Blue Nile Signature Diamond Review: Will these 1.00 carat diamonds make the grade?

Lee writes: “Hi, I sit here ready to push the purchase button on an engagement ring but would like your opinion on 2 stones I have narrowed my search to from the Blue Nile signature range: Blue Nile stock #LD03024633 and Blue Nile stock #LD03157195.  I’m also wondering if the GCAL is showing me everything I need to know or should I be requesting a separate H&A diagram and whatever else you may recommend.  I note that the HCA tool has rated both of these at 0.9 and 1.5 respectively.  Can I be confident I’m getting the best overall quality with a Blue Nile Signature  Diamond or are they just the top performers in the way of sparkle?  Is there anything else that you would recommend? A little confused, many thanks in advance.”

Thank you for your inquiry Lee, I’m happy to look over the diamond grading reports and details for these two Signature Diamonds from Blue Nile for you from the perspective of a diamond buyer and provide you with some insight.  Let’s begin with a general overview of the two diamonds selected from the Blue Nile web site:

1.00 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, round brilliant ideal Signature Diamond from Blue Nile with faint fluorescence is graded by the GIA with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and has a total depth of 61.8% with a table diameter of 56% and a crown angle of 35.0 degrees with a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees with a medium to slightly thick, faceted girdle and no culet.

1.05 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, round brilliant ideal Signature Diamond from Blue Nile with negligible fluorescence is graded by the GIA with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and has a total depth of 61.6% with a table diameter of 56% with a crown angle of 35.0 degrees and a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with a medium, faceted girdle and a small culet.

In terms of the overall cut quality of the diamonds and the proportions, these two diamonds are relatively equal and as noted score relatively well on the Holloway Cut Adviser for the estimate light return.  To this regard the diamonds are essentially equal and it is likely that they will both exhibit a very good amount of light return because the pavilion angles are both within my preferred range of 40.6 – 40.9 degrees which is the optimum reflective angle for maximum light return.  Both diamonds have a crown angle measurement of 35.0 degrees, so if we were to examine them side-by-side it is likely that we would not be able to detect a discernible difference between the two diamonds in terms of the volume of light which they create as a result of their cut quality.

Getting Crystal Clear on the Inclusions:

Both diamonds are SI-1 in clarity and F-color with negligible to faint fluorescence, here again they are fairly comparable.  However the extent of the feathers within the crown section (upper half) of the 1.00 carat concern me… the feather indicated in the eight o’clock region is pretty extensive and then the two feathers stacked next to each other in the eleven o’clock region are also rather long and I don’t like the fact that they are located right next to each other.  On a positive note, it is good that the feathers appear to be located only in the upper portion of the diamond which means that they don’t spread through the lower portion of the diamond.

Let’s Leave Cupid Out of It:

Since you asked whether you should ask Blue Nile for images of the diamonds as seen through a Hearts and Arrows Scope, I’ll address the fact that neither of these diamonds exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows, but the reality is that they were not intended to be Hearts and Arrows diamonds and are not being marketed as such.

A crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows within a round brilliant cut diamond is the direct result of very careful planning and extremely precise facet alignment combined with ultra fine consistency of facet shape.  The majority of round brilliant ideal cut diamonds are not produced to the level of precision necessary to produce a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, rather they are produced to meet the minimum specifications of the GIA Excellent and AGS Ideal 0 cut grades which only take the proportions, polish and symmetry into account and when I refer to “diamond symmetry” in this sentence I am referring to a the bare bones minimum standards for facet shape and meet-point alignment which refers to how well the facet junctions meet up with one another.  Facet alignment in terms of hearts and arrows specifications requires that the facets be very precisely aligned with each other not only across from each other, like the twelve and six o’clock positions on a clock, but also the relationship between the facets contained in both the upper and lower halves of the diamond.  The first clue that these diamonds would not exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows for me was the 35.0 degree crown angle, but that’s another story all together…

If you take a look at the images of the crown section and pavilion section of the 1.00 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature Diamond as provided on the GCAL report (pictured left) you will see that there is a variation in the levels of contrast exhibited by the arrow shafts and the arrowheads, this is most likely do to a variation in the high and low measurements of the pavilion main facets.  The hearts are smaller than they should be and vary in size and shape, in addition there are several hearts which appear to not have a well developed cleft, this is pretty typical of the average round brilliant cut diamond so it is not something to be alarmed about ~ it’s simply not a Hearts and Arrows quality diamond and it’s not going to exhibit the same degree of sparkle factor.  It’s not good, it’s not bad, it simply is the nature of this level of diamond cut quality.

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The variation in the contrast of the arrow shafts and the arrowheads in the 1.05 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature Diamond as exhibited in the photographs provided on the GCAL report (pictured left) is more extreme than it is in the 1.00 carat option described above.  Likewise the pattern of hearts is much more varied with the difference in the size and shape of the hearts being much more pronounced and the tips of the hearts are twisted which indicates a high amount of Azimuth Shift which is variation of the facet structure and alignment.

