Last night I received a phone call from a friend of the family, who is in the middle of shopping for diamonds, and remembered that he had a friend in the diamond business. We spent a few minutes catching up and then I asked him what he was looking for and how much he wanted to spend… He replied by saying that he’s looking for something with excellent light return, in the range of 1.50 carats, something “white” like F or G color, and eye clean (which translates to SI-1 to VS-2 clarity or higher) and that he’s thinking he wants to spend about $5-6K. Which I had to inform him wasn’t going to happen, but this really isn’t surprising to me, it’s the type of conversation that I have with guys all the time, the reality is that most of us don’t know how expensive these shiny little rocks can be until we really start to do our research.
We talked a little more about diamond clarity characteristics, diamond cut quality, optical symmetry, diamond color, and diamond prices… he was a lot of fun to talk with because he’s an engineer, so he really digs the science behind optical symmetry and easily understood the importance of optimizing the proportions of a diamond for maximum light return. Then we decided that I would conduct a search for diamonds which met both his original preferences in terms of quality, while ignoring the limitation of price; and that I would look for some options which meet his initial concept of price, just to provide him with a range of options to contemplate. Basically, I’m just going to help him shop for a diamond as if I were buying it for myself, and to that regard, I’m going to expand the range for color just a bit up to I-color and mix in a little fluorescence if possible to help offset it.
It’s no secret that my primary focus is on buying diamonds which have been optimized for maximum light performance (volume of light return) and visual performance (sparkle factor), so I’m going to limit my search to round brilliant cut diamonds within the following range of proportions:
Total Depth between 59 – 61.8%
Table Diameter between 53 – 57.5% (maybe 58%)
Crown angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees
Pavilion angle between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees
Girdle thickness between 0.7% thin to slightly thick, faceted or polished.
Culet: GIA “none” or AGS “pointed” (same thing)
And of course the overall cut rating of the diamond is either going to be GIA Excellent (GIA 3X) or AGS Ideal-0, which means that the diamond will have a grade of GIA Excellent or AGS Ideal for Polish, Symmetry and Proportions. Now this is going to drive up the price of the diamond by a little bit, but it’s also going to dramatically improve the overall brightness and sparkle of the diamond, so it’s money well spent.
Now let’s look at the diamonds which I’ve found… They are listed in no particular order, I’m just going to write about them as I find them while I look at the web site of each particular vendor. Since price is a definite factor, I’m going to start with James Allen, which is a good mid-range dealer in terms of price and quality, then I’m going to venture into the realm of Brian Gavin Diamonds because his production is of a higher caliber, so it’s going to cost more. I’m not going to explore the inventory of Blue Nile today, because they don’t provide the clarity pictures and other information which I need to make an informed decision. And I’m not going to be exploring the inventory of Crafted by Infinity, simply because I know that they don’t have anything in this price range that is going to fall into the size parameters.
1.09 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from James Allen, which is selling for $6,480.00 and which is clearly beyond the desired price range, smaller in carat size by a half carat, and two color grades lower… but it’s cut the way I like it with a total depth of 61.8% and 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 thin to medium, faceted girdle and no culet. It has an overall cut grade of GIA Excellent and has no fluorescence, the primary inclusions are small diamond crystals which were trapped within the larger diamond crystal as it formed. Perfect.
Just so you know, this is the only one of thirteen options which popped up when I ran a search for diamonds on the James Allen web site within the range of total depth, table diameter, polish and symmetry, that I entered in the section titled advanced criteria. All of the other diamonds were eliminated for either proportions or inclusions… The downside of this diamond is that it’s not part of the James Allen True Hearts collection, so while I know it is going to exhibit great light return because of the proportions, I have no way of judging the optical symmetry of the diamond, so I can’t judge the visual performance (sparkle factor). In order to do that, I’d have to see the ASET scope, Ideal Scope and Hearts & Arrows scope images and they don’t provide them. But the rotating image of the diamond provides me with some insight into the effect upon the inclusions upon the diamond (benign) and I can see that it’s got nice sparkle.
This 1.57 carat, G-color, SI-1 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from James Allen is exactly what my friend indicated that he is looking for, however the price is $15,030.00 which is about three times the amount of money that he is thinking about for this project. In my experience, this is really the only way to get an idea of how the characteristics of diamonds effect the price… Once again, this diamond is cut the way I like it, the total depth is 61.5% with a table diameter which is 56% and the crown angle is 34.5 degrees with a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with a medium, faceted girdle and no culet. The overall cut rating is GIA Excellent and the diamond has no fluorescence.
