Are Blue Nile Signature round diamonds, Hearts and Arrows Diamonds?

I almost blew coffee all over the screen of my Macbook Air when I opened up the GCAL report for this 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless, Blue Nile Signature round diamond, and saw that GCAL had given the “Hearts and Arrows pattern” of this diamond an Excellent grade, because the hearts pattern is not consistent; the “hearts” are not uniform in shape, some are larger, some are smaller, and a few of them look more like the flight of a lawn dart more than a heart; and yet GCAL has determined it to be a “Hearts and Arrows diamond”.

Are Blue Nile Signature diamonds Hearts and Arrows?

Are Blue Nile Signature diamonds hearts and arrows? Blue Nile Signature diamond review LD05365076, GCAL250140023-diamond-clarity-photographOne of the common questions asked by my clients is whether Blue Nile Signature round diamonds are Hearts and Arrows diamonds, to which I’ve always said “not by my standards…” because of the lack of symmetry that I noticed in the pavilion view diamond clarity photographs provided on the supplementary diamond grading report provided by GCAL for Blue Nile Signature round diamonds, such as the 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless, Blue Nile Signature round diamond pictured left. It is clearly evident to me that the “hearts pattern” pictured in the pavilion view lacks optical symmetry, but was advised by GCAL not to use this photo to judge H&A pattern quality.

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The reason why GCAL suggested that I not attempt to judge the precision of the hearts and arrows pattern exhibited by Blue Nile Signature diamonds using a diamond clarity photograph, is that it is not the intended purpose of the diamond clarity photograph, and that it does not provide an accurate representation of the hearts pattern…

I don’t know about that, it seems to me that I can see the lack of symmetry exhibited by the hearts pattern just fine in the diamond clarity photograph provided; but thankfully I don’t have to use the diamond clarity photograph to judge the degree of optical precision exhibited by Blue Nile Signature round diamonds any longer, because Blue Nile has added hearts and arrows photographs to the GCAL diamond grading reports that accompany their Signature diamonds.

I believe that part of the confusion about whether Blue Nile Signature round diamonds are actually “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” or simply round brilliant ideal cut diamonds that exhibit some sort of pattern to varying degrees, is due to the product description provided by Blue Nile as their description of their Blue Nile Signature round ideal cut diamonds, in which they state:

Are Blue Nile Signature round ideal cut diamonds hearts and arrows“The term Hearts and Arrows is used to describe the visual effect achieved in a round diamond with perfect symmetry and angles. The Hearts and Arrows effect is exhibited in all of our round Blue Nile Signature Collection diamonds. When viewed under special magnification, the perfectly aligned facets of the Blue Nile Signature diamonds reveal the Hearts and Arrows pattern. From the bottom, eight perfectly symmetrical hearts can be seen, and when viewed from the top, eight completely uniform arrows.”

If I understand this correctly, [sarcasm] a Hearts and Arrows diamonds exhibits a perfect pattern of hearts and arrows, as pictured left.

Perhaps somebody should provide Blue Nile with the text book definition of the word “Perfect” because according to Webster, the word “Perfect” means “being entirely without flaw or defect” which is clearly not the case with the pattern of “hearts and arrows” exhibited by the diamond as presented in the photograph provided on the GCAL diamond grading report below:

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Are Blue Nile Signature diamonds hearts and arrows? Stock number LD05365076, GCAL250140023According to the description of Hearts and Arrows provided on the GCAL diamond grading report for this1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond“Precision faceting is visualized as Hearts and Arrows when brilliant cut diamonds are viewed in specific lighting conditions. Each pattern is the result of facet placement and alignment”. I’m not sure what about this disturbs me more, the apparent fact that a diamond with this sort of irregular pattern of hearts and lawn darts is being promoted as being a “Hearts and Arrows diamond” or the fact that GCAL apparently decided that this sort of “hearts pattern” is Excellent, but here it is in black and white.

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Hearts and Arrows Diamonds grading standards:

Hearts and Arrows diamonds grading standards HRD gemological laboratory BelgiumSince the diamond industry has not agreed upon an official grading standard for hearts and arrows diamonds, each gemological laboratory and diamond dealer is essentially free to decide what they consider to be a hearts and arrows diamond; however many diamond cutters like Brian Gavin of Brian Gavin Diamonds, and Paul Slegers of Crafted by Infinity, rely upon the H&A grading standards published by HRD Belgium. Arguably Brian Gavin set the standards for Hearts and Arrows diamond grading at the International Diamond Cut Conference in 2004.

