I received an email today asking me “should I buy a diamond online from James Allen?” and I had to chuckle because my first thought was “Well I suppose that it depends on the diamond!” because a specific diamond was not referenced in the email. It might have something to do with my experience as a Strategic Intervention Coach, but I prefer to select diamonds based on their individual characteristics and not assume that every single diamond sold by a vendor or under a specific brand name is going to be great and thus I can’t really respond to the email with a simple Yes or No answer, selecting a diamond is a little more involved than that… with that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to explore how to buy a diamond online from James Allen.
It’s possible that I’m just thinking too deeply about the question “Should I buy a diamond from James Allen?” perhaps the guy was merely asking whether James Allen is a reputable vendor, in which case the short answer to his question is yes… the slightly longer answer is that I’ve known James Allen for almost 20 years and am proud to call him a friend and he made an excellent competitor when Nice Ice was selling diamonds… so I would not hesitate to buy a diamond from James Allen, the reality is that you have nothing to lose in buying a diamond from James Allen because you can simply return it to them for a full refund under the provisions of their online satisfaction guarantee if you’re not satisfied for any reason.
The reality however is that James Allen offers a wide selection of diamonds, in a variety of qualities in an effort to be able to satisfy the desires of practically every person who might be looking to buy a diamond online. And as such, they offer some diamonds which meet my expectations and some which do not… thus I thought we should spend some time talking about my selection criteria and then find a few diamonds on the James Allen web site to discuss. Let’s start with my preferred selection criteria in terms of proportions for round brilliant ideal cut diamonds:
Total Depth between 59 – 61.8%
Table Diameter between 53 – 57.5%
Crown Angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees
Pavilion Angle between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees
Girdle thickness between Thin to Medium, Faceted or Polished
Culet size of either GIA none or AGS pointed
Now in sharing my preferred selection criteria for proportions with you, I’m not trying to make an absolute statement about the acceptable proportions of a round brilliant ideal cut diamonds because there are many combinations of proportions that are acceptable, this is just the combination of proportions which I used when selecting diamonds to bring in for physical evaluation when I was the diamond buyer for Nice Ice in an effort to cut down on shipping costs. The fact is that it is extremely expensive to ship and insure diamonds and I found that by restricting the proportions of the diamonds to the range specified above, it increased the odds of finding diamonds with higher degrees of light return and thus there would be fewer diamonds to ship back to the diamond cutters…
I also don’t want to imply that buying a diamond by the numbers is as simple as painting by numbers, because the proportions of a diamond are only part of the equation and I want to teach you how to buy a diamond online successfully. It would be irresponsible of me to imply that round brilliant ideal cut diamonds with proportions within the range specified above are going to automatically exhibit superior visual performance because that statement is not necessarily true… there is a bit of play on words occurring here, pay attention, I’m trying to teach you something slick about the world of online diamond sales, there is a difference between the terms “Light Performance” and “Visual Performance” and the difference is substantial.
In the diamond business we toss around words like Brilliance, Dispersion, Scintillation and either assume that our customers know what we’re talking about or that they will be so impressed that they will rely on our expertise to make their diamond buying decision for them… and then we toss in terms like Light Performance and Visual Performance in hopes that our customers will merely here the word “Performance” and assume that our diamonds are automatically going to exhibit top tier performance simply because we’re bold enough to use such terms in the descriptions of our diamonds.
Well here’s a shocker for you, Light Performance and Visual Performance are two entirely different concepts… Light Performance refers to the amount of light which is being reflected by the diamond back towards the observer (that’s you) and Visual Performance refers to the degree of Virtual Facets being produced as a result of the precision of facet shape and alignment and the resulting Sparkle Factor exhibited by the diamond. Now I’m not going to turn this article about how to buy a diamond online from James Allen into a tutorial on Light Performance, Visual Performance and Sparkle Factor, but I want you to be aware of the difference in terms so that you’ll understand why I take different factors into account during the selection process.
