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”.
One 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.
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 photographs 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:
“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 exhibit a perfect pattern of hearts and arrows, as pictured left.
Perhaps somebody should provide Blue Nile with the textbook 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:
According 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.
Since 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.[separator]
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-1990s.
I 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”.
I 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.
It 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.
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.
To 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.
It 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.
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.
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 the 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 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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