“I’m planning on proposing to my girlfriend once I get enough money to buy a good ring. My budget is flexible because I am a student working two jobs while, thankfully, my parents pay most of the bills. My issue is on whether I should buy the best cut diamond I can possibly find, such as a Hearts and Arrows diamond, but smaller carat due to budget or if I should get a lower quality cut, but still ‘ideal’ so I can afford a larger diamond. Let me know what you think.
I think I should be able to have around $6,000 by the time I want to propose which will be January-February next year. However, you only propose once, so I want to give something that is the best that I can possibly give in its own time. My max budget would probably be $10k. Before I found your website, I was looking around diamonds on Blue Nile’s website and it seemed like the best I could get in a Blue Nile Signature diamond was around 0.90 carats with SI-1 clarity and G-H color. What can you tell me about Brian Gavin Signature Hearts and Arrows versus Brian Gavin Blue diamonds? ~ T.T.”
Since your current budget is around $6,000.00 and you’re thinking that you might be able to stretch it to $1oK with enough time, I thought that I’d split things down the middle and run with the average and provide options for the best ideal cut round diamond for $8,000.00 give or take a nickel, since a spread of $6-10K is just to wide. Understand that I’ll be happy to conduct a new search as the actual target date for your proposal nears and you have a better idea of the actual price range that you are working with. Just submit an inquiry via my free Diamond Concierge Service and I’ll hop right on it.
Based upon some of our follow-up correspondence, I also decided to expand the search to include some of the other diamond dealers who I work with who offer Hearts and Arrows ideal cut diamonds in an effort to provide you with a few more options because there are very few diamonds being produced at the moment that meet my selection criteria. Since all of the options presented below meet my selection criteria, I’m going to review them in order of carat weight from largest to smallest:
This 1.213 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Crafted by Infinity hearts and arrows round diamond is the largest option currently available within our target price range of $8K. It has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform, which is significant because it means that the diamond survived rigorous evaluation using Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) which takes into account the brightness exhibited by the diamond, and provides us with an indication of how evenly light is being distributed throughout the diamond. The diamond exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, which is an indication that the diamond has been cut to exhibit the highest degree of optical precision. Every facet on the diamond must be precisely aligned/indexed upon the surface of the diamond, and be even in shape and size in order for the hearts pattern to appear uniform in size and shape. Fewer than 0.001% of round diamonds exhibit this precise pattern…
It is perfectly normal for the two sides of the hearts to be shaded slightly differently, as this is due to the direction from which light is striking off the surface of the diamond. And the splits between the two halves of the hearts are a clear indication that the photograph has not been edited since each half of the heart is created by light reflecting off the lower girdle facet located on the opposite side of the diamond. The black spots located in the middle of the heart in the twelve o’clock position, and within the tips of the hearts located in the relative one and three o’clock positions are simply a reflection of the diamond crystals within this diamond. They are visible because the hearts and arrows scope uses a magnifying lens to make it possible for us to see the pattern of hearts and arrows.
The 40.6 degree pavilion angle will produce a high volume of light return, while the 34.3 degree crown angle provides a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) and the combination of the 77% lower girdle facets and the higher degree of optical precision necessary to create the crisp pattern of hearts and arrows, will work together to create broad-spectrum sparkle, which is sparkle that is larger in size, and bolder, brighter, and more vivid than what the average ideal cut diamond will exhibit. Note that I prefer the Light Performance grading platform offered by the AGS Laboratory over that of the GIA, especially because of the way that the GIA rounds off the measurements provided on their diamond grading reports, making it practically impossible to accurately estimate light return.
This 1.167 carat, I-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Blue Signature round diamond exhibits strong blue fluorescence when exposed to black light, as pictured to the left. However the diamond will look perfectly normal, near colorless when viewed in normal lighting situations. Although it is quite likely that the strong blue fluorescence in the I-color diamond will boost our perception of color and push it towards the high end of the spectrum designated for the range of color known as I-color. This effect will be heightened when the diamond is exposed to light sources that contain a high volume of ultra-violet light, such as direct sunlight, very likely making it face-up whiter than it would likely appear without the little boost provided by the strong blue fluorescence. Think of the strong blue fluorescence as nature’s little whitener, brightener; you might think of it in terms similar to a detergent booster! I love blue fluorescence in diamonds, practically all the diamonds I’ve ever owned have had it!
