I am in the market for a new engagement/wedding ring set to celebrate our 42 wedding anniversary. My budget for a loose diamond is 6500-8000. I want at least a carat. Loved the “Hearts on Fire” cut I saw at a local jewelry store. Is the Brian Gavin signature cut the same? Looking at AGS-104049084007 on his site.
What do you think? Can I do better for my money with a different diamond or maybe something on the James Allen site? My goal is the most beautiful cut that still looks colorless and is eye clean with the largest carat possible at the best price with 8000 as my limit. Can you help me? Too many variables for me to do this myself! Thanks in advance. — C.C.
Thank you for your inquiry. Forty-two years of marriage! That is truly something to celebrate… congratulations!
I can’t say that Hearts on Fire and Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows diamonds are cut the same since they are obviously different brands of diamonds that are produced by different diamond cutters, however I consider them to be relatively equal in terms of diamond cut quality, light performance and sparkle.
We were actually dealer number eighteen in the United States for Hearts on Fire (HOF) and I truly appreciate their production quality and the visual performance of their diamonds; and I said as much in My Review of the Hearts on Fire Store in Las Vegas, however I’m not a fan of Hearts on Fire diamond prices.
Shortly after becoming an authorized Hearts on Fire retailer, I discovered that we could buy Hearts and Arrows diamonds without paying the premium commanded by the HOF brand, from a diamond cutter named Brian Gavin, who at the time was operating as Alpha Diamonds out of Houston, Texas who branded his hearts and arrows diamonds as A Cut Above™* which he sold to me unbranded so that we could brand them under our own trademark – this is a pretty common practice throughout the industry.
All right, this is just me being me, but I have to say that I find it pretty amusing that the image which Hearts on Fire decided to post on their web site to represent the quality of their hearts and arrows patterns, featured on the page titled Proprietary Cutting Formula exhibits a hearts pattern which is not as precise as I expect it to be.
Take a look at the hearts located in the three and nine o’clock positions, they are shaped perfectly and this is how all the hearts should appear; but the remainder of the hearts are irregular in size and shape, as well as exhibit tips which bend in opposite directions, and the arrowheads beneath them are twisting as if they are being flushed down the drain.
This type of irregularity within the pattern of hearts exhibited by a “Hearts and Arrows diamond” is created by improper indexing of the facets, which is known as Azamith shift. Without getting into a long and drawn out explanation about how the hearts pattern is created within a round brilliant cut diamond, each heart that you see is comprised of two halves, which are the reflections of the pavilion main facet located on one side of the diamond, appearing within the lower girdle facet on the opposite side of the stone.
Let that concept sink in for a minute and you’ll begin to appreciate how difficult it is to actually cut a hearts and arrows diamond… it actually takes about four times longer to produce a round brilliant ideal cut diamond which exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows than it does to produce a standard round brilliant cut diamond!
In order for the two reflections consisting of half a heart each, to appear as one heart on the opposite side of the diamond, the indexing of the pavilion main and lower girdle facets must be absolutely perfect. Otherwise you will see variations in the pattern like those visible in the photograph above which somebody at Hearts on Fire decided to make the flagship for their diamond brand.
Oy Vey, my guess is that they’ll switch that image out after they trip across this Hearts on Fire Diamond Review, but needless to say that I captured a screenshot of the entire web page before publishing this article for reasons of posterity and because it completely cracks me up!
Especially since a photograph displaying a Hearts on Fire pattern of hearts that shows this type of imperfection in the pattern of hearts, flies in the face of this claim made on their web site:
“Our Proprietary Diamond-Cutting Formula is the envy of others. The Hearts On Fire cutting method is a secret as big as Coca Cola®’s recipe. With this knowledge, we are able to achieve maximum results in our perfect cut every single time … resulting in perfect symmetry, perfect proportions, perfect polish, and perfect alignment that displays incomparable sparkle and brilliance…”[separator]
I hate to say it, but the hearts pattern of that particular Hearts on Fire Diamond is FAR FROM PERFECT. It is however better than the hearts pattern displayed by the majority of round brilliant ideal cut diamonds which are not cut specifically to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows.
If I were to grade the consistency of the pattern displayed by this particular Hearts on Fire Diamond, I’d give it a B+ and add the comment “I know that you’re capable of doing better work!” because I’ve seen Hearts on Fire Diamonds which exhibit patterns of hearts and arrows more precise and consistent than this… like I said, we were Dealer #18 for Hearts on Fire back in the day, and the photograph of this hearts pattern which is featured on their web site is not typical of their production… I truly have no idea why they would post something like this as being representative of their brand.
