A brilliant is a diamond or other gemstone, cut in a particular form with numerous facets so as to have especial brilliancy. The shape resembles that of a cone and is meant to maximize light return through the top of the diamond.
Even with modern techniques, the cutting and polishing of a diamond crystal always results in a dramatic loss of weight; rarely is it less than 50%. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Oddly shaped crystals such as macles are more likely to be cut in a fancy cut—that is, a cut other than the round brilliant—which the particular crystal shape lends itself to.
The modern round brilliant consists of 58 facets (or 57 if the culet is excluded), ordinarily today cut in two pyramids placed base to base: 33 on the crown (the top half above the middle or girdle of the stone), truncated comparatively near its base by the table, and 25 on the pavilion (the lower half below the girdle), which has only the apex cut off to form the culet, around which 8 extra facets are sometimes added. In recent decades, most girdles are faceted. Many girdles have 32, 64, 80, or 96 facets; these facets are not counted in the total. While the facet count is standard, the actual proportions (crown height and angle, pavilion depth, etc.) are not universally agreed upon. One may speak of the American cut or the Scandinavian standard (Scan. D.N.), to give but two examples.
These days many people have over used Tolkowsky's "ideal" model. The original model were general guidelines as there were several aspects of diamond cut that was not explored or accounted for in the original model. Excerpts from GIA article What did Marcel Tolkowsky really say?:
Because every facet has the potential to change a light ray's plane of travel, every facet must be considered in any complete calculation of light paths. Just as a two-dimensional slice of a diamond provides incomplete information about the three-dimensional nature of light behavior inside a diamond, this two-dimensional slice also provides incomplete information about light behavior outside the diamond. A diamond's panorama is three-dimensional. Although diamonds are highly symmetrical, light can enter a diamond from many directions and many angles. This factor further highlights the need to reevaluate Tolkowsky's results, and to recalculate the effects of a diamond's proportions on its appearance aspects.
Another important point to consider is that Tolkowsky did not follow the path of a ray that was reflected more than twice in the diamond. However, we now know that a diamond's appearance is composed of many light paths that reflect considerably more than two times within that diamond. Once again, we can see that Tolkowsky's predictions are helpful in explaining optimal diamond performance, but they are incomplete by today's technological standards.
Figures 1 and 2 show the facets of a round brilliant diamond.
Figure 1 assumes that the "thick part of the girdle" is the same thickness at all 16 "thick parts". It does not consider the effects of indexed upper girdle facets.
Figure 2 is adapted from Figure 37 of Marcel Tolkowsky's Diamond Design, which was originally published in 1919. Since 1919, the lower girdle facets have become longer. As a result, the pavilion main facets have become narrower.
Other proportions also affect the look of the diamond:
Several groups have developed diamond cut grading standards. They all disagree somewhat on which proportions make the best cut. There are certain proportions that are considered best by two or more groups however.
The distance from the viewer's eye to the diamond is important. The 2005 AGS cut standards are based on a distance of 25 centimeters (about 10 inches). The 2004 HCA cut standards are based on a distance of 40 centimeters (about 16 inches).
Polish and symmetry are two important aspects of the cut. The polish grade describes the smoothness of the diamond's facets, and the symmetry grade refers to alignment of the facets. With poor polish, the surface of a facet can be dulled, and may create blurred or dulled sparkle. It may constantly look like it needs to be cleaned. With poor symmetry, light can be misdirected as it enters and exits the diamond.