“What is the reason for the price difference between James Allen True Hearts and Brian Gavin Signature Hearts and Arrows diamonds? There seems to be a pretty steep premium charged by Brian Gavin for his hearts and arrows diamonds. Is the premium simply due to a difference of brand name? Or is the difference in price between the two brands of hearts and arrows diamonds due to differences in diamond cut quality?”
“Can you tell me what differences in diamond quality are actually worth paying for? I am trying to decide between these (3) James Allen True Hearts Diamonds, and (5) Brian Gavin Signature diamonds. At the end of the day, I simply want a spectacular looking diamond in the range of 1.30 carats, which is completely eye clean, and faces-up white in a platinum six prong solitaire. Can you help me pick the best diamond from the list provided?”
This is the list of the eight diamonds that this client asked me to compare:
Obviously the client is only going to purchase one of these diamonds. I provided him with in-depth reviews of each diamond via email. And we spent some time going back and forth discussing the whole James Allen vs Brian Gavin thing. Then I obtained his permission to publish these reviews and some of topics we discussed as a blog post, because I feel that this is the sort of thing that is helpful to my readers.
All of the diamonds featured in these James Allen vs Brian Gavin reviews have an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal. All of the diamonds exhibit patterns of hearts and arrows to varying degrees. A professional diamond buyer like myself, can quickly and easily discern the differences that tend to distinguish the two brands. However, the odds are that the average diamond buyer does not know what to look for. Which is not to say that they would not be able to appreciate the ideal differences, once they have been shown what to look for.
In my experience, when people compare the prices of James Allen vs Brian Gavin, they approach it from the perspective that if both diamonds are:
Then the diamonds must be comparable, thus the prices for the diamonds should be relatively the same. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that differences in the degree of optical precision exhibited by ideal cut diamonds, can have a major impact upon the price. Most people in the diamond industry don’t want you to know that Diamond Cut Quality Affects Price by 60%. Interestingly enough, Optical Precision has a substantial affect on the price of a diamond, but it is not taken into account by the gemological laboratories.
Given the understanding that diamond cut quality can affect the price of a diamond by as much as sixty percent, one might wonder why most of the Diamond Quality Documents issued by the AGS Laboratory for James Allen True Hearts diamonds don’t feature an ASET image. Especially since ALL of the DQD’s issued for Brian Gavin Signature diamonds feature an ASET image. You might find yourself concluding that:
James Allen vs Brian Gavin
is the difference between
Performance Based vs Light Performance
Diamond Quality Documents
However the reality is that both versions of the AGS Diamond Quality Documents are Light Performance based. The Platinum version of the report which accompanies all Brian Gavin Signature diamonds, simply features an ASET image. The ASET image provides a visual representation or map of where in the room the diamond is gathering light from, and demonstrates how evenly light is being reflected throughout the diamond. Now let’s take a look at the ASET images for two very different AGS Ideal Cut diamonds:
I want you to know that I’m making an “Apples to Oranges” comparison of ideal cut diamonds that represent opposite ends of the spectrum. It is the only way I know how to demonstrate the difference in light performance between these two AGS Ideal-0 cut diamonds:
The ASET image featured on the left is a standard ideal cut diamond. The diamond on the right is a Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond. Both diamonds were graded on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0. From the perspective of the paper grade, you could make the mistake of assuming that the diamonds are comparable. However the reality is that they represent opposite ends of the spectrum, and the reason we are able to determine this is because of the insight provided by the ASET image.
In order to fully appreciate the differences between these two ideal cut diamonds, I strongly recommend reading the following articles:
James Allen clearly has the capability of capturing Ideal Scope and Hearts & Arrows Scope images. So why don’t they provide ASET images? Your guess is as good as mine… but I can tell you that when I’ve requested them in the past, they’ve refused to provide them. Even when I pointed out that competitors like Brian Gavin provide all reflector scope images on their diamond details pages. What makes this more frustrating for me, is that I know that James Allen has the ability to provide an ASET image. They just won’t do it. Apparently not for me, and probably not for you either.