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Brian Gavin is one of my original mentors in the diamond business; a few years back, he published Hearts and Arrows Grading, a web site that is dedicated to promoting a uniform set of grading standards for Hearts and Arrows diamonds; a similar web site called Hearts and Arrows dot com was launched around the same time by Gary Wright, who also mentored me in my early years in the diamond business… both Brian Gavin and Gary Wright taught me to grade Hearts & Arrows diamonds by Japanese standards, which were established by the Central Gemological Laboratory (CGL) and Zenhokyo Gemological Laboratory of Japan in the mid-1990’s.

Are Blue Nile Signature diamonds hearts and arrows? Stock number LD05365076, GCAL250140023I am confident that neither Brian Gavin, Gary Wright, Paul Slegers, nor the HRD Gemological Laboratory of Belgium, would consider the hearts pattern exhibited by the 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond to be Excellent; however that is the apparent opinion of GCAL. Personally I believe that GCAL shot themselves in the foot giving this diamond an Excellent hearts and arrows grade, but it is their right to do so. Based upon the lack of consistency exhibited within the hearts photograph provided by GCAL, the highest grade that I would give this diamond is good; which means that this diamond is not “hearts and arrows” by my standards.

According to the description of Hearts and Arrows provided on the GCAL diamond grading report for this diamond “Precision faceting is visualized as Hearts and Arrows when brilliant cut diamonds are viewed in specific lighting conditions. Each pattern is the result of facet placement and alignment”.

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How hearts patterns are created in Brian Gavin Signature round brilliant cut diamondsI find this explanation of hearts and arrows to be a bit confusing, and I actually know quite a bit about the degree of optical precision required for a round brilliant cut diamond to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows that is uniform. This image demonstrates how a hearts pattern is created within a Brian Gavin Signature round diamond; light reflecting off of the pavilion main facet located in the 12 o’clock position, is split apart by the pavilion main facet located on the other side of the diamond, and reflects on to the lower girdle facets on each side of it, creating one half of the heart shape. Any variation in the facet shape, alignment, or indexing will create inconsistencies in the hearts pattern.

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What should a Hearts and Arrows pattern look like?

What should an excellent hearts and arrows diamond pattern look like? Brian Gavin Signature diamond reviews, AGSL 104063263007It is rather apparent that the diamond buyers for Blue Nile, the diamond graders for GCAL, and I differ in our opinion of what constitutes an Excellent grade for hearts patterns exhibited by a small percentage of round brilliant cut diamonds. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to provide an example of a hearts pattern that I would grade as being Excellent; the hearts pattern exhibited by this 1.041 carat, D-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is Excellent in my opinion. Notice the hearts are reasonably symmetrical in size, shape, and spacing, the tips of the hearts are not bending, nor are their splits in the clefts of the hearts, this is typical of BGD Signature rounds.

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In the sake of full material disclosure, I want to state for the record that I affiliate market for both Blue Nile, Brian Gavin Diamonds, and Crafted by Infinity; thus it does not matter to me personally whether you buy a Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, or a Blue Nile Signature round diamond using the affiliate links provided, because I will be compensated for the referral to either vendor when you do so, and it does not affect your purchase price by the way… the issue that I have is what I consider to be an inaccurate representation of what constitutes “Hearts and Arrows” by Blue Nile and GCAL, based upon the Japanese Hearts and Arrows diamond grading standards that I adhere to.

Crafted by Infinity hearts and arrows diamond reviews, AGSL 104074032007To that regard, I want to introduce this 1.09 carat, D-color, Internally Flawless, Crafted by Infinity round ideal cut diamond as another example of what I consider to be a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows that is worthy of an Excellent grade. Notice that there is a reasonable amount of symmetry in the size, shape, and spacing of the hearts, and very little splitting visible in the clefts of the hearts. It seems to me that there is a clear difference in the degree of optical precision exhibited by the Brian Gavin Signature diamond, the Crafted by Infinity diamond, and the Blue Nile Signature diamond, thus we can not grade the H&A patterns of all three diamonds as Excellent.