With the difference in definitions in mind, the proportions outlined above serve to ensure that the Light Performance of the diamond is likely to meet our expectations in terms of Light Return. Keep in mind that there are a myriad of proportions combinations which will produce similar amounts of Light Return, but focusing on this center range of proportions will increase the odds of your being able to buy a diamond online without having to become a virtual expert on what crown angle best matches what pavilion angle when matched up with a specific total depth and table diameter and you can adjust the Advanced Options of the Diamond Search Engine on James Allen to restrict your search to round brilliant cut diamonds within this range of proportions to narrow down the list of available options and make it easier for you to buy a diamond online from James Allen or any other vendor for that matter.
So as you can see from the screen shot provided above, I’ve used the Advanced Options available on the James Allen Diamond Search Engine to limit the Polish, Symmetry, Lab (to GIA and AGS), Depth (between 59 – 61.8%) and Table Diameter (53 – 57.5%) which narrowed down the list of available diamonds to 562 between the color range of D-color to I-color and a clarity range of SI-1 to Internally Flawless and a range of carat weight between 0.70 – 3.00 carats which seems reasonable since I have no idea what diamond the person who wrote me the email was actually considering. By the way, you can duplicate this search without having to enter all of the data yourself by simply clicking on the picture above which contains a link that duplicates my search criteria and then you can narrow down the range of carat weight, color and clarity to better suit your individual preferences.
Just for fun I want you to Search for Diamonds on James Allen using my selection criteria and then click on the tab marked “Ideal” which is located to the right of the heading “Cut” which is located just to the right of the row of diamond shapes located at the top of the search menu options. Notice that the number of diamonds found does not change, this is because the range which I specified for Total Depth and Table Diameter are considered to be within the ideal range for a round brilliant cut diamond. Now here is an important distinction, two primary factors are missing from the Advanced Options on the James Allen search engine and those are Crown Angle and Pavilion Angle, which is not to say that they are being ignored by James Allen, but rather that you will have to spend a little time looking at the individual listings for each diamond to narrow down the list of options.
Or you could simply click your mouse over the tab marked “True Hearts” and narrow down the list of available diamonds from 562 down to 17 as indicated in the screen capture provided above, or you could simply click on the picture and once again be looking at the same list of options that I am based upon my selection criteria.
Now I want you to understand that I’m not implying that the other 545 ideal cut diamonds available within this range of characteristics on the James Allen web site is “chaff” because that would be inaccurate… the reality is that in biblical terminology, the phrase separating the wheat from the chaff merely indicates that there is good and bad within all of us and we must work hard on finding the good within ourselves and separate ourselves from the bad. The same premise holds true for diamonds and the odds are that there are going to be quite a few wonderful options within the inventory of round brilliant ideal cut diamonds which are available from James Allen under the “Ideal Cut” tab, I’m just being lazy about sifting through them all and I realize that the odds of finding a diamond with the Visual Performance which I look for is even greater within their inventory of True Hearts diamonds than it is within their inventory of ideal cut diamonds, so I’m using the tools available to work smarter, not harder and in doing so, separating the wheat from the chaff so-to-speak. Let’s face it, I don’t have time to sift through 562 diamonds in the time I have available to write this article, seventeen is a much more manageable number.
Thus far we’ve learned how to use the Diamond Search Engine on James Allen to limit the results to round brilliant ideal cut diamonds which exhibit a higher degree of Light Performance and by further restricting the results by limiting the search to True Hearts Diamonds we’re increasing the odds of finding diamonds which exhibit a higher degree of visual performance. This is because the degree of cut precision required to produce a round brilliant cut diamond which exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows reduces the amount of Azimuth Shift within the diamond. Azimuth Shift is the subtle misalignment of facets which is beyond the scope of the normal grading standards of the GIA and AGS gemological laboratories for the symmetry grade of either GIA Excellent or AGS Ideal… it is the difference between round brilliant ideal cut diamonds which comprise the top 2% of the annual production of round brilliant cut diamonds and those which are within the top 1/10th of 1%.
Hearts and Arrows is kind of like the turbo charger on a Porsche 911, the performance of the engine is increased by the presence of the turbo charger… while a round brilliant ideal cut diamond with proportions within the range which we’ve been focusing upon will exhibit an exceptional amount of light return, the visual performance or sparkle factor of the diamond is likely to be greater if the diamond also exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows.
