“You helped a friend of mine shop for a diamond engagement ring about a year ago, he ended up going with one of your recommendations from the James Allen True Hearts diamond collection, and the diamond is drop dead gorgeous! Based upon the two months salary rule, I’ve got about $20k to spend, but I’m not entirely convinced I need to spend that much to get something nice. Can I get a really nice looking diamond for $10-15k? She would be extremely happy around 1.20 carats since that is the size diamond her best friend received. I prefer D-E color, but the diamond my friend bought is a G-color and it looks good to me, but my mental preference is colorless, and VS-2 or higher in clarity, since that seems to be less noticeable to the naked eye, but I could go higher in clarity to maintain that mind clean feeling. What do you recommend?”
There are definitely some great options to be found within the James Allen True Hearts diamond collection, not all of them will meet my selection criteria, but that is true of most brands of diamonds. Which is why I prefer to take a more hands-on approach to helping my clients select diamonds for their engagement rings, as opposed to merely point them towards the vendors who I work with and let the chips fall where they may.
But the truth is that with a little bit of research and guidance, it is possible for you to pick out a round brilliant ideal cut diamond that exhibits spectacular light performance and sparkle factor, with just a little bit of knowledge… And I’m going to show you how to do that, by going through all of the James Allen True Hearts diamonds that exist within their current inventory, within the range of 1.10 – 1.99 carats, D-color to G-color, VS-2 clarity and higher, within the range of 59 – 61.8% total depth, and a table diameter between 53 – 58% with negligible to strong blue fluorescence.
You can use this link to search for James Allen True Hearts diamonds within that range of characteristics, and adjust the range of clarity and color, etc., to fit your own preferences if you happen to be reading this blog post; but then we still need to open up each diamond details page, and open up the diamond grading reports to determine which of the diamonds continue to meet my criteria for crown angle, pavilion angle, girdle thickness, culet size, inclusion type, and optical precision of course!
This search of James Allen True Hearts diamonds yielded six options, let’s go through them one by one to determine which ones make the Nice Ice cut grade, and which ones you should pass on. I’m just going to present them in order of carat weight:
This 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is graded by the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0, which is something that I prefer over diamonds graded as GIA Excellent, because only the AGSL uses Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) to measure diamonds for brightness, and it provides insight that is not available on GIA diamond grading reports, which allows us to get an idea of how evenly light is being distributed throughout the diamond. The problem is that this particular ASET scope image looks extremely blotchy and I can’t tell whether it is just a bad copy, or if this is really what it looks like…[separator]
When I try to verify the diamond grading report using AGS Report Check, which works by entering the diamond grading report number: 104045045034 into the diamond grading report field; and then the carat weight of the diamond: 1.107 into the field for carat weight, and then clicking on the “Submit” button. This will take you to a page that contains the basic details presented on the diamond grading report, and that page is presented to the left. Normally there would be an additional link provided towards the bottom which reads “Open Report” which would open up a high resolution copy of the Diamond Quality Document (DQD) and that report could be blown up to full size.[separator]
Notice the link provided at the bottom of the report verification page for this 1.245 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, I have highlighted the location where this link normally appears and is supposed to be, with a bright red arrow. I don’t know why the link to open up the high resolution copy of the AGS Diamond Quality Document for the 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is not available, but it makes it impossible for me to determine whether the ASET image for this diamond really looks this bad, or whether it’s simply a really bad scan; but if it actually looks this bad, I’d pass on this diamond.[separator]
Notice how crisp the ASET image looks on the diamond grading report for this 1.245 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, as compared with the ASET image provided above for the 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond. And then tell me, based upon what you’re seeing in the ASET images alone, which diamond would you choose? The Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology used to scan both diamonds is exactly the same, thus the image quality should also be the same, so why does one ASET image look muddled while the other does not? I can only assume that it is due to how light is reflecting through the diamonds. I might reach a different conclusion if I were able to see the ASET image on the diamond grading report at full resolution, or if there was an actual ASET image to compare by, but James Allen does not provide those.[separator]