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How diamond proportions affect hearts and arrows:

How diamond proportions affect hearts and arrows patterns, Blue Nile Signature diamond review, GIA 6167678260It might interest you to know that I was confident that this 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond was not going to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, before I even looked at the GCAL diamond grading report; because the proportions of the diamond are not conducive to the creation of hearts and arrows patterns. The 41.2° pavilion angle is not within my preferred range of proportions, and neither is the 34.0° crown angle.

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I don’t know a single expert in the niche market of Hearts and Arrows diamonds, who would think for a moment that a round brilliant cut diamond with a 41.2 degree pavilion angle, that is offset by a 34.0 degree crown angle, with lower girdle facets averaging 80% in length, could possibly exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows… but don’t take my word for it, just look at the picture provided of the diamond on the GCAL report.

With all due respect, I think that it might be more appropriate for GCAL to label the section on the diamond grading reports that they issue for Blue Nile Signature diamonds like this 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond, something like “Reflector Scope Image” and NOT “Hearts and Arrows” and perhaps they should not attempt to attempt to grade the hearts patterns, until they’ve consulted with some of the experts in the field of hearts and arrows diamonds.

Are Blue Nile Signature Diamonds a good diamond?

Right about now, you might be wondering whether Blue Nile Signature diamonds are a good diamond, my answer is that it depends on the characteristics of the individual diamond; this is generally true of any diamond, regardless of brand name.

In my humble opinion, a Blue Nile Signature diamond with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent with a total depth between 59 – 61.8% and a table diameter between 53 – 58% with a pavilion angle between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees that is offset by a crown angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees (possibly 35.0 degrees) is likely to be a beautiful looking diamond; however I’m not convinced that it will actually exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows… but it is likely to be an exceptional looking ideal cut diamond, which is well within the Top 1% of the annual production for round brilliant cut diamonds.

But if you’re actually looking for a super ideal cut diamond that exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, then I would limit the search to diamonds from the Brian Gavin Signature collection, or those produced by Crafted by Infinity, which is distributed online via High Performance Diamonds; in my experience these two producers of hearts and arrows diamonds set the standards for everybody else to follow.

Note that I am not saying that it is not possible to find a Blue Nile Signature diamond that exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows that I might deem to be truly excellent; I’m just saying that “by the numbers” I believe it to be unlikely; so buy a Blue Nile Signature ideal cut diamond, if an ideal cut diamond is all that you are looking for; but if you’re looking for “Hearts and Arrows” that truly lives up to the rating of Excellent, then I believe you’ll only find it from Brian Gavin or Crafted by Infinity.

Sorry Blue Nile and GCAL, but I have to disagree with you on this one! If you happen to be considering a Blue Nile Signature diamond, or would like help finding or evaluating a diamond, feel free to take advantage of my Diamond Concierge Service; it costs you nothing, I’ll be compensated by various vendors if you purchase using the affiliate link provided, but understand that I’m happy to assist you, regardless of whether you buy the diamond from one of my preferred vendors or not; maybe I’ll even turn the details into a blog post!

Todd Gray
Todd Gray is a professional diamond buyer with 30+ years of trade experience. He loves to teach people how to buy diamonds that exhibit incredible light performance! In addition to writing for Nice Ice, Todd "ghost writes" blogs and educational content for other diamond sites. When Todd isn't chained to a desk, or consulting for the trade, he enjoys Freediving! (that's like scuba diving, but without air tanks)
Todd Gray

@NiceIceDiamonds

Professional diamond buyer with 30+ years trade experience in the niche of super ideal cut diamonds. In my free time, I enjoy freediving & photography.
The incredible #story behind the Sirisha diamond necklace by @BrianGavin 71 #Diamonds cut to order #Amazinghttps://t.co/dHOo1T99xT - 2 years ago

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4 comments
Wink Jones says January 24, 2015

Hmmm, that is an unusual request from you, the master. What do I really think?

One of the first things that comes to mind, is when I click on the link in your reply to go look at the Blue Nile stone, it opens in the tab on my browser that I am in and erases that portion of my reply that I have already written when I backspace to get back to this page.

Naughty Todd! Fix this please!

