Hearts and Arrows Diamonds and Sparkle Factor:
This is a photograph of an actual “Hearts and Arrows Diamond” from the archives of Nice Ice, which was taken back in the mid-1990s when we first introduced H&A diamonds online. The presence of a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows such as this, combined with zero ideal cut proportions, is like a turbocharger for diamond sparkle!
The end result is a degree of light return and visual performance that is off the charts! All of the images contained herein are actual photographs, they are not renderings or illustrations, and they have not been edited beyond the insertion of reference points for illustration purposes.
No matter how much some jewelers may deny the existence of Hearts and Arrows diamonds, or try to convince you that the “Hearts and Arrows” phenomena is mere “smoke and mirrors” there is nothing mythical, nor make believe about Hearts and Arrows Diamonds… they are very real and very rare; not “I believe in Unicorns” rare, but rare enough to represent 0.001% of the average annual production of round brilliant cut diamonds!
Where to buy true Hearts and Arrows diamonds:
Hearts and Arrows diamonds have been available on the open market since the early 1990s and have been the focus of numerous articles in National Jeweler Magazine and Modern Jeweler Magazine and Jewelers Circular Keystone Magazine.
However, it is important that consumers evaluate the hearts and arrows photographs provided by these vendors carefully, to ensure that the pattern of hearts and arrows is consistent in size, shape, and spacing; as is the case with the Brian Gavin Signature round diamond featured to the left.
This image, by the way, was taken using a state-of-the-art imaging system, that is significantly more advanced than the set-up that I used to photograph hearts and arrows images back in the late 1990s — I’m so jealous!
The Secret to 8 Perfect Hearts and 8 Perfect Arrows:
A “Hearts & Arrows Diamond” is a round brilliant cut diamond which exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows when viewed while unmounted through a special scope which is designed to diffuse the light and reflect white off of the high contrast areas of the diamond and magnify it so that it can be seen.
It might be difficult to believe that a crisp pattern consisting of eight perfectly formed Hearts & Arrows could be present and visible within a round brilliant cut diamond.
Patterns of Hearts and Arrows within round brilliant cut diamonds are formed by light reflecting off of the eight pavilion main facets, across the diamond on to the lower girdle facets, where it is split apart into two halves of a heart by the pavilion main facets located on the opposite side of the diamond, as portrayed in this graphic provided by master diamond cutter Brian Gavin, that outlines the pavilion main facets in orange, and shows the light (green) reflecting off of the pavilion main facet in the 12 o’clock region, across the diamond, upon the lower girdle facets located in the six o’clock region to create two halves of a heart shape; the pattern repeats from one set of facets to the next to complete the pattern.
It is quite literally impossible to produce a Hearts and Arrows Diamond by accident and only the most skilled of diamond cutters are capable of producing a diamond to such exacting standards.
The secret to creating a spectacular hearts and arrows diamond is in the creation of the lower girdle halves of the pavilion section of the diamond. These sixteen facets must be indexed precisely and all cut to exactly the same length and angle or the pavilion main facets which separate each pair of lower girdle facets will vary in size and shape, which will result in twisted misshapen hearts and crooked arrows.
Each section or facet group is critical to the creation of a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows and must be carefully cut to be equal in size, shape and alignment. Even the tiniest of facets can substantially impact the appearance of the hearts and arrows pattern if it is slightly off in “angle symmetry” or indexing (placement) it will result in imperfections in the pattern and variations in contrast.
Ideally, all of the facets in a facet group should fire at the same time and reflect the white sections within the hearts and arrows diamond viewer equally.
Diamond proportions and H&A pattern formation:
The proportions of the diamond are also an integral part of the creation of a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, more precise patterns are generally seen in round brilliant cut diamonds with a crown angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees that is offset by a pavilion angle offset between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees.
Relatively decent, but technically imperfect patterns of hearts and arrows are often produced at the outer edges of this range of proportions by diamond cutters who seem to be more intent on retaining diamond carat weight than producing truly spectacular diamonds… In other words, diamonds that exhibit patterns of “hearts and arrows” can be found along the outer fringes of the center range of the zero ideal cut proportions region.