Although Brian Gavin does not promote diamonds featured in the Brian Gavin Blue line as being hearts and arrows, and thus I will not either, I happen to know that they are produced on the same production line, by the same diamond cutters who produce the Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamonds… And when I had the opportunity to flip through the inventory awhile back, I noticed that the majority of them exhibited a pattern of hearts and arrows which rivaled that of their competitors.
The diamond looks exceptional in the ASET Scope and Ideal Scope images, so we know that it exhibits an exceptional degree of optical precision. The 40.9 degree pavilion angle is going to deliver a high volume of light return, while the 34.7 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and you can expect it to deliver the same broad spectrum sparkle exhibited by a Brian Gavin Signature round diamond!
By the way, if you want something that is going to face-up a little bit whiter, then this 1.006 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Blue Signature round diamond that exhibits strong blue fluorescence is comparable to this diamond in every other way.
This 1.16 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent. The diamond has a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees, which is just beyond my preferred range of 40.6 – 40.9 degrees, but I’m willing to consider the diamond because it is combined with a pavilion depth of 43% which is within the optimum range. Plus I think that this diamond provides a good example in terms of a teaching stone… The crown angle of 34.5 degrees should produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the 75% lower girdle facets should produce sparkle that is larger in size. Take note of my use of the word “should” because “by the numbers” the diamond should be a top performer, but I’m not so certain it will be based upon what I’m seeing…
Click on the image for the GCAL diamond grading report provided above, and notice how the tips of the arrows are faded out in the relative five o’clock and seven o’clock positions. Then take a look at the hearts pattern that is visible in the clarity photograph for the pavilion or lower half of the diamond. Do you see how the “hearts” are different sizes and shapes? And how half of the hearts are blacked out in several instances? Half of the heart is light in color and the other half is dark, really dark. This is an indication that light is not striking off of the facets evenly, and while the overall cut grade and proportions of the diamond place it well within the Top 1% of the annual production of round brilliant cut diamonds, it’s not in the same realm as the Hearts and Arrows diamonds being discussed herein, which represent the Top 0.001% of the annual production of round brilliant cut diamonds.
If we use the analogy of high-performance sports cars to demonstrate the difference between the types of ideal cut diamonds being discussed within this review, diamonds like this are equivalent to a Porsche 911 that just rolled off the production line, it’s going to be good enough for the needs of most people. But the hearts and arrows diamonds produced by Brian Gavin, Crafted by Infinity, and Victor Canera, are like a Porsche 911 Turbo that was rolled back into the shop and fine-tuned for racing performance… While both categories of ideal cut diamond are likely to blow your socks off, the reality is that the suped-up versions from BGD, CBI and VC set the standards for light performance and sparkle factor.
This 1.154 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Victor Canera hearts and arrows round diamond also exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, and has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0. Now one of the things that you might notice right away when you look at the diamond grading report for this diamond, is that there are no inclusions indicated in the key to symbols located below the plotting diagram. Which is kind of weird for an SI-1 clarity diamond, but this is because the clarity grade of this diamond is based upon clouds which are not indicated on the plotting diagram, most likely because it would make the plotting diagram look busier than the diamond appears to be in reality. A “cloud” is simply a cluster of pinpoint size diamond crystals, which generally appear to look like tiny specs of sparkling dust when examined under higher degrees of magnification. The diamond looks spectacular in the high resolution clarity photograph, so I see nothing to be concerned about.
Once again the diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 as determined on the Light Performance grading platform of the American Gem Society Laboratory. The pavilion angle of 40.7 degrees is going to produce a high volume of light return, while the crown angle of 34.7 degrees produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the combination of the 77% lower girdle facets and higher degree of optical precision are going to deliver the broad spectrum sparkle that I look for in an ideal cut diamond.
