Does size really matter? This is one of those philosophical debates that has been ongoing since the beginning of time. From a purely psychological perspective, it goes without saying that size does matter. Which is why one of the first questions women always ask is “How BIG is it?” when a friend shows off her new engagement ring. Well, it’s either that, or they’re just being catty! Perhaps it’s a bit of both… Women are fascinating creatures, are they not?
At the same time, it goes without saying that bigger is not always better. There is an old adage that says “It’s not the size, but how you utilize” which applies to many things. With regards to diamonds, size is largely a matter of perception. There are many cost-effective ways to make a diamond look bigger than the carat weight. Which means that you are guaranteed to rock the house, regardless of your ring buying budget.
The cut quality of a diamond has a dramatic effect on the volume of light return and sparkle factor. Diamond grading laboratories, such as the AGS and GIA, grade diamonds for cut quality. This rating focuses on the proportions, polish and symmetry grades of the diamond. Thus it seems like all you have to do is focus on diamonds with a cut grade of AGS Ideal or GIA Excellent. After all, that cut rating means that the diamond is the very best, right? Wrong.
The problem with the cut grade system is that each cut grade represents a range or spectrum of possibility. As such, there are diamonds cut to the low-end of the scale, the mid-range and the high-end. In this particular instance, the high-end actually refers to diamonds cut in the middle of the spectrum. Because the middle zone of the proportions criteria represents the sweet spot!
You want to avoid diamonds with proportions along the fringe of the outer zones. Because those diamonds are not likely to exhibit the highest volume of light return. At the same time, they are also likely to exhibit a lot of light leakage and obstruction. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of buying a diamond, don’t you think?
Imagine for a moment, that your girlfriend has her heart set on a one-carat diamond. As John Lennon is well known for saying, it’s easy if you try… Of course, you want to buy her the best one-carat diamond, so you set off on a quest to find the one! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the best cut available is Excellent / Ideal. With that in mind, you set your sights on GIA Excellent or AGS Ideal cut diamond.
For the sake of due diligence, you search all the usual places:
For whatever reason, you set your sights on this 1.00 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round from Enchanted Diamonds. After all, it has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and they have the best price! You found the same 1.00 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round on B2C Jewels, but it was much more expensive:
Thankfully, you were a little confused by the 75.6% Enchanted Diamonds Cut Score. After all, this diamond has an overall cut score of GIA Excellent. So you decided to take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service and ask for my opinion. Let me tell you, it’s a really good thing that you did! Because by my standards, this GIA Excellent cut diamond is about as attractive as a junkyard dog!
Notice: this article was written before Enchanted Diamonds declared bankruptcy on June 20, 2019.
Let’s take a closer look at this 1.00 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round from Enchanted Diamonds. The B2C Jewels diamond details page doesn’t have any images available, thus we can only go by the numbers. Given that the diamond has a 40.6 degree pavilion angle, it should exhibit a high volume of light return.
However, there are a couple of red flags that you need to be aware of. The first is the total depth of 63.4% which is significantly deeper than the 59 – 61.8% range that I look for. There are three factors contributing to the extra depth: (1) the 16% crown height; (2) the 36 degree crown angle; (3) the slightly thick girdle.
The end result is that this one-carat diamond faces up smaller than it would if cut to better proportions! It measures 6.27 x 6.32 × 3.99 millimeters, which gives it an average diameter of 6.295 mm. That’s barely larger than this 0.906 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, Black by Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond.
In my experience, a 36 degree crown angle is simply too steep to deliver great light performance. Diamonds with a 36 degree crown angle tend to look great under jewelry store pin-fire type lighting. However, the sparkle factor tends to flatten out and the diamonds often look dead under diffused lighting. The important thing to understand is that most of us live and work under diffused lighting in this modern age.
The steeper crown angle is also often prone to light leakage, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The reflector scope images provided by Enchanted Diamonds are all the proof you need. See those translucent areas under the table facet in the ASET image in the upper right quadrant? That’s all light leakage baby! On the same note, the image in the lower right quadrant reveals that light is also leaking through the star facets.
This is a great example of a GIA Excellent “ideal cut diamond” on the low end of the spectrum. What you want is a super ideal cut diamond with proportions in the middle of the spectrum. Which also exhibits a higher degree of optical precision, which means that the hearts pattern will be even more precise!
This 1.02 carat, I-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond is right the same price. As you can plainly see, the ASET image for this diamond looks much better! There are no indications that this diamond is leaking light beyond what is normal. The reality is that all diamonds leak light to some degree, but some leak more than others.
The hearts pattern looks amazing, the hearts are consistent in size and shape. This is an indication that the diamond is cut to exhibit the highest degree of optical precision. The 40.9 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return. While the 34.3 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The combination of the 77% lower girdle facet length and a higher degree of optical precision will produce broad-spectrum sparkle.