One of my first thoughts is distaste at seeing a “sample picture” of the diamond on the BN site. This is a pet peeve of mine. Since this is part of their signature line, it should have a photo of the real diamond.

Then when I go to the Gcal document, the image of the Hearts picture is too small for many of us to see properly. (Another pet peeve of mine) I overcame this by changing the magnification of the picture up to 200% which gave me a somewhat pixilated image that was still good enough to see many things that I did not like.

As you know, I am a big fan of 3d symmetry to produce the largest flashes of both white and colored light. This hearts picture clearly shows that the cutter of this diamond was at best interested in somewhat nice symmetry so that he could maximize weight retention.

This should be a nice looking diamond, so long as it is not placed side by side with a properly cut diamond for ultimate selection. I suspect that were this diamond placed in a slotted tray, next to two or three other diamond that were cut properly that it would find itself living in its paper after the viewing session, while one of the other diamonds was selected in this “blind taste test” to go into someone’s new ring. When I show diamonds to a client I prefer to put three to five diamonds on a tray without telling my client anything abut the diamond and letting their eye do the choosing rather than the paper grades.

Still, shown by itself, it should be acceptable to someone only wanting to “get by” rather than having the very best.

What I see specifically that tells me this diamond is not displaying a good hearts image. (We will forget the arrows image in which some of the arrow heads are slightly tilted). First, as you have already mentioned, the hearts are not all the same size, and frankly the same shape. The heart at the 3 o’clock position is at least a third smaller than the hearts on either side of it, in both length and width. While some minor clefting is permissible, as seen in the hearts at 12, 7 and 9 o’clock positions, the deep clefts at the 5 and 6 o’clock positions are excessive.

The heart at the 7 o’clock position is also smaller than the hearts on either side and it has a bent point which I would expect given the slant of its cleft. The heart at 11 o’clock is narrower than the hearts on either side of it.

I wish I had a good device for taking measurements on screen, as I think that the hearts at 6 and 7 o’clock are somewhat asymmetrical with the right side of 7 especially looking thinner to me than the left side.

There are some other minor things, but this should make it clear that this is not a true hearts pattern. Close, but no cigar.

As such, I can not acquiesce to give you my grade for the hearts image, since it is not a hearts image. To me, this is a pass, fail proposition, and this diamond fails.

Just my thoughts.

Wink

Reply
    Todd Gray says January 26, 2015

    It’s so nice to see that I’m not crazy! Of course, you, me, Brian, Paul, and Gary, are part of the “Old Guard” when it comes to Hearts and Arrows diamonds; we were all schooled in the Japanese standards set forth by the Central Gemological Laboratory (CGL) and Zenhokyo Gemological Laboratory of Japan, these young pups might not quite see things from the same perspective that we do; it’s up to us to help people understand what constitutes a true hearts and arrows quality diamond, and how the patterns of hearts and arrows are created; then people can make an informed choice about whether to buy a straight-up GIA Excellent cut diamond with zero proportions, or an AGS Ideal-0 cut diamond with a Light Performance grade as determined by Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) or a premium super ideal cut diamond that exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows… You and I know that a true hearts and arrows cut diamond takes about four times longer to polish than a standard ideal cut diamond, we know the intricacy of planning that goes into the production of a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts & Arrows, but most people shopping for a diamond online are focused on proportions, the cut grade stated on the lab report, and price; without the insight of the “O.G.” a lot of people wouldn’t know the difference between true H&A diamonds, and those which merely exhibit a pattern of lawn darts! 😉

    Reply
Wink Jones says January 24, 2015

Darn it Todd,

Why wont you ever just tell us what you really think?

Wink

Reply
    Todd Gray says January 24, 2015

    Well Wink, we all know that I have difficulty expressing myself 😉

    Speaking of which, since this isn’t one of those diamond forums that doesn’t permit one vendor to comment on the characteristics of another diamond vendor’s diamond, and since you are an experienced grader of hearts and arrows diamonds… Why don’t you tell my readers what you see in the pattern of the 1.06 carat, G-color, Internally Flawless, Blue Nile Signature round diamond that GCAL has determined exhibits an “Excellent” pattern of Hearts and Arrows? What grade would you give the pattern? And how would you describe it? Go ahead, tell us what YOU really think! 😉

    Reply
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