I’m looking for a custom engagement ring (six claw prong, pave band). I’ve found the following center stones that I think are appealing. I’ve educated myself using your site (thank you so much!), but I’m still wondering what expert insight you might have. Thank you so much!
Thank you for your inquiry. I would not recommend buying any of these GIA Excellent cut diamonds. The fact of the matter is that they do not meet my selection criteria. I will explain the pros and cons of each diamond momentarily. I suggest downloading my diamond cheat sheet and referring to that while searching. However, I will also be happy to run a search for you. Just let me know your preferences for price, carat weight, clarity, color and blue fluorescence.
There are two articles which I’d like to take a quick look at and keep in mind while we evaluate the diamonds which you’ve been considering:
Once you read those articles, I’m certain that you’ll see these diamonds in a new light.
The 1.36 carat, G-color, VVS-1 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen is the best option of the group. As you can see, it exhibits the best contrast brilliance of these diamonds. The arrows pattern is consistently reflecting back the dark color of the camera lens. Thus it is creating a really good amount of contrast brilliance. Which is creating nice depth of field and it has the effect of making the diamond pop.
The 40.6 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return. However the 36 degree crown angle is a bit of a concern. In my experience, the steeper crown angle makes diamonds look amazing under pin-fire type lighting. For instance, this diamond will probably sparkle like crazy under jewelry store halogen or candle light. However, we don’t spend most of our time under these light sources.
Most of us live and work under diffused light sources in this modern age. Diamonds with this steeper crown heights are a throwback from the bygone era illuminated by fire light. In addition, the steeper crown height is the likely cause of the obstruction visible under the table facet in the 10 – 11 – 1 o’clock positions.
I’ve been doing a lot of computer modeling with diamonds to determine what causes obstruction. It seems to be the result of steeper crown height and pavilion depths. I suspect that those dark asymmetrical triangles you’re seeing under the table facet, are reflections of the star facets. Those are the triangular shape facets that border the table facet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Just look at the upper tips of the triangles, and imagine their reflection mirroring from under the table facet. After all, a diamond is a 3 dimensional puzzle and the facets combine to create a kaleidoscope effect.
The next best option appears to be the 1.37 carat, F-color, VS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen. You’ll notice that the arrows pattern is nice and dark, with exception of the arrow in the 12 o’clock position. So, let’s try a little experiment. Left click and hold your mouse over the image and drag it from left to right. Notice whether the arrow in the 12 o’clock position remains translucent, or whether it fires off and reflects the dark color of the camera lens.
Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t fire, the arrow remains translucent. Which tells me that there is something going on in that region of the facet structure. Especially since there is also a bit of obstruction just to the left of that pavilion main facet. My guess would be that there is a bit of azimuth shift or facet yaw in that region. Nevertheless, it does seem to be a better option than the other two diamonds.
The 40.8 degree pavilion angle should produce a high volume of light return. However, you know from above that the 36 degree crown angle is a bit steep for my taste. Here again, it’s likely that the diamond will look spectacular under jewelry store halogen, pin-fire type lighting. But the sparkle is likely to flatten out and go dead when the diamond is viewed under diffused lighting.
Now that you know a bit more about contrast brilliance and obstruction, I have a question for you. What do you see when you look at the 1.40 carat, H-color, VVS-2 clarity, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen? Good contrast brilliance and a whole lot of obstruction, right? In fact, there is so much obstruction that the table facet region looks pretty dark, doesn’t it? Here again, the proportions of the diamond are out of whack by my standards.
The crown angle of 33 degrees is too shallow, and the pavilion depth of 43.5% is too deep. The shallow crown angle is less of a concern, it’s most likely only going to cause the diamond to exhibit more brilliance. However that little extra bit of white sparkle, will likely be at the expense of dispersion. This means that it is likely that this diamond will not exhibit as much colored sparkle or fire.
At the same time, the 43.5% pavilion depth happens to be “the critical tipping point” where light begins not to strike fully off the pavilion facets. In other words, the lower half of the diamond is not likely to produce the highest volume of light return.
Now, it seems like the 1.59 carat, H-color, Internally Flawless, GIA Excellent cut round diamond from James Allen has it all. You can clearly see a moderate amount of obstruction under the table facet and the arrows are completely translucent. Which means what? Clearly, that translates to less than desirable contrast brilliance and optical precision, right?
And no wonder, just look at that pavilion depth. It’s a whopping 44% which is well beyond the critical tipping point of 43.5% where light begins not to strike fully off the pavilion. Are you beginning to see how important it is to focus on the middle range of proportions? I’m also willing to bet that now that you look at the diamonds in a row like this, that you can see why I’ve ranked them in this order. That said, I still wouldn’t buy any of these myself.