Now here’s the trick… not all of the round brilliant ideal cut diamonds featured within the James Allen True Hearts Collection will have the offset for crown and pavilion angle that I mentioned above and this is because there is a wide range of combinations for crown and pavilion angle which will produce similar amounts of light return depending on the ratio of the table diameter to the total depth of the diamond… remember that by providing the range of proportions above, I was merely trying to decrease the cost of shipping by increasing the odds of finding diamonds which exhibit a superior amount of light return… other viable combinations exist, so let’s look at the diamonds one by one, but before we do that have you figured out that if you move your mouse over the image of each diamond listed on the James Allen web site that the diamond will rotate so that you can see the diamond from practically every angle? I think that this is SO cool! It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to being able to see a diamond in-person and it definitely makes it easier to buy a diamond online. Okay now we’re going to look at the options…
0.62 carat, I-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 182262 is graded by the GIA Laboratory with an overall cut rating of GIA Excellent which is the highest cut rating available from the GIA for cut. It has a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees which is right in line with the range of proportions which I outlined earlier in this article. The primary inclusions are twinning wisps which could be a twisting of the crystal plane or a twisted formation of inclusions such as diamond crystals and a few individual diamond crystals. If you mouse over the True Hearts graphic of hearts and arrows which is featured in the upper right corner of the diamond details page, a larger image of the hearts and arrows patterns for this diamond will appear and you will see that the diamond exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows. There is a little bit of twisting which is visible in the tips of the hearts, but I almost wonder whether this is because the diamond is not set quite flush in the tray which holds the diamond while it is being photographed, the slight skew of the stone would result in this kind of twisting and would be magnified by the camera lens… I used to fight this sort of thing all the time when I was photographing diamonds. Regardless, it looks like a beautiful diamond!
0.70 Carat, I-color, VS-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 177865 if you click on the lab report for this puppy you’ll see that it is graded by the GIA Laboratory and that it has a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees, so the proportions of the diamond are within my preferred range specified above. The primary inclusions are indicated as being needle shaped diamond crystals, these are merely tiny diamonds that were trapped within the larger diamond crystal as it formed and are no big deal, in fact diamond crystals are my favorite type of inclusion for that reason. Then if you mouse over the True Hearts graphic of hearts and arrows which is featured in the upper right corner of the diamond details page, a larger image of the hearts and arrows patterns for this diamond will appear and you will see that the diamond exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of Hearts and Arrows. This diamond is a definite keeper in my book!
0.70 carat, E-color, SI-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 197504 according to the GIA this diamond has a crown angle of 36.0 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees, therefore the diamond does not meet my personal selection criteria because the crown angle is steeper than 34.3 – 34.8 degrees, but it’s not quite that simple… the reality is that the diamond probably exhibits a very nice amount of light return because the lower girdle halves are at 80% but if you look at the picture of the hearts pattern provided below, you’ll see that it’s not as precise as the one exhibited by the 0.70 carat, I-color, VS-1 featured above, but it’s still pretty good so this diamond probably exhibits a decent amount of visual performance.
0.70 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 190590 has a crown angle of 35.0 degrees offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees which is fine because the slightly steep crown angle is a good offset for the shallower pavilion angle when combined with a total depth of 61.6% and a table diameter of 56% which is something you can verify using the Holloway Cut Adviser. Here again, the hearts pattern is a little off because the tips of a few of the hearts are twisting, but it’s not really anything to be concerned about… just something which I need to point out as part of the evaluation process.
0.72 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 146897 has a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees so it’s spot-on in terms of my preference for proportions. The hearts pattern is decent with very little variance in the size and shape of the hearts and the inclusions consist of clouds of pinpoint size diamond crystals and feathers… this is a great option!
