Checkerboard Cut Gems Explained

Whenever you’re looking at gemstones you can find all sorts of cuts, most of which are there to brighten or intensify the color of the gem. But what do checkerboard cuts do ? how are they different form other cut styles ? Let’s find out !

What is a checkerboard cut ?

A checkerboard cut is a faceting style that is only applied to the crown and table of a gemstone, in a series of squares arranged just like a checkerboard table. The pavilion of the gem can be any cut style, but the table and crown are united in a domed checkerboard facet style. Sometimes the checkerboard is set east-west, sometimes it is set diagonally and the squares appear like diamonds instead.

This style of faceting is not very common, but it can produce great scintillation and brilliance within a gemstone, especially in darker ones.

What kind of gems get a checkerboard cut ?

Checkerboard cuts can be applied to any gemstone, be it translucent, transparent, or opaque. It’s most commonly applied to medium-light gems such as aquamarines, morganites, tourmalines, amethyst, quartz, and so on. Usually the shape of the gem is a rounded square or a cushion, but you can find checkerboard cuts on ovals, pears, rectangles just as fine. They are very rare on a round cut gemstone.

The pavilion of a checkerboard cut can be any style at all, but most commonly will also be a checkerboard cut (similar to the double Dutch rose look).

Opaque gems with a checkerboard cut can look a bit more interesting and appealing than a simple, smooth cabochon. You won’t see many opaque gems with a checkerboard cut, since it’s not as popular or well known as the plain cabochon, but it’s very possible to find one if you want. Or, if you already have a smooth cabochon you can take it to a lapidary for a checkerboard facet.

Read also: Old European VS Old Mine Cut Diamonds

Can diamonds get a checkerboard cut ?

Diamonds can get a checkerboard cut, and it would look similar to a rose cut or double Dutch rose. Far less sparkle and brilliance than a step cut, let alone a brilliant cut. If you’re looking for something similar you might want to take a look at the Blaze cut by Bez Ambar. It looks very similar to a checkerboard cut but it’s been designed specifically for maximum fire (rainbow color), and does not emphasize brilliance. The Blaze cut is the closest you can get to a checkerboard cut on a diamond and have it look good.

Do checkerboard cuts sparkle ?

Checkerboard cut gemstones do not sparkle, since nearly all the gemstones are not going to sparkle no matter what kind of cut style they have. A checkerboard cut will instead throw flashes of light more akin to brilliance (white light) than anything else, and in very soft-colored stones it manages to brighten the gem considerably.

Checkeboard cut created sapphire earrings, set in sterling silver. See them on Amazon.  

Some of the best examples are morganite and aquamarine, though you can see lighter flashes even in darker gemstones like red garnets and blue sapphires.

Checkerboards are more similar to rose cuts, in that even if they were applied to a diamond they wouldn’t actually sparkle. So if you’re looking for a cut that is similar to a checkerboard but also sparkles, consider taking a look at step cuts on diamonds, moissanites, or cubic zirconia.