Based upon the range of characteristics and price that these diamonds represent, I conducted my own search. I focused on 1.35+ carats, H+ color, VS-2 clarity, up to $12K:
These three diamonds have a pavilion depth between 40.6 – 40.8 degrees. Thus, each of them should exhibit a high volume of light return. The crown angle measurements are between 34.5 – 35.0 degrees. This means that they should produce a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The lower girdle facet length is between 75 – 78% and thus the sparkle factor should be larger in size.
Look closely and you’ll see some slight differences in the size and shape of the hearts. This is an indication that the degree of optical precision is very good. Thus there should be a higher volume of virtual facets. This equates to more sparkle and sparkle which is more intense. Of course, there is always room for improvement. The cutter may have improved the optical precision by spending more time fine tuning the facets. Then again, time is money.
Slight variations in the size and shape of the hearts indicate slight differences in the facet structure. Do you see how the tips of the hearts are twisting in a few places? That might be because the length of the lower girdle facets is slightly different. Each half of the heart is created by the reflection of the pavilion main on the other side of the diamond.
If you really want to knock it out of the park, then you should focus on the Nice Ice created by Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity. After all, these guys used to produce hearts and arrows diamonds for our in-store private label. Which is why I can say hat Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity diamonds, truly are “Nice Ice” with complete confidence.
From my perspective, you can’t buy a better cut hearts and arrows quality diamond anywhere else. Brian Gavin and Paul Slegers are the Cut Kings as far as I’m concerned. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Brian Gavin is one of my original mentors in the diamond business. I just got back from spending an entire week at Brian Gavin Diamonds in Houston, Texas. During which I had the honor of evaluating his entire inventory, it goes without saying that they are still as incredible as ever!
I’ve also seen a few Crafted by Infinity diamonds recently, and can say the exact same thing for them! Which answers the next obvious question, which hearts and arrows diamond should you buy? Seriously, I don’t think it matters whether you buy a Brian Gavin or a Crafted by Infinity, both are at the top of their class.
Which of course, I’m more than happy to help you do, we can dissect these puppies to the nth degree. However I know from experience that you could line these diamonds up in a row, put on a blindfold and play pin the tail on the donkey, and come out smelling like roses with any one of these:
Take a moment to really look at the ASET, Ideal Scope, and H&A images for these diamonds. These images portray diamonds which are cut to the highest degree of optical precision. It really doesn’t get any better than this from my perspective. They cost a little more, but that’s because it takes about 4 times longer to polish diamonds to this level of perfection. Of course, it’s worth every penny! Because your diamond is going to be all that much more vibrant and lively!
I also found this 1.378 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, Victor Canera hearts and arrows diamond. From what I’m seeing, it seems to falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It’s basically right between the James Allen True Hearts, and Brian Gavin and Crafted by Infinity diamonds. I think the diamond looks better in the reflector scope images than the JA True Hearts diamonds. However the optical precision is not quite up to the standards of the BGD and CBI diamonds. Thus I’m placing this one right in the middle of the spectrum.
That’s just how I see it in this particular instance. Understand that I’m not making a general statement regarding the production quality of these brands. These comments pertain specifically to this specific group of diamonds
Remember that each diamond must be considered on its own merits and individual characteristics, regardless of brand. Run your initial search by the proportions outlined in the article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success. Then evaluate the clarity photographs for contrast brilliance and obstruction. The next step is to examine the ASET, Ideal Scope, and Hearts & Arrows images. Understand that there’s no such thing as a perfectly cut diamond. However, there certainly are different degrees of perfection within each realm of cut quality.
It goes without saying that most people want to buy the biggest diamond possible within their price range. However, you also want a diamond that is going to sparkle like crazy, right? With that in mind, I searched the multiple listing service that we use to trade diamonds globally for options up to $12K.
Unfortunately I didn’t find anything within the previously stated range of characteristics to tempt you with. Everything either exhibited a lot of obstruction, or was leaking a lot of light under the table facet. But I’m happy to run additional searches for you, just let me know how you’d like to adjust the selection criteria.
However, if you’re really looking for the best sparkle factor within that range, I’d go with one of the diamonds referenced above from Brian Gavin, Crafted by Infinity, James Allen True Hearts, or Victor Canera.
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)
James Allen True Hearts versus GIA Excellent Cut Diamonds
GIA Excellent vs Very Good Cut (seeing is believing)
How to sell my diamond ring when things go bad (1.90 carats)
James Allen ASET Scope Images for True Hearts Diamonds
Whiteflash vs Blue Nile GIA Excellent (shattering glass?)
Where to buy 1 carat round diamond, G+ color, VS-1+ to $7.5K