And clearly, they don’t want to provide them on the Diamond Quality Document either, or they’d pay the slight difference in cost between the Performance Based and Light Performance Based Diamond Quality Documents available from the American Gem Society Laboratory. Which would also benefit them in the form of having the James Allen True Hearts brand featured on the Diamond Quality Document. This is not only beneficial in terms of branding the diamond, but it also ensures that your insurance company has to value the replacement cost of the diamond upon a diamond of the same quality and brand designation, in the event of loss or damage.
I think I’ve done a sufficient job of explaining the difference between the versions of “Performance Based” diamond grading reports being relied upon by James Allen vs Brian Gavin. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty and determine the additional differences between the two brands of hearts and arrows diamonds.
I’d like to begin by directing your attention to the hearts and arrows pattern exhibited by this 1.314 carat, F-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond. This diamond exhibits a text book version of a picture perfect pattern of hearts and arrows. You’re looking at eight symmetrical hearts, which are created by light reflecting off the lower girdle facets, located on the other side of the diamond, opposite of each heart. Now if that statement seems a bit puzzling, read this tutorial on the Creation of Hearts & Arrows patterns in round diamonds. Lord knows that this article is already long enough, without my adding an explanation about what creates patterns of hearts and arrows in round diamonds. What I want you to notice is that the heart shapes are essentially the same size and shape, and that the spacing around the hearts is relatively even. The tips of the hearts are not bending or twisting, the shoulders of the hearts are uniform in shape, and there are no splits in the clefts.
This is exactly what I expect the hearts pattern of a Hearts & Arrows diamond to look like. This is an excellent example of what to look for in a hearts and arrows diamond. So we’ll use this diamond as the foundation of understanding that we will build upon in this example.
The proportions of the diamond are also exceptional. The proportions are right in the middle of the spectrum designated for the zero ideal cut proportions rating. The 40.7 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return, so the diamond is going to be nice and bright. The 34.7 degree crown angle is going to produce a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle). The combination of the 76% lower girdle facet length and the higher degree of optical precision indicated by the crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, will produce broad spectrum sparkle. This is sparkle that is larger in size, and which tends to be brighter, bolder, and more vivid, than what the average ideal cut diamond will produce.
Now let’s take a look at the 1.308 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond. The diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform of the AGS Laboratory. However the report does not provide an ASET Scope image of the diamond, so there is no indication of how evenly light is reflecting throughout the diamond, nor do we have an indication of where in the room the diamond is gathering light from. But I can tell you that the 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return. While the 34.8 degree crown angle should produce a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) which should be larger in size due to the 76% lower girdle facet length. But check out the edges of the heart pictured in the relative eleven o’clock position. There is definitely something going on with the shoulders of that heart. Also notice how the hearts differ slightly in size and shape, and that they are bending at the tips.
This is most noticeable in the tip of the heart that is located just above the nine o’clock position. Notice how the tip of that heart is bending downward. The tip of the heart located in the relative five o’clock position is bending to the left slightly. The tips of the other hearts are bending a bit also, but to a lesser degree. This is an indication that the length of the lower girdle facets is slightly different.
Each heart consists of two halves, which are made up of light reflecting off of the lower girdle facet located on the other side of the diamond. When there is a difference in the length of the lower girdle facets, then the reflections are different lengths, and this causes what appears to be bending at the tip of the hearts. I’d say that this diamond is an exceptional ideal cut diamond, which is going to perform wonderfully, but clearly there is something going on in terms of the optical precision. Thus I wouldn’t classify it as hearts and arrows, but it’s a better than average ideal cut diamond.
The hearts look a bit better on this 1.315 carat, F-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond, but notice how the heart located in the eight o’clock position is just a hint smaller than the rest. Same with the heart located directly across from it in the two o’clock region. Remember that I just said that each half of the heart is created by the light reflecting off of the lower girdle facet located on the other side of the diamond? Do you think there might be a correlation between the hearts located in the two and eight o’clock positions then appearing to be smaller in size than the rest? This is the type of thing that professional diamond buyers like myself tend to notice. At least those of us who specialize in the niche of hearts and arrows diamonds. So once again, I’m going to label this a higher end ideal cut, but not quite hearts and arrows.