But Brian Gavin does… The ASET image for the 1.245 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond looks like this, and based upon this image I can tell you with full confidence that this diamond is going to be incredibly bright! Even if whoever photographed it seems to have neglected to perfectly align the diamond in the tray that holds it in place while it is being photographed… Notice how the diamond seems to be tilting towards the upper right corner, you can tell this because the table facet is off kilter. But at least Brian Gavin is providing all of the reflector scope images necessary for me to judge the degree of optical precision, and I can mentally adjust for balance.[separator]
I apologize if it seems like I’ve gotten off track in the midst of reviewing this 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond, but I wanted to provide you with an explanation of what I’m seeing, from the perspective of a professional diamond buyer who has almost 30 years experience buying diamonds for the trade. It might have gone faster if we were sitting here at my desk, and I wasn’t having to write all this out and provide visuals… Let’s get back to the review:
I suppose that I should explain that this 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond does meet my selection criteria “by the numbers” because the 40.8 degree pavilion angle is going to provide a high volume of light return; and the 34.4 degree crown angle will produce a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) and that the 75% lower girdle facet length is going to produce “broad spectrum sparkle” which is going to be larger, bolder, and brighter than it would be if this same diamond featured lower girdle facets in the range of eighty percent, but those “hearts” don’t meet my grading standards for the hearts and arrows diamond classification.[separator]
Notice how the heart pictured in the relative twelve o’clock position is slightly smaller than the other hearts… In fact, all of the hearts are slightly different in size and shape; and if you look closely at the tip of the heart that is located in the relative eleven o’clock position, you will see that it is twisting slightly downward; plus more than half of the hearts are bleeding into the arrows that are located beneath them; all of which indicates that there is a variance in the size and shape of the lower girdle facets, and differences in the indexing of those facets.
That variance in the size and shape of the hearts (above) would be even more noticeable if James Allen provided us with a larger size image of the diamond as seen through a hearts and arrows scope, instead of an image that spans about the length of the distal phalange on my index finger… Hey I don’t have a ruler sitting on my desk at the moment! But compare the size of the hearts image for the 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond that is provided when you mouse over the icon for it, with the one provided (left) for this 1.245 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature round diamond, and you’ll see how much of a difference image size makes.[separator]
And I suppose that you might also be able to figure out why I consider one of the diamonds to be “Hearts and Arrows” and one not to be… I just happen to be one of the purveyors of hearts and arrows diamonds online, we were promoting them back in 1996, and I grade by original Japanese standards.
Thus when a vendor calls something “True Hearts” I kind of expect to see a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, that consists of eight hearts that are reasonably uniform in size and shape, which are evenly spaced, and which are not twisting at the tips, or bleeding into the arrowheads that are located beneath them, nor which have deep splits in the clefts.
Therefore I personally would place this 1.107 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond in the category of reasonably nice ideal cut diamond, but I would not be marketing it as a “True Hearts Diamond”.
Then again the brand name is “James Allen True Hearts” and not “Todd Gray True Hearts” so obviously my personal and professional standards do not apply to the brand… thankfully you’ve got me to help you figure out which James Allen True Hearts diamond to buy, and which ones to pass over.
By the way, where has this diamond been since July 13, 2010 when it was originally submitted to the AGS Laboratory for grading? That’s the date on the diamond grading report, and while diamonds aren’t exactly like bread, it’s not like they’re going to go stale, I have to wonder why this diamond hasn’t sold in almost five years! Perhaps it’s time to send this diamond back to the AGS Laboratory to be re-graded? It’s just a thought.
This 1.138 carat, G-color, VVS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond was graded by the AGS Laboratory back on November 03, 2008 when dinosaurs still roamed the earth! Okay that last part might not be 100% accurate, but that seems like a long, long time ago to me! As you can plainly see, the hearts pattern for this James Allen True Hearts diamond is significantly better than exhibited by the previous diamond that we reviewed; however it still falls short of my grading standards for hearts and arrows, but it’s better than what you’ll see in most ideal cut diamonds, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide what level of perfection you expect from a diamond being marketed for it’s hearts pattern.[separator]
I’m seeing slight variations in the size and shape of the hearts, pretty significant splits in the clefts of six of the hearts, and some pretty substantial variations in the gaps between the hearts and the pavilion main facets; I might also be seeing a little bit of twisting in the tips, but it’s difficult to say with an image this small.