However, the patterns tend not to “POP” or be as VIVID as those cut to the tighter range of proportions, and quite often the pattern looks more like the “spears and rabbit ears” or “lawn darts” as pictured to the left, rather than actual “hearts and arrows” because The Diamond Cutting Cupid missed the mark (and by more than just a little bit!)
Diamond Cut Precision = Superior Visual Performance:
The pavilion section of a diamond is the lower half, it is the primary reflective surface, the angle of which will dictate the volume of light return exhibited by the diamond; to maximize the volume of light return exhibited by a round brilliant cut diamond, I recommend keeping the pavilion angle between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees.
The balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle or fire) is primarily dictated by the crown angle and crown height, I think that a properly cut diamond should exhibit a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion; thus I recommend keeping the crown angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees.
The lower girdle facet (LGF) length of the diamond will affect the size and intensity of the sparkle exhibited by the diamond, this obviously works in conjunction with the overall proportions of the diamond. Generally speaking round brilliant cut diamonds that are cut to the range of crown and pavilion angle specified above will exhibit broad-spectrum sparkle when the lower girdle facets are in the range of 75 – 78% and will exhibit smaller pin-fire type sparkle when they are 80 – 82% in length.
The problem with smaller pin-fire type sparkle is that it can be difficult for our eyes to disperse smaller flashes of white light into colored light/fire; which is why I prefer the broad spectrum sparkle created by LGF’s in the range of 75 – 78%. It might not surprise you to learn that the majority of hearts and arrows diamonds produced by Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity are cut with LGF’s in the range of 75 – 78%.
The effect of optical precision upon diamond sparkle:
We use the term “optical precision” to describe the degree to which the facets of a diamond are uniform in size, shape, and alignment. Special reflector scopes are used by trained diamond graders to determine the degree of optical precision exhibited by a diamond, the majority of diamond grading laboratories relied on by the trade do not take optical precision into account, including the GIA Gem Trade Laboratory, and the American Gem Society.
The symmetry and alignment of a diamond’s facets are what control scintillation which is the movement of light inside of the diamond. The inside of a diamond is similar to a round room made of mirrors, if cut properly those “mirrors” reflect light out the top of the stone towards the viewer and exhibit a crisp pattern of hearts and arrows like this Crafted by Infinity diamond; if cut improperly the mirrors reflect light out the sides of the stone. Diamonds that are poorly cut may be out of round; may have facets which are misshapen or irregular in size; may have facets which fail to point towards one another, or may have facets which do not align properly with the facets directly opposite of them.
Such discrepancies in the cut of a diamond can result in light “leaking” out of the diamond, smaller virtual facets and less sparkle. Diamonds that are cut to ideal proportions with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent or AGS Ideal-0, which exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, like those produced by Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity, tend to exhibit the least amount of light leakage, thus producing the highest volume of light return and the most impressive sparkle factor!
Examples of diamonds with poor optical precision:
The diamonds pictured to the left lack optical symmetry as seen through a scope designed to grade hearts and arrows diamonds. When “Hearts & Arrows” diamonds were first introduced to the American market many years ago, this was typical of the types of patterns that could be seen in most of the ideal cut diamonds that were available on the market at that time.
Today most ideal cut diamonds exhibit patterns of hearts and arrows to various degrees, however many still exhibit patterns that are distorted or incomplete. A diamond is not considered to be a “Hearts & Arrows Diamond” unless the pattern of 8 hearts and 8 arrows is uniform and complete.
It is important to note that the original grading standards for grading “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” as defined by the Zenhokyo and Central Gemological Laboratory of Japan allowed for extremely minor variances in pattern precision due to the fact that these diamonds are handcrafted, an overall variance of 0.1% is considered to be normal and acceptable.
Hearts and Arrows Diamonds = Optimum Visual Performance:
The mere presence of a pattern of hearts and arrows within a diamond does not guarantee optimum visual performance because the patterns are essentially a reflection of the general facet structure for every modern round brilliant cut diamond.