The primary inclusions are clouds of diamond crystals and feathers. Now the feather which is indicated in the five o’clock region of the upper plotting diagram, causes me a little bit of concern because it runs through the girdle edge of the diamond, into the lower half of the diamond as indicated in the lower region of the lower plotting diagram. This is one of those inclusions which may or may not present a durability risk… I’d have to see the diamond in-person to make that judgment call, you can ask the gemologist with James Allen to look at it for you and provide you with an assessment.[separator]
Obviously this 1.54 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from James Allen is going to exceed the desired price range by quite a bit, but it falls within the original range of quality which we discussed… it rings in at $17,280.00 and has a total depth of 61.7% with a table diameter of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees and a thin to medium, faceted girdle with no culet. The overall cut grade of the diamond is GIA Excellent and it has no fluorescence. As with all of the diamonds which we’ve considered from James Allen thus far, there are no scope images available, so I can’t make any determination with regards to the optical symmetry.
However the inclusions look perfectly fine, they consist of crystals, clouds, needles and feathers. Now it might appear like there are more inclusions within this VS-2 clarity diamond, than the SI-1 clarity diamond mentioned above, and this is true, however the inclusions are smaller and thus the VS-2 clarity grade is warranted. Just so you know, I looked through 14 available options on the James Allen web site within the range of 1.34 – 1.59 carats, F-G color, SI-1 to VS-2 clarity to find these two options…[separator]
I opened up the selection criteria to include diamonds in the H-I-color range and found this 1.536 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from James Allen which is graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Proportions Based grading platform ~ which is not the same as the Platinum Light Performance grading platform…[separator]
As you can see from the copy of the diamond grading report pictured above, this report does not feature an image of the diamond as seen through an ASET Scope. Which means that this diamond was either not graded for Light Performance, or it did not qualify for the AGS Ideal-0 rating for Light Performance on that grading platform, or the cutter cheaped out and didn’t want to pay the extra money for that feature… Uh yea, well it’s a possibility.
Anyway, it’s probably a pretty diamond because it’s got a total depth of 61.7% and a table diameter of 55.3% with a crown angle of 34.8 degrees and a pavilion angle of 40.7 degrees with a thin to medium, faceted girdle and a pointed culet. So it’s cut within the range specified by Tolkowsky’s Diamond Design and is certainly cut to proportions which are better than most… The inclusions are primarily small diamond crystals which are of no consequence. This diamond is selling for $14,220.00
All right, I can’t help it, Brian Gavin is one of my favorite diamond cutters because his production consistently meets my selection criteria for light performance and visual performance… Sure, I still reject a few of his diamonds for inclusions and the occasional variance from total perfection, but those instances are pretty rare because Brian “gets it” in terms of his desire to produce the most beautiful diamonds on the planet. His only real competition at the moment is Paul Slegers of Crafted by Infinity, and I guess it’s no surprise that the competition between them is friendly.
All of the diamonds mentioned below have been graded by the AGS Laboratory on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0. By the way, the diamond grading report pictured to the left shows what the lab report looks like for this format. Notice the ASET scope image in the middle of the lab report, it shows how the diamond is reflecting light gathered from throughout the room. Needless to say, all of the proportions are within the range of my selection criteria. I’ve looked over the inclusions, eliminated diamonds from this list which don’t meet my selection criteria 110% and have looked over the images provided of the diamonds as seen through an ASET scope, Ideal scope, and Hearts & Arrows scope, when applicable.[separator]
The optical symmetry of these diamonds is absolutely incredible and that is important because while the proportions of a diamond must be optimized to produce maximum light return, the facet structure of the diamond must also be optimized to produce maximum sparkle in terms of brilliance, dispersion and scintillation ~ which are all factors of visual performance. Don’t be confused by the symmetry rating on diamond grading reports, it has nothing to do with optical symmetry, the labs simply don’t grade for optical symmetry, it can only be graded using these scopes! See my article on Tolkowsky Diamond Design for a more in-depth explanation.
This 1.208 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from the Brian Gavin Signature collection exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows as you can see from the picture to the left. This pattern is proof of incredible optical symmetry, fewer than 0.001% of round brilliant cut diamonds are cut to this level of precision and the exceptional sparkle created by this cut precision is worth every penny! The diamond has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 and has a total depth of 61.4% with a table diameter of 57.3% with a crown angle of 34.5° and a pavilion angle of 40.9° with a thin to medium, faceted girdle and a pointed culet. The primary inclusions are clouds and crystals.[separator]
The characteristics of this diamond are typical of something which I would purchase for myself, you simply can’t go wrong buying a diamond of this cut quality. And the I-color is no concern to me at all, the 2.25 carat diamond which I wore in my wedding ring was an I-color, and all anybody ever noticed was the incredible sparkle! This diamond is selling for a little more than $8,700.00 so it’s still cost effective and gets you well over the 1.00 carat mark without breaking the bank.
