faceting will compromise the ring’s look. In addition, fluorescence can play nasty tricks with the ring’s appearance. Fluorescent side stones can stand out in certain lighting conditions and should not be paired with a fluorescence-free center stone.
The three-stone design dates back centuries. Three, as a number, has had a special meaning throughout history. Together, three stones represent a couple’s journey through life.
The center signifies the present, while the smaller stones personify the past and the future. Combined, they are the three foundation blocks of a family – friendship, love, and fidelity.
The three stones are eternal reminders to love, honor, and cherish one another if you forget. For some, a three-stone ring symbolizes the Holy Trinity. Can a diamond bullet represent the Holy Spirit? You decide.
No, it’s just a different style. However, a three-stone style offers some benefits:
- It makes the ring appear important. Most people feel that a stone that deserves a supporting cast is exceptional.
- It conceals the shank. Minimum visible metal is a hallmark of the finest craftsmanship.
- It solves “inadequate finger coverage” concerns.
- It offers an opportunity to mix different colors if desired.
- It helps fake a “big look” with only a modest cost increase. Large side stones blend with the center stone blurring the line of separation. An observer cannot make the center stone dimensions. It creates an illusion of a much wider and bigger stone.
- It intensifies the color of fancy colored diamonds and colored gemstones against a contrasting background of white diamonds.
Start by choosing the center stone. Virtually any stone can be used in a three-stone ring. The next step is to choose side stones that complement the center stone the most. Side stones make centers appear wider and shorter. Because of that, an elongated center stone may be a better choice.
For center stones with a 1:1 length to width ratio, consider:
- Round brilliants: baguettes, bullets, pears, hearts, and narrow shields.
- Asschers: step-cut bullets or shields.
- Square cushions, brilliants, radiants, and princess cuts: narrow brilliant shields, baguettes, or trillions
- Antique cushions: step-cut baguettes or bullets
- Heart shapes: bullets or pears
- Emerald cuts: trapezoids, shields, half-moons, large bullets, all step-cut.
- Modern cushions: half-moons, shields, bullets.
- Antique cushions: step-cut half-moons, trapezoids, shields, and French cuts.
- Radiants and ovals: half-moons, trapezoids, trillions, shields, bullets.
- Pear shapes: bullets, baguettes, or pears.
Symmetry is essential for emerald cuts, Asschers, and cushions. A poorly shaped center stone stands out more in a three-stone ring. It is recommended to choose a diamond in a D- to I-color range. Lower color grades can be challenging to pair with matching side stones.
For a three-stone ring to look impeccable, side stones must be well proportioned. A wrong set can throw the entire ring off balance. Also, depending on their shape, side stones are angled differently to the center.
Wide side stones set North-South are part of the ring’s head. Baguettes or bullets aligned with the shank are not. For that reason, baguettes and bullets are projected from the center stone at a steep angle. Other side stones are angled less to blend better with the center stone.