Thus every round brilliant cut diamond has the potential to exhibit a pattern of hearts and arrows to some degree. However, fewer than 0.001% of round brilliant cut diamonds exhibit a pattern crisp and complete enough to be legitimately labeled “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” based upon the strict grading standards of the original design for this specialty cut, which I adhere to as a diamond buyer.
The reason that hearts and arrows diamonds exhibit such incredible sparkle factor is that the precise facet alignment produces a higher number of virtual facets and larger flashes of light which are interpreted by our eyes as colored sparkle or fire which is also known as dispersion. This is not just my educated opinion based on 25+ years of experience as a diamond buyer, but also reflects the findings of an in-depth brilliance study conducted by the American Gem Society Laboratory.
Virtual facets are literally “virtual facets” which are created by the overlapping of actual facets as the diamond is rocked back and forth, it is best exhibited by looking at a diamond and watching facets appear and disappear right before your eyes as it moves.
One reason why a higher number of virtual facets and larger flashes of light are important is that our eyes will see more sparkle and more fire within the diamond, as we age these flashes of light will become smaller and we will see the colored light as white sparkle or brilliance… thus if you fall for the “most brilliant cut diamond on earth” marketing material of diamond companies that focus on producing diamonds that are more brilliant than a balance of brilliance and dispersion, you’re likely to see less and less sparkle over time as your eyes age.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
While this has nothing to do with superior light return or visual performance, those cute little hearts can add a little mental boost in the romance department.
Consider giving each of the hearts a “special meaning” that is specific to your relationship. There is something “memorable” that you’ve done at least eight times, right? Most vendors who specialize in “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” post high definition photographs of the crown and pavilion patterns on their diamond details pages… download those images to your hard drive, get creative and earn a few extra dog points while you have an easy opportunity to do so.
By the way, the diamond cutters who originally perfected the design of the Hearts and Arrows Diamonds back in the late 1980s originally marketed them as Cupid’s Arrows Diamonds and referred to the pattern as the Cupid Effect, so this is not as gay as it sounds. All right, maybe it is… but I’m telling you, it will take you 10 minutes to whip up a customized card in Photoshop and the effort will go a long way.
One of my clients incorporated pictures of the Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows diamond that he purchased, into their wedding invitations and RSVP cards, you can learn more about that in my article The True Significance of a Diamond Engagement Ring.
Speaking of Photoshop, it so happens that I’ve seen a lot of these diamonds through the grading scope and I’ve noticed lately that quite a few online diamond dealers appear to be editing and enhancing the photographs that they post of their Hearts and Arrows Diamonds… telltale signs include things like uneven darker lines located along the edges of the hearts, intended to clean them up and make them pop; hearts which are pure white with no separation down the halves, keep in mind that they are created in part by two lower girdle halve facets which are located side-by-side and thus there should be a facet line running down the center of the heart… can you say BUSTED?
Ha, Ha, Ha, why yes, there is going to be an article posted soon that addresses this, but the names of the not-so-innocent shall not be named because we’re going to let the pictures featured on their web sites do all the talking.
In the meantime, keep this in mind while you look at Hearts and Arrows Diamonds online and see if you can figure out which vendors are posting legitimate, unedited photographs of “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” and which are preparing to moonlight as editors for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (no, those women don’t actually look like that… sorry to burst your bubble).
Where do Hearts and Arrows Diamonds come from?
This is so much easier to answer than the where do baby’s come from the dilemma. Yet many retailers will give you the same look of “uh” that a five-year-old gets from Daddy when posing this question. Diamonds that exhibited crisp and complete patterns of Hearts & Arrows were originally marketed in Japan during the early 1990s.
Rumor has it that a Japanese businessman ran across the concept of Hearts & Arrows when he was approached by an inventor who was looking for venture capital investment in a scope that he had invented to evaluate the optical symmetry of a diamond.