On a positive note, I have no doubt that the 40.6 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return. The 34.3 degree crown should produce a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) while the 78% lower girdle facets produce sparkle that is larger in size than what would be produced if they were 80% or higher.
If you look at the comments section on the Diamond Quality Document, you’ll see a comment indicating “the clarity grade of this diamond is partly based upon clouds that are not shown.” This statement tends to freak people out, but it really is not a concern in a VS-2 clarity diamond.
A “cloud” is simply a cluster of pinpoint size diamond crystals, which tend to look like stars sparkling up in the sky when viewed through 10x and higher magnification. This comment tends to used to disclose the presence of clouds, which are so small that the grader felt they were not worth plotting because they can’t be relied upon as an identifying characteristic. But they are mentioned because they might be found upon close examination. It’s essentially a CYA statement and nothing more.
This 1.317 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond exhibits an exceptional pattern of hearts and arrows. Notice how the hearts all appear to be relatively the same size and shape. Notice how the shoulders of the hearts all exhibit the same shape, the hearts exhibit the same outline. The spacing between the tips of the hearts and the arrowheads located in the middle of the diamond are relatively the same. This is another great example of what I expect a true hearts and arrows diamond to look. I want to point out that the little arrowheads located in the middle of the diamond are never going to be the same size and shape, those aren’t actually the arrows that are being referred to when we say “Hearts & Arrows” so don’t get caught up on that. The Arrows pattern is actually the pattern of eight arrows that is visible when you view the diamond in the face-up position. I also want you to understand that the patterns will never be perfect, because these diamonds are cut by hand.
But there are varying degrees of perfection to be found within the classification generally referred to as Hearts & Arrows. This diamond represents the higher end of the spectrum, you could think of it as being A+ on the scale of perfection. The diamond also looks fantastic in the photographs provided of the diamond as seen through an ASET Scope and Ideal Scope. I have no doubt that this diamond is going to be exceptionally bright and exhibit broad spectrum sparkle.
The 40.8 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return. The 34.8 degree crown angle is going to produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. And the combination of the 77% lower girdle facet length and the higher degree of optical precision, should produce broad spectrum sparkle that people notice from across the room.
This 1.335 carat, F-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond also exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows. As with all Brian Gavin Signature diamonds, it is graded on the Light Performance grading platform that provides the results of the ASET Scan on the Diamond Quality Document. As you can clearly see, the diamond is showing lots of bright red, which indicates that the diamond is going to be incredibly bright! The majority of light being picked up and reflected back by the diamond, is being gathered from the brightest light source available in the room. The arrows pattern is showing exceptional contrast brilliance, which improves our depth perception and makes the diamond seem to sparkle even more! In terms of the proportions, they are right in the middle of the spectrum designated for the zero ideal cut proportions rating. The 40.6 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return. The 34.9 degree crown angle is going to produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The combination of the 77% lower girdle facet length and higher degree of optical precision is going to produce broad spectrum sparkle. The kind of sparkle that will take her breath away every time she looks upon this diamond!
Once again, the diamond details page provides all of the reflector scope images that you need to be able to judge the optical precision of this diamond, and know that it is going to look incredible. No guesswork required.
So what do you think of the hearts pattern exhibited by this 1.348 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond? I suspect that you’re beginning to know what to look for as far as what the hearts pattern of a “Hearts and Arrows diamond” is supposed to look like. This is not it from my perspective. Notice the distortion in the shoulders of the hearts located in the lower right quadrant of the diamond in this image provided by James Allen. And notice how the tip of the heart located in the relative five o’clock position is twisting to the left. There is also a lot of variance in the amount of spacing located between the tips of the hearts and the arrowheads positioned beneath them. There are other irregularities in the hearts pattern, but I don’t feel the need to point out all of them. I’d rather focus on the main points that knock this diamond out of the hearts and arrows classification, based upon my grading standards for hearts and arrows.