While this diamond is graded with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 for “Performance” that for some reason “somebody” elected not to order the diamond grading report format that includes the ASET results; thus I consider this diamond to be on par with GIA Excellent cut diamonds, because there is no evidence to the contrary. Understand that it’s much easier to get GIA Excellent than an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the ASET based “Light Performance” grading platform. Once again, a high resolution copy of the DQD for this 1.138 carat, G-color, VVS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond does not appear to be available via AGS Report Check — see the red arrow![separator]
Putting all of that aside for a moment, with the understanding that this diamond was not graded on the Light Performance grading standard that provides an ASET image on the Diamond Quality Document, and thus I’m placing it in the category equivalent to the GIA Excellent grading standard, because I find that the two gemological laboratories grade equally for polish, symmetry, and proportions; that it’s a nice option in terms of a slightly better than average zero ideal cut diamond based upon the proportions.
The 40.9 degree pavilion angle is going to provide a high volume of light return, while the 34.3 degree crown angle produces a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) and the 78% lower girdle facets are going to produce the broad spectrum sparkle that I’m so fond of. If that’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me… the reality is that not everybody is looking for absolute top notch optical precision when they buy a diamond, they just want something that sparkles like crazy!
And this diamond should do that because it’s got the right proportions, the right polish and symmetry grade, it exhibits a better than average hearts pattern, and it looks pretty darn good through the Ideal Scope image, indicating that it’s not leaking any major amounts of light… It’s definitely within the Top 1% of the annual production for round brilliant cut diamonds, circa 2008 as it were.
This 1.225 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is graded by the AGS Laboratory on the Light Performance grading platform, and I’m super duper happy about that (!) because it enables me to determine that this diamond is going to be nice and bright, and that light is being evenly distributed throughout the diamond! You can’t see it, but I’m dancing on my desk! Not really, but I feel like I could be, because I actually hate writing negative reviews of established brands like James Allen. As you can see, the hearts are relatively even in size and shape, there is just a bit of twisting in the tips of the hearts located in the relative 1-4-9 and ten o’clock positions.[separator]
The slight twisting of the hearts could be caused by Azamet Shift / variances in the facet shape and size, as well as indexing issues, or it might be due to the diamond being slightly out of alignment with the camera lens, because the Ideal Scope image for this 1.225 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond looks like the diamond is tilted slightly upwards on the left side, and so does the hearts image, but it is difficult to tell with reflector scope images this small. The diamond does look good in the Ideal Scope image by the way! All of this combined with the 40.9 degree pavilion angle and 34.4 degree crown angle with 76% LGF’s should be stunning![separator]
And James Allen actually provided a full size, high resolution copy of the AGS Diamond Quality Document (DQD) for this diamond, AND you can even use AGS Report Check to verify the details provided on the diamond grading report, AND a link is provided to open up a high resolution copy of the DQD. Shocking, right? I know, I almost fainted… but then I wondered, why is it available for this James Allen True Hearts diamond and not the others? This type of inconsistency drives me nuts when shopping for diamonds online! But that’s okay, I didn’t really like the other options all that much to begin with, but I definitely do like this 1.225 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond.[separator]
This 1.224 carat, D-color, VVS-1 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform, and the ASET image looks great! And so does the hearts pattern by the way, it exhibits only very slight variances that are well within the range that I deem to be acceptable for hearts and arrows quality diamonds. Hot Diggity Dog! We might just be on a roll now! The Ideal Scope image appears to exhibit a little bit of light leakage under the table facet, but that could actually be due to the diamond being tilted up with the left side being high, but maybe not given the slightly steep pavilion depth.[separator]
This type of thing is where the quality of the reflector scope images being provided by the vendor can make or break the decision to purchase a diamond such as this online, because honestly I’m inclined to pass on it given the possibility that the diamond might be leaking light under the table facet, but the image might simply need to be re-shot. It’s worth asking James Allen to do so, if this particular diamond is of interest. The diamond is definitely well within the Top 1% of the annual production for rounds…
There is no doubt about it in my mind, this 1.240 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is definitely leaking light under the table facet, based upon all the translucent light grey color that is visible around the entire perimeter of the table facet in the ideal scope image provided. This is not really surprising to me however, since the pavilion angle of this diamond is 41.0 degrees, and it is combined with an average pavilion depth of 43.5% which just happens to be the critical tipping point where light begins not to strike fully off of the pavilion facets. OMG there just might be something to the theory that the proportions of a diamond are a factor of light return and visual performance! Shocking.[separator]
Without a doubt, this is one of the worst ASET images for an ideal cut diamond that I’ve ever seen! And it fully supports my opinion that this 1.240 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is leaking light under the table facet, and in several other places actually! Which is why I like to have both an ASET Scope and an Ideal Scope image, along with full size Hearts and Arrows Scope images when evaluating diamonds on behalf of my clients, because it is the only way to get a complete picture of the degree of optical precision exhibited by the diamond, or in this case, the lack thereof. Those blackish-grey sections at the edge of the table facet, that’s light leakage! And a lot of it…[separator]
And that table section should be bright red, not green! And those arrows should be all blue, not comprised of red and blue sections… From my perspective, this diamond is a disaster as far as super ideal cut diamonds go… I don’t get it, I really don’t. How did this diamond make the grade of AGS Ideal-0? Apparently the spectrum for the AGS Ideal-0 cut grade has expanded a bit… Yowza!