Then again, it might just be that time has faded my memory about how precise the pattern of hearts is within a Hearts on Fire brand diamond, because I did run across this photograph featured in the May 1998 edition of Professional Jeweler magazine which shows the pattern of hearts and arrows within a Hearts on Fire diamond that clearly displays some inconsistencies in the pattern of hearts. Just look at how the tips of the hearts stretch out and bend in the tips, especially the one located just below three o’clock, and how they are irregular in size and shape. Suffice to say that either this is a poor example, or the production quality has improved with time because I’ve seen much better patterns![separator]
For instance, take a look at the pattern of hearts exhibited within this 1.270 carat, F-color, SI-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round hearts and arrows diamond. The hearts pattern consists of eight hearts which are consistent in size and shape, and the tips of the hearts are not bending, nor do the tips of the arrowheads located in the middle of the diamond twist as if they are swirling down the drain… the optical symmetry of this diamond is clearly better than that of either of the Hearts on Fire Diamonds pictured above. By the way, the scuff marks visible throughout the hearts pattern is a reflection of the inclusions within the diamond which is being magnified for the picture.[separator]
The lesson to be learned from this example is that not all “Hearts and Arrows Diamonds” are created equal, and that the patterns of hearts and arrows exhibited by each diamond will be as unique as the diamond itself. The reality is that no two diamonds will ever exhibit the exact same pattern of hearts and arrows, and the consistency of the patterns will vary from diamond to diamond, and from diamond cutter to diamond cutter.
There have been times in the past where I could actually look at a pattern of hearts and arrows and know which diamond cutting house produced the diamond, based solely on the consistency and formation of the pattern, it is almost as if every diamond cutter leaves a signature of sorts within the hearts pattern based upon their skill level and attention to detail.
Because of the subtle differences which exist within the patterns of hearts and arrows, I can’t say that one brand of hearts and arrows diamond is always going to be better than another, nor that the patterns of hearts and arrows exhibited by a brand are “the best” or “perfect” as the advertising copy created by the folks at Hearts on Fire would have you believe, because nothing which is handcrafted will ever actually be perfect. I’m actually kind of surprised that nobody at the Federal Trade Commission has challenged that “claim to fame” because it is kind of misleading, especially when they post photographs of imperfect hearts patterns such as the ones which I’ve borrowed from their promotional material as being representative of their production quality.
Is there a difference in the perfection of Brian Gavin Signature Diamonds and those produced by Hearts on Fire? The truth is that over the years I have seen inconsistencies within the hearts and arrows patterns of every diamond cutter I’ve had the privilege of working with, but there are different levels of perfection and some diamond cutters have a talent for producing diamonds which are more precise more often and Brian Gavin is one of those people.
My job as a diamond buyer was to sift through the parcels of diamonds produced by each diamond cutter and cherry pick the best diamonds which they had to offer at that particular time and return the rest to them to be purchased by somebody else… it was quite rare that I rejected Brian Gavin’s diamonds for diamond cut quality or optical symmetry, more often it was because I didn’t like a particular inclusion.
Over the years, I’ve purchased thousands of diamonds from Brian Gavin and other producers of hearts and arrows diamonds, without a doubt some are better than others… thus it is important to carefully examine the hearts and arrows images provided on the diamond details page for each diamond. Also be sure to look at the reflector scope images provided of the diamond as seen through an ASET Scope and an Ideal Scope, as these provide insight into the optical symmetry and brightness of the diamond, or ask me to do it since it probably is not your life’s ambition to become a diamond expert.
The primary advantage that Brian Gavin has over Hearts on Fire is price because their business model is designed to sell HOF diamonds through a network of authorized retail jewelers, which means that their prices are full blown retail and discounting is prohibited [Read: highly frowned upon and extremely unlikely]
Brian Gavin’s business model on the other hand, is designed to market his diamonds via the internet with no middleman mark-up required between Brian Gavin and the consumer completing the purchase… thus the traditional retail mark-up is unnecessary and you get to buy a diamond of comparable cut quality to Hearts on Fire for less money without sacrificing anything in terms of visual performance.
This 1.110 carat, F-color, SI-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature Hearts and Arrows Diamond is the one referenced by the client at the beginning of this article. I like everything about this diamond… the proportions are spot-on and well within my preferred range which is outlined in the article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success. The diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the proprietary Light Performance grading platform from the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) which uses Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) to measure the brightness of the diamond and demonstrate the pattern of light return, which looks evenly dispersed to me. The proportions are well within the preferred range of my selection criteria and Brian Gavin indicates that the diamond is eye clean from a distance of 9 – 12 inches, which is quite impressive for an SI-2 clarity diamond.[separator]
The pattern of hearts and arrows looks great and the diamond looks fantastic in the ASET Scope and Ideal Scope images, so I am confident that it is going to exhibit a high volume of light return, be incredibly bright, and exhibit a full range of brilliance and dispersion. By the way, this diamond is available, my client ended up going with the 1.27 carat featured earlier in the article because a coupon which I provided her with enabled her to save some money on the setting and thus she had a little more money to spend on the diamond!
* Note that Brian Gavin no longer sells diamonds under the “A Cut Above” brand as it has been acquired by another diamond company, my reference to the brand is made in the form of a historical reference and is not intended to be an endorsement of any kind.
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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