So that 2.25 carat, I-color diamond that I wore in my wedding ring also exhibit strong blue fluorescence, just like this 1.211 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, round brilliant ideal cut diamond from the Brian Gavin Blue collection. How incredibly beautiful is this blue color? By the way, the diamond only looks like this when it is exposed to black light, so it’s not a blue diamond, it just has strong blue fluorescence. Practically all of my personal diamonds have exhibited medium to strong blue fluorescence, it’s one of my favorite characteristics. This diamond was produced on the same production line as the Signature Diamonds and is just as beautiful, and it costs only $8,553.00[separator]
The diamond is graded by the AGS Laboratory with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform, and has a total depth of 61.9% (0.1% over my preferred range) with a table diameter of 56.4% and a crown angle of 34.9 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees with a thin to medium, faceted girdle and a pointed culet. The primary inclusions are small feathers, crystals, clouds and an indented natural, which is merely part of the original “skin” of the diamond which is located along the girdle edge of the diamond… it’s one of those inclusions which is benign.
This 1.216 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity diamond from the Brian Gavin Blue collection is equally as impressive and actually priced just a little better at $7,925.00 with an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 for Light Performance, Polish, Symmetry and Proportions, you can’t go wrong! And just look how amazing it looks through the ASET scope which is designed to demonstrate how the diamond is gathering light from all over the room and sending it right back at you! All that red with just a hint of green is exactly what you’re looking for and the blue is contrast created by the camera lens reflecting off of the pavilion main facets… It all adds up to incredible sparkle![separator]
All right this one is a 1.228 carat, G-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Hearts & Arrows Diamond which rings in at $10,725.00 and as you can see, the G-color drives up the price quite a bit… can you really tell the difference between a G-color and an I-color diamond? Probably if they’re sitting right next to each other, but when they’re moving around on the air on your girlfriend’s finger? Probably not, and that begs the question “do you really need a G-color diamond? That’s just one of those questions that only you can answer. You most likely know this already, but obviously it has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0. The total depth is 61.7% with a 55.7% table diameter and a 34.9° crown angle offset by a 40.9° pavilion angle and a thin to medium, faceted girdle with a pointed culet. Inclusions are cloud, crystal, feather, and you guessed it, they’re minor.
All right, just because I know you’re going to ask me what one of these diamonds would cost if it weighed 1.50 carats, check out this 1.535 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature Hearts & Arrows Diamond which is selling for $15,818.00 or this 1.555 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature Hearts & Arrows Diamond which is selling for $13,865.00 ~ Yes a single color grade does actually make that much of a difference when it comes to price! Amazing, isn’t it? And the diamonds look practically the same when viewed side-by-side from a top down profile, the color difference would only be apparent to you if you were looking at both diamonds, side-by-side, and upside down, under the controlled light of a GIA Diamond Light, preferably in a completely dark room, so that the body color of the diamonds was not being influenced by any colors in the room.
Now that we’ve looked at enough options to get a feel for what diamonds of this cut quality and performance cost, here’s exactly what you asked me to help you find… Brian Gavin Signature Hearts & Arrows Diamond weighing 1.517 carats, G-color, VS-2 clarity, currently selling for $19,901.00 and yes, it’s worth every penny and is comparable to the quality of the diamonds which I used to select for our clients when I was the diamond buyer for Nice Ice…
But you know my friend, the reality is that you can find some exceptional looking diamonds that are within the price range which you and I originally discussed, they just won’t be in the range of 1.50 carats… but they will be the most beautiful diamond in the room, because very few people know enough about diamonds to buy diamonds of this cut quality, they just buy whatever the sales clerk pulls out of the case and says is pretty under those bright jewelry store lights ~ the ones that make frozen spit look good. But this 0.903 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, Brian Gavin Signature Hearts and Arrows Diamond will blow those away, and it’s only $7,196.00 and of course, there is an additional discount for payment via cash / wire transfer. And you can always trade it in for an upgrade for a five year anniversary or something. Have you read my article on Diamond Shrinkage Syndrome? Trust me, if you start out buying a diamond that is too big in the beginning, you’re going to be in severe pain when it’s time for an upgrade 😉
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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