The Japanese businessman was not interested in the scope, but he was interested in the diamond used as an example because the pattern of the Eight Pointed Star reminded him of the Eight Noble Paths of Buddhism. It did not take long for the concept of Hearts & Arrows diamonds to become popular in Japan and many producers of ideal cut diamonds jumped on the bandwagon of Hearts & Arrows.
For many years the distribution for Hearts & Arrows diamonds was limited to Japan. However, when the Yen depreciated in the mid-1990’s Hearts & Arrows diamonds were introduced to the U.S. market and Nice Ice was one of the first companies to market them online… so I might just know a little bit about this subject.
“Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” are now offered by a variety of companies here in the U.S. under a variety of brand names. Many of these diamonds are being produced by diamond cutters like Brian Gavin and Paul Slegers of Crafted by Infinity and are frequently sold by other diamond firms under their “private label” brands.
In fact, as my kids say, “back in the day” before Brian Gavin launched “Brian Gavin Diamonds” and Paul Slegers launched “Crafted By Infinity” as sold through High Performance Diamonds, they comprised two of the five primary suppliers for our “Nice Ice” brand Hearts and Arrows Diamonds… and as you might imagine, we weren’t their only private label customer.
“Brand Name” may not be an indication of quality.
But rather identifies the company selling the stone…
In my experience, the brand name which a diamond is sold under is not necessarily a guarantee of quality or precision. The fact is that diamonds are not mass produced by stamping them out of a mold on a production line, each diamond is individually faceted and polished which results in slight variances which have a direct effect on the presence and consistency of a pattern.
While it is convenient to say that all “Brand X” diamonds are “Brand X Hearts & Arrows” diamonds, the reality is that each diamond will exhibit varying degrees of precision and variances in the patterns of hearts and arrows. Interestingly enough, many of the diamonds being sold under a variety of marketed brand names” are sourced from the same diamond cutters and are merely “re-packaged” under the brand name “X” with the only viable difference between “Brand X” and “Brand Y” being the logo of each company inscribed on the girdle edge of the diamond to indicate the brand.
Thus I feel that regardless of brand name, each diamond must be evaluated upon its own merits and not on the word of the seller, the self-promoted reputation of the company, the marketing of the brand, or a generic photograph of Hearts & Arrows that is being used to exhibit the pattern for all of the diamonds in their inventory.
Over the years, I have evaluated several diamonds from each of the more popular “brands” of Hearts and Arrows Diamonds and have determined that there are variances in the patterns of Hearts & Arrows exhibited by different diamonds marketed under the same brand name… Thus confirming my belief that each diamond must be considered individually upon its own merits without consideration for the brand name, regardless of how precise things look in their advertising literature.
Notably, some brands lack more consistency than others and rely heavily on advertising to create consumer confidence rather than consistent quality. Meaning that sometimes a branded Hearts & Arrows diamonds exhibit a very nice pattern and other times the pattern is incomplete or skewed, yet the diamonds sold by “Brand X” always seem to be marketed as “Hearts & Arrows” and a good portion of their production is sold mounted despite the fact that that the only way to view the consistency and presence of a Hearts & Arrows pattern within a round brilliant cut diamond is to view the unmounted diamond through a scope specially designed for that purpose.
Understand that I’m not bashing “Brand X” or “Brand Y” but merely urging you to consider the validity of the “Hearts & Arrows” concept on a stone-by-stone basis and not on the presence of brand name since each diamond is unique. The concept behind our belief is true of any branded item that is mass-produced and marketed if you think of it in terms of automobiles we’re sure that you’ll agree. If every automobile coming off the production line was exactly like the one before it, there would be no such thing as a Lemon Law.
How to select the best Hearts and Arrows diamond:
It goes without question that I think that the best sources for hearts and arrows diamonds online are Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity, which is distributed online by High Performance Diamonds; but there is a lot more to buying a diamond than just picking one off of an inventory list, so you might want to take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service and let me help you take all of the details into account. Just provide me with the details of the diamond that you are hoping to find, along with the price range that you are working with, and I’ll hop right on it.