So once again, I feel that this diamond is a very nice ideal cut diamond, but not one that I’d classify as hearts and arrows. But that’s the thing, there is no official grading standard that defines the parameters for what constitutes hearts and arrows. Clearly James Allen and I are working from opposite sides of the spectrum, and that’s perfectly fine. If they want to allow an ideal cut diamond which exhibits a pattern like this to define the James Allen True Hearts brand, they are welcome to. But if you’re asking me for my opinion, this is not hearts and arrows.
On a positive note, the diamond warranted an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform. The results of the ASET Scope scan are not provided on the Diamond Quality Document, nor on the diamond details page provided by James Allen. But the 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return, and the 34.8 degree crown angle should produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion.
As with all of the other Brian Gavin Signature diamonds we’ve evaluated thus far, this 1.355 carat, G-color, VS-1 clarity, BGD Signature round diamond exhibits an exceptional pattern of hearts and arrows. Have you noticed that the Hearts and Ideal Scope images provided by Brian Gavin on the diamond details pages are larger in size than the ones provided by James Allen? Smaller images make it easier to hide the imperfections in the hearts and arrows patterns. So not only do I think that the hearts patterns are more precise in the Brian Gavin Signature round diamonds that we’ve evaluated thus far, the images are larger in size, making it easier to detect any variances. And yet, the hearts patterns continue to look spectacular. When I consider whether to purchase a diamond from James Allen vs Brian Gavin, this is the type of thing that I take into consideration. There is more to buying an ideal cut diamond than simply focusing on the proportions and overall cut grade.
There is more that goes into creating an exceptional looking diamond, than merely hitting the right proportions and nailing the polish and symmetry grades. The next evolution of diamond cutting is all about producing diamonds that exhibit exceptional optical precision. To that regard, I feel that Brian Gavin sets the standard for Hearts & Arrows. If I had to describe the Brian Gavin brand in one word, that word would be Consistency. Every Brian Gavin Signature round diamond that I’ve ever seen looks like this:
This diamond is certainly no exception. You know from experience, that the 40.8 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return. The 34.8 degree crown angle is going to produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The combination of the 77% lower girdle facet length, and the higher degree of optical precision that creates the crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, is going to produce broad spectrum sparkle that is simply breathtaking. What more do you need to know? Oh yea, I know…
You are probably aware that diamonds which are D-E-F color are classified as being colorless, which means that they are going to face-up bright white. When viewed while placed upside down on the table facet, on a white diamond sorting tray, under the controlled light of a GIA Diamond Light in a room which was otherwise pitch black, from a side-profile, these diamonds appear to be colorless.
Diamonds which are G-H color are classified as being near-colorless, which means that they exhibited just a hint of hue and saturation when viewed from a side profile. But the slight difference in diamond color is not going to be all that visible from the vantage point that we look at a diamond when set in something like this Classic Tiffany style solitaire by Brian Gavin. Which is why I haven’t suggested that you buy a diamond of specific color grade in this James Allen vs Brian Gavin review. I prefer to focus on the sparkle factor of the diamonds instead, because that is a difference which is more likely to be seen by the average person. Whereas the subtle difference between F-G-H color diamonds is going to be a lot less noticeable. If the average person can see it at all without a great deal of coaching. From my perspective, the difference in light performance and sparkle factor is a benefit that is always worth paying for. I’d gladly sacrifice a color grade or two, in order to afford the higher cut quality.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning more about James Allen vs Brian Gavin, and have a better understanding of the differences that can exist in the cut qualities of diamonds designated as being hearts and arrows. Feel free to take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service if you’d like help finding the best diamond available within the price range you are working with. Just drop me a note and let me know the diamond shape you seek, along with the range of carat weight, clarity, color, and blue fluorescence that you are open to considering. I’ll put the experience I gained while working as a professional diamond buyer for 30+ years to work on your your behalf. There is no upfront charge for this service, my time is paid for by the various vendors who I work with. Best of all, your price on the diamond is exactly the same as if you’d found it on your own!
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