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While these images are not comparable to the quality that would be provided by using an actual Hearts and Arrows scope which is designed to show the details of these patterns, they are valuable in that they provide us with some insight as to the optical symmetry of these two diamonds which is typical of round brilliant ideal cut diamonds manufactured to be good looking, brilliant diamonds, but which were not produced specifically to be Hearts and Arrows cut diamonds.  Keep in mind that every online diamond dealer tends to appeal to specific target markets and operates from a different business model, it seems to me that the intent of Blue Nile is to compete with brick and mortar jewelry stores on a platform of offering high quality diamonds at exceptional prices and this is certainly the case here… however they are not trying to compete with vendors like Brian Gavin Diamonds or High Performance Diamonds who specialize in ultra high quality Hearts and Arrows cut diamonds and then of course we have the James Allen True Hearts brand which from my perspective is kind of in the middle.

So between the two diamonds which you asked about  I’m inclined to lean towards the 1.00 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Signature Diamond from Blue Nile because it seems to be cut just a little better than the 1.05 carat diamond is.  Keep in mind that I’m not exactly thrilled with the extent of the inclusions within this diamond, but it’s likely to exhibit slightly better light return and perhaps even visual performance.

Entering the Realm of Optical Symmetry & Visual Performance:

Because you mentioned an interest in Hearts and Arrows quality diamonds, I poked around a bit and found a few options for you to consider… one thing to keep in mind is that these will cost a little bit more because they are cut to a higher standard of precision which requires greater skill not only in the production department, but also in the planning stages of development and more diamond rough is lost in the process.

The first option which I found is this 1.007 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Signature Hearts and Arrows Diamond from Brian Gavin which is graded by the AGS Laboratory on their Platinum Light Performance grading platform with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal 0 which is the highest cut rating available in the industry.  Ignoring everything which I know about the production standards of Brian Gavin Diamonds for a moment, I can tell you that I already know that this diamond is going to light up the room simply because it received an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal 0 on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform because the results provided by the Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET) scan tell me that the diamond is gathering light from all the right places in the room and is sending the light back out towards the viewer with minimum light leakage.  There is no way to determine this with a diamond graded by the GIA, even those with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent because the ASET is proprietary to the AGS Laboratory.

Some dealers may try to convince you that they can provide this type of information using an ASET Scope and camera to photograph the diamond, but this only provides insight of the diamond as viewed from a top down perspective at the ninety degree mark which is the very best possible angle and the reality is that the scan conducted in the AGS Laboratory evaluates the diamond from 244 different vantage points, there simply is no comparison… so we know that the diamond is going to knock your socks off in terms of light return!

But then we can also see from the images provided on the diamond details page that the diamond exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, so we know that the facet alignment is extremely precise and this is going to result in a superior amount of sparkle!  The inclusions are all acceptable in my book and everything about the diamond looks great… it’s sure to be a top performer!

Next we have this 1.03 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Crafted by Infinity Hearts & Arrows diamond offered by High Performance Diamonds which is also cut to top tier standards and graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal 0 on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform.  Here again, not a lot needs to be written about this diamond except that everything about it meets my extremely strict selection criteria… it’s got an excellent looking pattern of hearts and arrows and the diamond looks phenomenal when viewed through an ASET and an Ideal Scope which means that it’s going to knock your socks off in real life!

And finally we have this 1.088 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, True Hearts Diamond from James Allen which is also graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal 0 on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform… just like the others I’ve selected for you to consider it exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows.  Now James Allen does not provide additional images of the diamond as pictured through an ASET and an Ideal Scope, but the reality is that there is already a picture of the diamond as seen through an ASET Scope on the AGS Diamond Quality Document so it would be kind of redundant and I don’t need the Ideal Scope to look for light leakage because this can also be determined using the ASET scope image.  Here again everything about the diamond looks great, the inclusions are minimal and meet my selection criteria.

Please note that these three diamonds are listed in order of carat weight and the order in no way indicates an order of preference because quite simply all three of these diamonds are cut to extremely high standards.  In fact, the cut precision of these diamonds puts them in the Top 1/10th of 1% of the average annual production of round brilliant cut diamonds… they are quite simply The Cat’s Meow.

It should also be mentioned that since your initial inquiry specifically referenced options from Blue Nile that I did conduct an additional review of their inventory for both ideal cut diamonds and signature ideal cut diamonds in the same range of characteristics for carat weight, color and clarity of the original two diamonds which you referenced in hopes of finding additional options for you to consider from Blue Nile, however none of the options met my selection criteria… you had already selected the best options currently available.  Let me know if you would like to expand your search to a broader range of color and clarity or if I can assist you with your search in any other way.

And if by chance you’re reading this review just to learn something and would like help finding the diamond of yours dreams, just drop me a note and I’ll be happy to see what I can find for you.

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.
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