0.72 carat, D-color, VS-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 177861 has a crown angle of 34.0 degrees which is just a little shallow offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees which is probably fine because the pavilion angle is spot-on and it’s the primary reflective surface in terms of light return… the crown angle serves primarily to control the type of light return in terms of brilliance and dispersion and I’ve seen some phenomenal looking diamonds with this offset for crown and pavilion angle… the hearts pattern is like 99% perfect with only minor variances and the inclusions are indicated as being clouds of pinpoint size diamond crystals and pinpoints, so I’d say this one is all good.
0.80 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 204048 has a crown angle of 34.0 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees which is all right, but not a personal favorite of mine because I truly prefer the pavilion depth of round brilliant cut diamonds be under the 41.0 degree mark, however the cutter did try to offset this with the slightly shallower crown angle which will help, but as the Holloway Cut Adviser will tell you, it might be at the expense of a little scintillation. The images for the hearts and arrows pattern was not available at the time this article was written, the primary inclusions are indicated as being crystals which is perfect.
0.80 carat, F-color, SI-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 166646 is cut pretty much like the diamond described above with a crown angle of 34.0 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees. The images for the hearts and arrows pattern look pretty good with only minor variances visible in the hearts pattern which indicate that the diamond is cut quite nicely. The primary inclusions consist of crystals, feathers and clouds.
0.90 carat, H-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 200925 also has a crown angle of 34.0 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees. The primary inclusions are indicated as being crystals which once again are merely tiny diamonds which were trapped within the larger diamond crystal as it formed. The images for the hearts and arrows patterns are not yet available on the web site. One thing which is cool about this diamond is that it exhibits medium blue fluorescence which will help to lift the body color and tonal value of the diamond just a bit and will cause the diamond to glow a beautiful neon blue color when it is exposed to black light!
Now we’re talking! If you’re looking to get something close to the look of a one carat diamond without breaking the bank, then this 0.95 carat, H-color, SI-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 2040509 is definitely it! This is just the type of diamond which I look for when buying diamonds for myself because it falls just under the magic mark for the carat, so it’s sneaking in just under the mark where the price increase is going to occur between the 0.99 – 1.00 carat marks and it is cut like a dream with a crown angle of 34.5 degrees offset by a pavilion angle of 40.8 degrees! The primary inclusions are indicated as being a feather and cloud. The images for the hearts and arrows pattern is not yet posted to the web page, but I’ll be happy to take a look at the pattern later if you send me a note to remind me.
Now this 1.00 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 200958 has got a little something to teach us about the correlation between diamond cut, carat weight, perceived size and price… take a look at the measurements indicated on the GIA lab report and you’ll see that the diameter of the diamond measures 6.41 – 6.43 mm instead of the 6.50 mm average that is normal for a round brilliant ideal cut diamond… so in essence you’re paying a one carat price premium for a diamond which faces up a little smaller than the average one carat round brilliant ideal cut diamond. But the proportions of the diamond seem to be all right, the crown angle is 34.0 degrees which is a tad shallow, but it’s a good offset for the 40.8 degree pavilion angle… now you might be thinking, wait a minute… if the crown angle is a little shallow, then the diameter of the diamond should be a little spread, yet the diameter is actually a little smaller than it’s supposed to be… what’s going on? Well take a look at the girdle thickness and you’ll see that it’s medium to slightly thick, this is where the depth of the diamond is throwing off the diameter, it’s not a big, big deal, but it is affecting the diameter of the diamond and it’s a factor to consider since you’re paying a premium to step up and over the 1.00 carat mark on this puppy.
I’m actually less impressed with this 1.01 carat, G-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 190588 because I’m just not a fan of the 33.5 degree crown angle offset by the 41.2 degree pavilion angle, there are probably people who will love the look of a diamond like this, but I’m not one of them. Either is the Holloway Cut Adviser by the way, it takes the proportions of the diamond into account and gives it a rating of Very Good for Light Return, Fire and Scintillation. I would actually love to take a look at the hearts and arrows pattern for this diamond just out of curiosity, but it’s not currently available on the diamond details page. The inclusions are indicated being crystals, clouds and needles, which are all types of diamond crystals.
