Hi Todd, First of all thank you for all the info on your website! I am searching for an engagement ring, and it gave me a lot of insight into a topic I didn’t know anything about before. Being from the Netherlands, a country where engagement rings are not very common, this has been a great help. I am looking for an engagement ring around $5000, with some range possible. I am looking at Blue Nile, but am open to other vendors. My girlfriend likes the Petite Cathedral Solitaire from Blue Nile, with a round diamond. Now I am looking for a diamond, and through reading your website I realize that cut is most important. Continued…
Therefore I set the depth at 59-61.8%, table at 53-58%, cut (signature) ideal, polish/symmetry excellent/ideal. For the color I or less, and faint or no fluorescence. Furthermore I read that SI1 could be acceptable if the cut is nice. My girlfriend will care most about the sparkle/cut, but if it is possible, a 0.9 carat would be appreciated. Price range is $4500-4800 given the price of the setting above. Now my questions are:[separator]
I am of course open to any changes which you think will give the nicest diamond, and want to thank you in advance for your help. Also in your Blue Nile Diamonds Review of 2/19 I read you have some coupons for this vendor. I don’t know if you still have those, but everything helps and would stretch my budget a bit more 😉 Thanks a lot, Wieger N.
Great questions Wieger! And based upon the range that you specified for total depth and table measurement while that you used to search for diamonds on Blue Nile, I can tell that you have spent some time reading my web site… thank you!
Before I search for diamonds on Blue Nile and determine whether there are any viable options available within the range of 0.90 – 0.99 carats, I-color or better, and SI-1 or VS-2 clarity, in the range of $4500- 4800, I’d like to address your questions…
I assume that you are wondering whether the inclusions commonly found within SI-1 clarity diamonds present a potential durability risk, and if therefore you should only consider diamonds of a higher clarity grade… and the answer is that the clarity characteristics within an SI-1 clarity diamond might present a durability risk, however it depends on the inclusion type, location, extent, and the characteristics of that specific inclusion which is located within that particular diamond… thus each diamond must be considered on it’s own merit.
Generally I prefer to avoid diamonds which contain cavities, knots, extensive feathers, or clusters of small feathers which appear to be stacked together, as these tend to pose more of a durability risk to the longevity of a diamond than other types of inclusions. The reality is that I will simply eliminate diamonds which don’t look good to me on paper as I flip through the diamond grading reports provided for each diamond.
Diamond clarity grading actually takes the carat weight of the diamond into account when considering the effect of the inclusions upon the clarity of the diamond, thus I don’t feel that a particular clarity grade is best for diamonds of lower carat weight.
While I generally prefer a clarity grade of SI-1 or VS-2 because it enables people to maximize the range of color and carat weight for their budget, this is a matter of personal preference and some people will prefer diamonds of a higher or lower clarity based upon their specific needs and preferences.
Throughout the years I have had clients who wanted SI-2 clarity diamonds which they could easily see the inclusions in with just their eyes because they were afraid that a jeweler might switch their diamond, so they wanted to be able to identify the inclusions easily. I’ve had other clients who prefer SI-2 clarity diamonds because being able to see the inclusions which are part of the nature of a diamond, made them feel that the diamond was more authentic. And I’ve had other clients who purchased SI-2 clarity diamonds because their eyesight wasn’t good enough to see the inclusions, so why spend the extra money for a higher clarity?
And then there are people with preferences that lean towards the other side of the scale, who want to ensure that the diamond they purchase is going to look crystal clear even when they look at it with a loupe, and thus they will only consider diamonds in the higher VVS clarity and Internally Flawless or Flawless clarity grades because they need the diamond to be “mind clean” as well as eye clean.
I personally tend to fall more in the middle, I’m definitely more comfortable recommending diamonds in the VS-2 clarity grade online since the odds are that it is going to be eye clean from a top down perspective. However I am also comfortable with SI-1 clarity diamonds that have been personally evaluated by friends of mine like Brian Gavin or Wink Jones of High Performance Diamonds, who determine that the diamond is eye clean when they look at it from a distance of 9 – 12 inches, because I’ve worked with them long enough to know that I can trust their opinion and that our standards for diamond grading are comparable to each other.
The obvious challenge with determining whether an SI-2 or SI-1 clarity diamond is “eye clean” is that our ability to agree with this assessment is largely based upon our understanding of the definition, and the ability which each of us has to see inclusions within a diamond, e.g. the degree of our personal vision and the ability to locate inclusions in spite of the sparkle being created by light reflecting off the facets of a diamond.
First things first… the industry standard for determining the extent to which a diamond is eye clean is based upon viewing the diamond from a distance of 9 – 12 inches, notice that I said “viewing the diamond” and not scrutinizing the diamond while squinting your eyes and peering at it like an Eagle while scanning it from facet to facet.
You can get a feel for what this might look like by simply picking a standard #2 pencil up off of your desk and looking at the top of the eraser from a distance of 9 – 12 inches, because the average diameter of a standard #2 pencil is about 6.5 mm which is around the same diameter as the average one carat round brilliant cut diamond.
Depending on your personal vision, the pencil eraser might appear to be perfectly in-focus at this distance, or you might need to bring it closer to your eyes to see it clearly, or move it further away to bring it into focus, and this is the challenge with determining whether an SI clarity diamond is eye clean… to what degree is it eye clean and based upon who’s vision?
