Hi Todd, I would like to buy a three stone engagement ring, and I need help with the diamond selection. Ideally, I’d like a ring with a 0.70 – 0.80 ct center stone and 0.25 – 0.30 ct side stones. My budget is $5000-5300 for the entire ring. I’m looking for well-cut diamonds with high visual performance, which offer good value for the money. I’m currently considering this James Allen 3 Stone Ring, set with this 0.81 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, diamond from James Allen and would like your opinion on the center stone. The ring comes with F-G colour side stones, while the center stone is I color; I’m concerned that the difference in color will be noticeable…
Anyhow, I’m not totally sold on this ring and am happy to consider other rings / diamonds from different vendors, especially if they offer better value for the money. I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks, Greg S.
All right Greg, let’s see if we can make some progress on your ring quest today! Let’s begin by taking a look at the proportions for the 0.81 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, round diamond from James Allen that you were looking at. The diamond is graded by the GIA with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent, which makes NO sense because it has a symmetry grade of Very Good (!) and as such, the overall cut grade of the diamond is supposed to default to the lowest parameter of the cut grade.
Why Is Contrast Important in Round Diamonds:
The concern that I have with very good symmetry, is that symmetry is a contributing factor of contrast, which creates visible depth within the diamond. Specifically contrast between the arrows created by the 8 pavilion main facets located on the underside of the diamond and the other facet sections. High contrast in these sections creates the illusion that the diamond is sparkling when viewed in lighting environments where it is actually being starved for UV light, such as a typical office environment where fluorescent lighting is used. Notice the different degrees of contrast that are visible within the arrows pattern of this 0.81 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, diamond from James Allen.
It is important to note that the Symmetry grade stated on diamond grading reports, such as those issued by the GIA and American Gem Society (AGS) laboratories are only part of the “diamond symmetry” puzzle because gemological laboratories only grade “meet point symmetry” and do not grade diamonds for “optical symmetry” which is also a contributing factor of visual performance.
Optical symmetry refers to the consistency of facet shape, facet size, and the precision which the facets are aligned across from each other as the diamond is viewed in terms of 360 degrees, as it applies to the creation of “virtual facets” which the American Gem Society Laboratory refers to as “the building blocks of sparkle” because they collectively dictate the degree to which a diamond will sparkle.
The Effect of Proportions upon Light Return in a Diamond:
The most important factor of diamond cut in terms of the volume of light created by reflecting light around within the diamond and back up through the top of the diamond are the proportions. According to the GIA Laboratory, the 0.81 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, diamond from James Allen has an outside diameter of 5.95 – 5.98 mm with a total depth of 61.8% and a table diameter of 58% with a crown angle of 35.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees with a medium to slightly thick, faceted girdle and no culet.
The total depth and table diameter of the diamond are perfectly fine and well within the selection criteria outlined in my article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success, however the crown angle of 35.5° is a bit steep for my preference and it is offset by a pavilion angle of 41º which is also on the steeper side of things. The odds are that this diamond will have very good light return and it will exhibit a lot of dispersion (fire / colored sparkle) but a lesser degree of brilliance which is white sparkle.
If we tighten up the range of crown and pavilion angle, then it is likely that the diamond will exhibit a higher volume of light return, and more of a balance of brilliance and dispersion… Now the visual properties of a diamond happen to be a matter of personal preference, you might prefer a diamond which exhibits more fire than brilliance or vice versa, and I can help you find diamonds which are likely to exhibit varying degrees of brilliance and dispersion, however I prefer diamonds which exhibit a full spectrum of sparkle so I’m going to make some recommendations which I feel will deliver that kind of light return… Let me know if you are looking for something else and I will adjust the proportions parameters accordingly.
Assuming that you are looking for a diamond which will deliver a high volume of light return and exhibit a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion with an incredible amount of scintillation, I recommend using these Selection Parameters to Search for Diamonds on James Allen which presets the range for total depth, table diameter, diamond cut, shape, color [G-H-I] and clarity [SI-1 to VS-2] with a price limit of $3,500 which helped me to fine tune the original 196 options presented, down to 23 diamonds which I quickly flipped through to eliminate any remaining options which don’t meet my selection criteria for crown and pavilion angle, which leaves us with five diamonds to consider from James Allen:
James Allen True Hearts Diamond Review: GIA 6157545423
This 0.71 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts Diamond is cut to the center range of the spectrum designated for the zero ideal cut proportions rating with a total depth of 61.7% and a table diameter of 54% with a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with a medium to slightly thick, faceted girdle and no culet. The GIA gave the diamond an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent; and indicated that the primary inclusions consist of diamond crystals and feathers. As you can see from the picture featured to the left, the diamond exhibits a very nice pattern of hearts and arrows, which is an indication that the diamond has better optical symmetry.
The feather and some of the diamond crystals which are the primary inclusions within this diamond, are visible in the high resolution video of the diamond which is featured on the diamond details page, in the nine o’clock region. The feather looks pretty extensive in the video, but keep in mind that the video pictures the diamond as seen using 40x magnification and the industry standard for diamond clarity grading is 10x magnification. So the diamond faces up a little larger than a golf ball in the video, when in reality it has an average outside diameter of 5.76 millimeters, to put this in perspective the eraser on a standard #2 pencil measures 6.50 millimeters.