This 1.02 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamonds actually exhibits a pretty decent pattern of hearts and arrows. There is a bit of twisting in the tip of the heart located in the relative eleven o’clock position, and to a lesser degree in the other hearts, but you have to understand that I rarely see a pattern of hearts this nice in a Blue Nile Signature round diamond and I generally consider them to be more of a straight-up ideal cut diamond. The diamond has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent, and 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, and I expect that this diamond will exhibit broad-spectrum sparkle.
People often ask me if there is an advantage in buying Astor by Blue Nile diamonds over the virtual diamonds offered by Blue Nile, which are part of the larger global inventory offered via the various multiple listing services that we use as trade members to market diamonds globally. In my experience, this question can not be answered with a simple yes or not, but rather each diamond has to be considered on its own merits. I recommend asking me to run a search for you and help you determine the best options available from Blue Nile and other vendors, or send me the links to the diamonds you are considering and I’ll help you figure out which one is best.
Ready for something that is a bit amusing, yet extremely frustrating for me at the same time? Compare the hearts and arrows images provided for the 1.02 carat, H-color, VS-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond reviewed above, with the hearts and arrows images provided by GCAL for this 0.92 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond that is pictured to the left. GCAL rated the hearts and arrows patterns for both of these diamonds as “Excellent” however I don’t see how that could be possible since there is clearly a difference in the consistency of the patterns exhibited by these two diamonds. “O Consistency, where are thou?” Not in the facet structure of this diamond, that’s for sure! The difference in the size and shape of the hearts is an indication that the shape and length of the lower girdle facets differs dramatically on this diamond, and that there is a difference in the indexing of the facets as they were polished on to the surface of the diamond.
But “by the numbers” this diamond should be a top performer. The 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return, and the 35.0 degree crown angle should produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the 75% lower girdle facet length should produce sparkle that is larger in size, than what would be produced if the lower girdle facets were longer. I’m certain that you are beginning to realize the importance of reflector scope images, since buying diamonds by the numbers fails to reveal the full picture.
Clearly this 0.932 carat, G-color, VVS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature hearts and arrows round diamond is a superior option in terms of proportions and overall cut quality. The hearts and arrows pattern is spot-on perfect, a text book example of what a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows is supposed to look like. This is a hearts pattern that I would deem to be Excellent! The proportions indicated on the diamond grading report have not been rounded off like those provided on a GIA diamond grading report. The diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 and look exceptional in all of the reflector scope images! I am confident that the pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees is going to produce a high volume of light return, and the crown angle of 34.7 degrees is going to produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, while the combination of the higher degree of optical precision and the lower girdle facet length of 76% produces the broad spectrum sparkle that I crave in a diamond!
Once again the pattern of hearts and arrows exhibited by this 0.90 carat, E-color, VS-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond fails to impress! And once again this wonky, erratic pattern of rabbit ears and lawn darts has been deemed to be an excellent pattern of hearts and arrows by GCAL. It makes me wonder whether anybody at Blue Nile or GCAL is actually bothering to LOOK at the images being captured, or whether they’re just snapping and dropping the images on to diamond grading report that automatically deems the hearts and arrows patterns of all Blue Nile Signature diamonds to be excellent. Clearly there is a difference between the patterns of hearts and arrows exhibited by the few Blue Nile Signature round diamonds that I’ve reviewed in this article. Doesn’t it stand to reason that Excellent should be Excellent, and that another term should be used to describe patterns of rabbit ears and lawn darts, which don’t resemble a hearts pattern at all? This doesn’t even qualify as a C+ in my book! If this is “Excellent” then maybe I should go back to school! My teachers will be so excited.
Let’s just call this diamond what it is… a GIA Excellent cut round diamond with zero ideal proportions, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact it is something which is pretty incredible if you think about it, since the proportions and overall cut grade of this diamond place it well within the realm of the Top 1% of round brilliant cut diamonds produced in the average year! It might not be a “Hearts and Arrows diamond” but 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, and the 75% lower girdle facet length is likely to produce sparkle that is larger in size.