Obviously I’m not recommending this 1.240 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond; so much for being on a roll… one more James Allen True Hearts diamond review to go and we’re done!
This 1.554 carat, D-color, VVS-2 clarity, James Allen True Hearts diamond is graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform. The ASET image looks okay, but is not great, there are visible variances in the distribution of reds and greens throughout the stone. The hearts pattern pictured to the left, obviously lacks symmetry. Notice how the tips of the hearts in the 3-5-6 o’clock position are more pointed (correctly formed) than the hearts in the other positions, which feature tips that are box-like and appear to be clipped off, once again, no consistency… but at least the ideal scope image is good on this one![separator]
The crown angle of 33.9 degrees is a bit shallow for my personal preference, I prefer that it be between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees, and am willing to let it slide a tenth of a degree in either direction, because that doesn’t have too much of an effect upon the balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion (colored sparkle) but this isn’t a deal killer since the pavilion angle is a tad steep at 41.0 degrees with a pavilion depth of 43.3% so it kind of balances things out, especially with the 75% lower girdle facet length, which should give the diamond broad spectrum sparkle.
There are some exceptional diamonds to be found within the James Allen True Hearts brand, but clearly there are a few options that I’m not going to recommend, because they’re not up to my standards… Every brand of diamond sets their own standards, you can choose to adhere to my standards when buying a diamond, and end up with the very best, or you can adhere to somebody else’s standards and get, well… I’m not going to say it.
The reality is that most brands of diamonds online offer a pretty broad range of quality, and maybe you are looking for the absolute best that the diamond industry has to offer, and maybe you’re not. I’ll just keep writing the reviews, and let you decide what level of perfection works for you!
Obviously my focus is on finding diamonds that offer the very best light performance for my clients, and if that’s what you’re looking for, I’d like to help you find the diamond of your dreams… Drop me a note via my Diamond Concierge Service submission form.
My diamond concierge service is absolutely free for you to use, it won’t cost you a thing! There are no gimmicks, no catch, no obligation. My fees are paid by the vendors who I work with by way of affiliate agreements that are driven by affiliate links… You didn’t think that I spend my time writing these crazy rants for free did you? But you’re not obligated to use the affiliate links provided, I simply hope that you decide to do so, because you appreciate the insight and diamond buying expertise that I bring to the table.
And don’t worry, your price on any diamonds that I recommend will not be affected by the presentation of an affiliate link, you can check the price on the diamond, with and without the affiliate portion of the link, it will always be the same… My fees are paid out of the vendors annual advertising budget.
And it should be blatantly obvious that I’m not going to simply “Rubber Stamp” any vendors product or service if it doesn’t meet my selection criteria… The vendors don’t always appreciate what I have to say, but they can’t argue about it being based upon fact, I’m well known throughout the diamond industry for calling it like it is.
Note to my friends: if by chance I happen to go missing, check James Allen’s trunk, especially if he’s headed out to New Jersey 😉
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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