James Allen Round Diamond Review: GIA 6147976406
This 0.73 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, round diamond from James Allen is graded by the GIA with an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent, and has a total depth of 61.4% with a table diameter of 55% and a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with a medium, faceted girdle and no culet. So this diamond is also cut to the center range of proportions and as you can see, it exhibits a fairly high degree of contrast between the pavilion main and other facets, so it should be a great looking diamond! The primary inclusions consist of clouds (clusters) of pinpoint size diamond crystals, larger diamond crystals, and internal graining.
None of these inclusions are anything to be concerned with in a VS-2 clarity diamond, the reference to “internal graining” simply means that the grain lines of the diamond crystal are visible using 10x magnification… under high magnification, it is possible to see the crystal structure of the diamond, this is kind of like being able to see “wood grain” in a piece of wood.
James Allen Round Ideal Diamond Review:
This 0.73 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, round ideal diamond from James Allen is graded by the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on their proprietary Light Performance grading platform, which relies on Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology to measure the diamond for brightness and provides us with a map that indicates how different levels of brightness are distributed throughout the diamond. Don’t be misled by the green areas defined as being “Less Bright” on the key to symbols, those are secondary levels of brightness which are evenly distributed throughout the diamond in accordance to the facet structure.
I’m definitely partial to diamonds which are graded by the AGSL on their Light Performance grading platform because the ASET results provide great insight into the optical symmetry of the diamond and whether the light being returned from the diamond is evenly dispersed, which it appears to be in this instance… this looks like a great option!
The primary inclusions are indicated as being crystals, feathers, clouds of pinpoint size diamond crystals and needle shaped diamond crystals; and based upon what I’m seeing in the diamond clarity photograph / video, they appear to be fairly translucent.
James Allen Ideal Cut Diamond Review:
This 0.73 carat, G-color, SI-1 clarity, round ideal diamond from James Allen is also graded by the AGSL with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 and as you can see, the ASET image provided on the Diamond Quality Document (DQD) looks fantastic! As you’ve probably come to expect by now, the diamond is cut to proportions which are right in the middle of the range designated by the AGSL for the zero ideal cut proportions rating! It has a total depth of 61.8% with a table diameter of 54.6% and a 34.5 degree crown angle which is offset by a 40.7 degree pavilion angle and a thin to medium, faceted girdle with a pointed culet. The primary inclusions are crystals, needles, clouds, and feathers, which appear to be “mirroring” around the diamond in the clarity photograph. I would ask the gemologist at James Allen to verify that this diamond is eye clean.
James Allen Round Diamond Review: GIA 2167412164
The pavilion angle of this 0.81 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, round diamond from James Allen is one tenth of a degree beyond my preferred range at 41.0 degrees, however that’s all right because it is offset by a crown angle of 34.5 degrees and so it’s still going to exhibit great brilliance and dispersion with a high volume of light return. Understand that my preferred range represents the very middle of the range designated for the zero ideal cut proportions rating, and as such there is a little bit of wiggle room… just don’t take the pavilion angle beyond 41.0 degrees because the volume of light return will diminish dramatically beyond that range. Now look at the arrows pattern…
Clearly this diamond exhibits a higher amount of contrast than the other 0.81 carat diamond from James Allen which is referenced at the top of this article, so this would be my choice between the two diamonds. However I’m inclined to suggest this 0.743 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature Round diamond which is supposed to exhibit a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, because I’m confident that it will exhibit the highest volume of light return and extremely good contrast, because that is typical of his production. This diamond is currently at the AGSL being graded, so additional details will be posted to the diamond details page soon
It would look amazing in the 3 stone trellis setting from Brian Gavin pictured above, but this combination exceeds your desired price range by just a little bit… Luckily I have an exclusive Brian Gavin Coupon Code which will save you a little bit of money on the setting if it is ordered on conjunction with either a Brian Gavin Signature or Brian Gavin Blue diamond, I’ll send it to you via email because I’m not permitted to publish it on the web site.
So what we know about the diamond at this point, is that it has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 and that it measures 5.82 – 5.87 millimeters in diameter with a total depth of 61.7% and a table diameter of 54.6% with a crown angle of 34.2 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.9 degrees with a thin to medium, faceted girdle and a pointed culet. The crown angle is one tenth of a degree shallower than my preferred range of 34.3 – 34.9 degrees, however that works with the 40.9 degree pavilion angle which is on the steeper side of the range of 40.6 – 40.9 degrees that I rely upon.
Matching Center Stone and Accent Diamonds for Color:
I almost forgot to mention that I don’t think that it is terribly important to match up the color of the center diamond and the accent diamonds in an engagement ring because our eyes have a tendency to be drawn to the larger center stone and the brightness exhibited by that diamond will outweigh the slight difference in body color between the diamonds… A difference of F/G to I-color will not be all that noticeable, and probably only would be if somebody were really looking to see a difference in color between the diamonds, even then it will be slight.