The question is do you need more than that? Want more than that? Standard production line Porsche 911 or Turbo Charged Porsche 911 fine tuned for racing performance, this is the part of the diamond buying equation that can only be determined based upon your personal preferences… How much sparkle factor do you need, want, and are willing to pay for? Just because I’m a total diamond cut snob, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be… But the truth is that if it were up to me, I’d be more inclined to purchase something like this next puppy:
If you’re looking to pick up a higher color diamond, then I’d be inclined to go with something like this 0.907 carat, F-color, VS-1 clarity, Victor Canera hearts and arrows round diamond. As you can plainly see, this diamond does exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows. This is a pattern of hearts and arrows that I would deem as being excellent. Notice how the hearts look like hearts and not a bunch of rabbit ears or lawn darts, and you can bet that this higher degree of optical precision, combined with the center range zero ideal proportions, will yield a higher degree of light return, along with sparkle that is bolder, brighter, and more vivid! Speaking of proportions, the 40.8 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return, the 34.8 degree crown angle will produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the 76% lower girdle facet length will produce broad-spectrum sparkle. The primary inclusion is a “needle” which is simply a needle shaped diamond crystal, nothing to be concerned about. In fact diamond crystals, in the form of crystals, needles, pinpoints, and clouds of pinpoint size diamond crystals happen to be my favorite types of inclusions.
Another diamond that caught my eye in this classification of carat weight, color, and clarity, is this 0.907 carat, E-color, VS-2 clarity, Crafted by Infinity hearts and arrows round diamond. As with all of the hearts and arrows diamonds reviewed thus far, this diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 as determined on the Light Performance grading platform which incorporates Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) into the grading process. The results of the ASET scan are provided on the Diamond Quality Document issued by the AGS Laboratory, it is the image of the diamond that appears in the colors red, blue, and green on the lab report pictured to the left. This article provides an explanation as to what the different colors mean on an ASET image, but suffice to say that this diamond is going to be extremely bright and the light appears to be evenly distributed throughout the diamond. Note that not all AGS Light Performance diamond grading reports provide a pavilion view of the bottom half of the diamond showing the hearts pattern, this is an option that the AGSL only made available to a handful of clients. Honestly I’m not sure there is a benefit to a pavilion view of a diamond as seen through an ASET scope, since it is intended to judge the brightness of a diamond, and that is a concept best addressed from a face-up position.
As you might expect, this 0.907 carat, E-color, VS-2 clarity, Crafted by Infinity hearts and arrows round diamond exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, and by the numbers it is going to exhibit a high volume of light return, with a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and exhibit broad-spectrum sparkle!
This 0.903 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Blue Signature round diamond which exhibits medium blue fluorescence when exposed to black light looks absolutely yummy! I’ve always loved the effect that medium to strong blue fluorescence can have upon the visual properties of diamonds, and used to own a D-color diamond with this level of fluorescence! It was absolutely dreamy! The diamond will look perfectly bright and white when viewed in normal lighting circumstances but will exhibit this beautiful neon blue color when exposed to black light. It’s like a hidden superpower and it an absolute plus in my book! Especially when the diamond has been hand-selected by the likes of Brian Gavin, who carefully evaluates every diamond produced for the Brian Gavin Blue Signature diamond collection, to ensure that the fluorescence is not having any negative impact upon the visual properties of the diamond. Naturally “by the numbers” this diamond is another top performer, and it looks great in the reflector scope images!
But maybe you don’t want a diamond with blue fluorescence, or perhaps you don’t need a diamond that is higher in clarity than SI-1, but still prefer diamonds of higher color. Then consider something like this 0.90 carat, D-color, SI-1 clarity, Blue Nile Signature round diamond, which still doesn’t exhibit what I consider to be an excellent pattern of hearts and arrows due to the variance in the size and shape of the hearts. However the pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees should produce a high volume of light return, while the 35.0 degree crown angle should produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the 75% lower girdle facet length should produce sparkle that is larger in size. The diamond is certainly going to sparkle like crazy and is going to be really bright and white!