This is one of the things that I love about Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamonds, they are cut to the highest standards! The proportions are right in the middle of what we consider to be “the sweet spot” for the zero ideal cut proportions rating. In addition, the optical precision always seems to be spot-on, the very best!
In case you didn’t catch it, what we just did in the example above is choose a slightly warmer color. The 1.02 carat, I-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond will still face-up white. However, under controlled lighting, the 1.00 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round from Enchanted Diamonds would be whiter. At the same time, the VVS-2 clarity diamond is one clarity grade higher than the VS-1 clarity diamond. However, both diamonds are going to face-up eye clean to the naked eye.
And when the diamonds are set in a ring, it’s the difference in sparkle factor that is going to be most apparent. And you can be certain that the Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows diamond is scores 100% for cut grade! I’ll gladly drop down a couple of clarity and color grades to pick up sparkle factor any time. It goes without saying! In fact, I selected an I-color, SI-2 clarity, super ideal cut diamond for my own wedding ring for this exact reason!
Oh man, now here you go! If you’re able to stretch things just a little bit, buy this 1.398 carat, K-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond. Just look at the incredible sparkle factor that these diamonds produce! If you were to compare that other GIA Excellent cut diamond next to this one, it would look like it was dead. This diamond is going to look like a Mag Light on her finger!
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Another way to make a diamond look larger is to add a halo of accent diamonds. This 18k yellow gold Anita halo setting by Brian Gavin will accomplish that effect quite nicely! From across the room, the accent diamonds create the impression of a larger center stone. And since the accent diamonds are cut to the same quality as the center stone, the light performance is just as stunning!
There are many different types of halo settings available. Some feature a little space between the diamonds, like this one. While others have the diamonds set closer together to create a different effect. Some of the halo settings feature diamonds set into the band, while others feature a plain ring shank. There are so many options to choose from! You’ll want to look at all the halo settings by Brian Gavin and choose your favorite.
This falling edge pave setting from James Allen is another example of a ring which will make your diamond look bigger. While setting a diamond in yellow gold tends to create a bit more contrast, setting it in white metal tends to make it look whiter. The effect of the white metal reflecting through the edge of the diamond makes it look whiter. By the same token, you shouldn’t choose white gold or platinum only for that reason. You want to be sure to set the diamond in whatever alloy she finds most appealing.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good middle ground, this 1.03 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond looks pretty good. There’s a little bit more play in the hearts pattern, but the proportions should yield a high volume of light return and a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion.
Selecting a setting with side stones, like the Orchard setting by Enchanted Diamonds is another way to make your diamond look larger. Obviously, we’re going to select a better option than the GIA Excellent cut round from before. The best option that I’m seeing at the moment is this 1.01 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round from Enchanted Diamonds. The 40.6 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return. While the 35.0 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion.
At the same time, this diamond does have some issues with optical precision. One look at the hearts pattern and you’ll see that its got some inconsistencies. This is because very few diamonds are cut to the higher standards for hearts and arrows. But it’s a vast improvement on the GIA Excellent cut round originally discussed.
Another way to make your diamond look bigger is to set it in a band with a thinner ring shank. This Monique Lhuillier Cathedral style engagement ring from Blue Nile is a good example. The combination of the cathedral setting and thinner band which tapers at the top will make your diamond look larger. At the same time, it is equally important to select a diamond with better proportions and cut quality.
The importance of focusing on diamond cut quality cannot be overemphasized. The light performance of your diamond depends solely upon the combination of proportions and optical precision. This 1.01 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond looks pretty good! The 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return. While the 35.0 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The hearts pattern exhibits some minor variances, but it’s still better than most.
Obviously, you’re going to want to focus on diamond cut quality. Brian Gavin Signature and Crafted by Infinity diamonds tend to be my personal preference. Both of these diamond cutters used to produce diamonds for our private label collection. Their diamonds exhibit the highest degree of light performance and incredible sparkle factor.
Just the same, the reality is that you’ll want to consider every diamond based upon its individual characteristics. Not everybody wants the very best, which is why diamonds and every other consumer product is made in a variety of qualities. My recommendation is to search the various vendors and determine what the best options are within your price range. This is something that is easy for me to do because I have special filters in place.
It’s also possible that I might have a few top-secret coupon codes, which are not public knowledge. So take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service. Let me know the price range you are working with, along with your preferences in terms of the 4C’s. That would be Carat weight, Clarity, Color, and Cut Quality – which is a given, right? It is also helpful for me to know your preference for blue fluorescence. You can learn more about blue fluorescence within my tutorial on diamond color grading.
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)
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