While the outside diameter of this 1.04 carat, F-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 166655 is more in-line with where it’s supposed to be at 6.52 millimeters, the proportions don’t meet my personal selection criteria because the crown angle of the diamond is once again 33.5 degrees offset by a pavilion angle of 41.2 degrees. But this diamond also has something interesting to teach us, if you take a look at the arrows pattern you’ll see that the width of the arrows is a little bit narrower than they have been for most of the other diamonds which are cut to a tighter range of proportions and this is because the combination of the shallow crown angle and the steep pavilion angle along with the 80% lower girdle halves is producing thinner pavilion mains and this is producing thinner arrows. There is also some variation in the hearts pattern of this diamond, some splitting in the clefts of the hearts, some twisting of the tips of the hearts… it’s not really my cup of tea.
This 1.09 carat, E-color, Internally Flawless, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 173291 is practically perfect with a crown angle of 34.5 degrees offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees… sure, I’d love for the pavilion angle to be 40.8 or 40.9 degrees, but the crown angle is perfect and it will help to offset the difference of a tenth of one degree. The hearts pattern has some variation to it, take a look at the skew of the heart located in the two o’clock position, see how the upper edge is a little longer than that of the other hearts, it’s an indication that something is a little off in the facet structure of the diamond, there’s a little bit of Azimuth Shift, but this puppy is still in the top 2% of the round brilliant cut diamonds that will be produced in the average year in terms of diamond cut quality… keep in mind that when you look at diamonds with me as precisely as I tend to evaluate them, that we’re really splitting hairs, but this is the process that I go through when buying diamonds for myself and I’m hoping that you’ll benefit from the thought by thought tutorial.
I really like the look of this 1.11 carat, I-color, VVS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 181227 because it’s cut much better than the past few options we’ve had to consider… it has a crown angle of 34.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees and the hearts pattern looks really good with only some very minor variances. The inclusions are clouds and pinpoint size diamond crystals, everything about this diamond looks really good to me!
This 1.11 carat, E-color, Internally Flawless, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 165487 has a crown angle of 34.0 degrees offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees with 80% lower girdle halves, if you take a look at the arrows pattern you’ll see that the arrows are kind of thin which indicates that the pavilion mains are a little thinner than normal… the hearts pattern isn’t bad, but it’s not great… not really my kind of stone, but once again it’s well within the top 2% of the annual production for round brilliant cut diamonds, it’s just that I tend to look for those that are in the top 1% to top 1/1oth of 1%.
Now this 1.18 carat, D-color, VS-2 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 181410 might confuse you because the crown angle is only 34.0 degrees but it’s offset by a pavilion angle of 40.6 degrees which in my experience often produces a really bright looking diamond. The hearts and arrows images are not yet available on the diamond details page, but the arrows look to be a decent width in the clarity photograph, so the contrast of this diamond should be quite nice! The inclusions are merely different types of diamond crystals, this one looks like a keeper!
I’m really going to throw you for a curve with this 1.21 carat, G-color,VS-1 clarity, True Hearts Ideal Diamond / SKU: 194649 because it has a rather shallow crown angle at 33.5 degrees which is offset by a pavilion angle of 41.0 degrees which is pretty far off of my preferred range of proportions, but actually quite often produces a really nice looking diamond with this particular combination of total depth and table diameter… and the pattern of hearts and arrows looks pretty nice with only minor variance between the size of the hearts and a little bit of twisting at the tips of the hearts. By the way, the splashes of yellow color around the perimeter of the image for the hearts is most likely a reflection of something yellow which was in the room at the time the diamond was photographed, maybe somebody’s shirt or something, nothing to be concerned about.
So there you have it, we’ve run through 17 of the top diamonds available from James Allen and hopefully you’ve picked up some insight which will make it easier for you to successfully buy a diamond online. We’ve identified a few really spectacular options out of the 17 of the 562 diamonds which were originally produced by our initial search… can you imagine how long it would have taken to sort through all of the options available? Too long for this tutorial, but if by chance any of those diamonds are of interest to you, just drop me a note and provide me with a link to the diamond details page and I’ll be happy to review it for you. Who knows maybe I’ll even turn it into a blog post!
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