Of course, the reality is that I’d be more inclined to drop down a couple of color grades and buy this 0.903 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, because you know by now that I prefer diamond cut quality over color and clarity. Why? Because I know from thirty years of hands-on diamond buying experience, that diamond cut quality trumps color and clarity every time… Because it is a difference that can be seen from across the room, in the form of higher light return and more intense sparkle! Whereas the difference of a color grade or two is only going to be visible when scrutinizing the diamonds very closely. That’s why I prefer to have really in-depth details and the insight provided by ASET Scope images like the one provided by Brian Gavin to the left, which tells me for certain that this diamond is going to be exceptionally bright and that the light is evenly distributed throughout the diamond! Based upon what I’m seeing in the reflector scope images, I’m certain that this diamond exhibits the highest degree of optical precision!
And there is every indication that the diamond is going to be a top-performing diamond “by the numbers” as well. You don’t really need me for this by now, right? You fully understand by now that the 40.8 degree pavilion angle is going to produce a high volume of light return, while the 34.7 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, and the 76% lower girdle facet length is going to produce broad-spectrum sparkle! You can learn all of this stuff in the article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success and run with it! The challenge I imagine is interpreting the reflector scope images because those are a bit tricker… But no problem, simply submit an inquiry via my free Diamond Concierge Service and send me a link to whatever diamonds you are considering, and I’ll check them out for you and let you know my thoughts.
Throughout the thirty years, I’ve worked as a professional diamond buyer !!! YIKES !!! (that anniversary occurs this October) I’ve established some pretty amazing contacts and gotten to know some pretty incredible people who I consider to be friends. There are a lot of companies selling diamonds online, most of them are simply fishing for sales by republishing the hundreds of thousands of diamonds that appear for sale in the multiple listing services (MLS) used by the diamond industry to market diamonds globally, and the majority of those diamonds leave a lot to be desired by my standards.
There are a few exceptions to this scenario, a handful of dealers who rely on physical inventory that has been produced to their extremely strict standards, which I’m happy to say tend to blend harmoniously with my own. Those dealers are:
All of whom sell hearts and arrows and super ideal cut diamonds of the highest caliber. I enjoy working with these guys because I’ve established a relationship with them over the years that gives me the confidence of knowing that a diamond is going to be drop dead gorgeous if they say it is… We speak the same language, and they’ve yet to fail me. By all means, please tell them that you heard about them from Todd Gray of Nice Ice if you have the opportunity to correspond with them, doing so helps to ensure their continued support of this web site.
There are other diamond dealers that I work with, who tend to work off of virtual inventory, or who tend to sell a broader selection of diamond cut qualities, which means that you have to be a bit more careful and selective while shopping for a diamond, because the inventory has not been hand-selected to deliver the ultimate in light performance. Rather the inventory is largely being supplied via the inventory provided by the global MLS, and it’s a bit like fishing with a large net, you never know what you’re going to catch, but I can help you filter the options like I’ve done above. Those dealers are:
All of which have some promising options from time-to-time, it’s really just a matter of sorting through their inventory using the search parameters outlined in the article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success, and then carefully examining the clarity photographs and reflector scope images to find the real gems! You don’t have to do it on your own, I’m happy to do it for you, I’ve got the search filters in place to do this sort of thing rather quickly, and the experience that enables me to flip through the diamond details fast enough to be truly effective while searching for diamonds. Take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service, it costs you nothing, the fees are paid by the vendors that I work with, you get the benefit of my 30 years of professional diamond buying experience, they get the benefit of the customer service that I provide you with, and your price on the diamond is exactly the same whether you use my services or not… Win | Win | Win.
And what if you’re considering diamonds offered by a web site that is not one of my preferred vendors? What if you’re working with a local jewelry store? Maybe your girlfriend has her mindset on a Tiffany Diamond from Tiffany & Co., Cartier, or some other high-end jeweler… That’s perfectly fine, send me the diamond details, all of the information you can gather, and I’ll be happy to look it over for you, at the end of the day it’s all about helping you buy the diamond with the most spectacular visual performance. You can always leave a great review for me on iVouch. And by all means, please feel free to leave a comment below and score the content of this article in the upper right corner of the article if you found it to be useful!
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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