To this regard, I’ve had diamond graders hand me diamonds which they deemed as being eye clean, which I’ve quickly picked the inclusions out of with just my eyes, and there have been times when I’ve deemed a diamond to be eye clean and another person has been able to pick up on the inclusions right away… but some inclusions are apt to be more difficult to locate than others with just our eyes.
Suffice to say that I consider a recommendation from Brian Gavin that this 0.893 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond is “eye clean” would go a long way with me because I find that our ability to locate the inclusions within diamonds with just our eyes is pretty similar… However he hasn’t commented on the clarity of this diamond on the diamond details page yet, which either means that it is not reasonably eye clean to him, or he just hasn’t had time to update the web page yet. However the inclusions within this SI-1 clarity diamond look pretty good to me as seen in the high resolution video and clarity photograph provided on the diamond details page.[separator]
So the thing to consider is whether the increased volume of light return and sparkle factor that results from a combination of higher cut quality and optical symmetry, that this diamond offers with proportions which are right in the middle of the spectrum for the zero ideal cut rating, which warranted an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform which uses Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology, is enough to offset the possibility that you may or may not be able to locate an inclusion or two with your eyes… and only you can answer that question.
This 0.893 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature diamond is the closest option that I see to your desired specifications within his inventory, and I am quite fond of his production because of the visual performance displayed by the diamonds which he produces… the carat weight falls just short of the 0.90 carat mark, but not enough that you’d see a difference and the diamond would cost much more if it weighed just 0.07 carats more because of the price increase which occurs between the 0.89 – 0.90 carat marks.
All right, so I ran a search for diamonds on Blue Nile using the search parameters which you requested and was presented with six options, none of which meet my selection criteria for the offset of crown and pavilion angle, but some were better than others:
My first choice would definitely be this 0.90 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond which has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and a crown angle of 34.0 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees with a medium to slightly thick, faceted girdle and no culet. All of the options presented are graded on the GIA Diamond Dossier platform, which does not provide a plotting diagram of the inclusions, so there is no way to judge the location or extent of the inclusions, but there is a supplementary GCAL report.[separator]
The pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees is only one tenth of a degree beyond my preferred range of 40.6 – 40.9 degrees, so it is still likely to produce a high volume of light return; and while the 34.0 degree crown angle is slightly below my preferred range of 34.3 – 34.9 degrees, this will have more of an effect upon the type of sparkle created by the diamond and not the volume of light return… and the thought you are most likely having right now, is that it is likely to create a hint more brilliance (flashes of white sparkle) than dispersion / fire (flashes of colored sparkle) but the difference will be very slight.
Unfortunately I’m not able to clearly identify the diamond crystals and clouds of pinpoint size diamond crystals that are indicated on the GIA diamond dossier as being the primary inclusions within this diamond on the clarity photograph provided by GCAL, so there is still no way to judge the extent of the inclusions, but maybe that’s also good because they don’t seem to be glaringly obvious.
I actually like the proportions of this 0.90 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, round diamond from Blue Nile a little better because it has a 40.8 degree crown angle which is offset by a crown angle 0f 35.0 degrees, because it is likely to exhibit a high volume of light return and a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. However I’m not crazy about the fact that the primary inclusions consist of diamond crystals and feathers, and there is no plotting diagram so there is no way to determine the location of the feathers or judge their extent.[separator]
The last two options from Blue Nile which have proportions that are kind of acceptable are this 0.91 carat, G-color, SI-1 clarity round which has a crown angle of 35.5 degrees that is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and primary inclusions which are indicated as crystals; and this 0.91 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, round which has a 35.5 degree crown angle which is offset by a 40.6 degree pavilion angle, which has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and contains crystals and clouds as the primary inclusions.
While these diamonds both feature pavilion angles which are within my preferred range of 40.6 – 40.9 degrees and therefore should exhibit a high volume of light return, the crown angles are steep enough that they are most likely creating more fire / dispersion (flashes of colored sparkle) than brilliance (flashes of white sparkle) and thus they are likely to appeal to somebody who prefers more fire than brilliance, but I definitely prefer more of a balance of the two types of sparkle.
Another thing that I don’t like about buying from Blue Nile is that there is no way for me to determine whether these diamonds are cut to a degree of optical symmetry which creates high contrast in diamonds, which is important if you want the diamonds to look spectacular in all types of lighting environments. Understand that “optical symmetry” is not the same symmetry grade that appears on the diamond grading reports issued by the GIA or AGSL, speaking of which I’d feel better if these diamonds were graded by the AGSL because at least then I could refer to the ASET results for some indication of the brightness, light return and contrast.
I do actually have two or three, single use coupon codes remaining for Blue Nile which I can provide you with via email if you decide to proceed with one of the options that I reference above, however I honestly think that you would be best served by the 0.893 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, Signature round diamond from Brian Gavin because it is going to deliver the highest volume of light return and the best balance of brilliance and dispersion of all the options that we’ve considered today.
The ASET results provided on the diamond grading report issued by the AGSL look spectacular and the inclusions look pretty minimal in the high resolution video and clarity photograph which appear to have been taken using 30x – 40x magnification which is significantly higher than the industry standard of 10x magnification.
The coupon code which I have for Blue Nile will save you $100 off any diamond purchase of $1000 or more, but I have one for Brian Gavin which will save you 8% off the price of a setting ordered in conjunction with a Brian Gavin Signature or Brian Gavin Blue diamond, and an additional 2% if you take advantage of the discount available for payment via cash / wire transfer, so it kind of pencils out if you can find a solitaire engagement ring from them that you and your girlfriend like.
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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