Hi Todd, I’ve been researching diamonds online for several months now, and must have read every article that you’ve written at least twice! Thanks for all the great advice! You’ve convinced me that I want a diamond with the best cut quality possible, and it seems like the best balance of criteria for my given my price range is going to be 1.60 – 1.70 carats, I color, and SI-1 in clarity, although I’d love a VS-2 clarity diamond just for the peace of mind. I’ve narrowed the choices down to three hearts and arrows diamonds from Whiteflash, but one of them is kind of on the edge of your preferred proportions. I realize that the two Whiteflash A Cut Above™ diamonds probably offer the best diamond cut quality, but I really like the price of the Expert Selection diamond from Whiteflash, do you think the difference between them would be something that a non-diamond expert would notice? — K. Draper
Given that the characteristics of the three ideal cut diamonds which you’re considering from Whiteflash are quite similar in carat weight, color, and clarity, I think that it makes the most since to simply review them in order of carat weight, thus I’m going to start with the 1.700 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash Expert Selection round ideal cut diamond, which as you can see from the copy of the lab report provided below, has an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Platinum Light Performance grading platform, which uses Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology (ASET) to measure diamonds for brightness and other factors of visual performance.
Now the reality is that the grading standards of the AGSL allow for a broad range of offsets for the crown and pavilion angle of a round brilliant cut diamond, to account for the wide variety of preferences that people have for the visual properties of a diamond. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I personally prefer diamonds which exhibit a virtual balance of brilliance (white sparkle) and dispersion / fire (colored sparkle) and thus my preferred range of proportions, as outlined in the article 15 Seconds to Diamond Buying Success, calls for a crown angle between 34.3 – 34.9 degrees, which is offset by a pavilion angle between 40.6 – 40.9 degrees, because this tends to produce the look that I prefer. It should also be noted that I prefer that the table diameter be between 53 – 58% with a total depth between 59 – 61.8%.[separator]
As you can clearly see from the photograph featured to the left, this 1.700 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash Expert Selection round ideal cut diamond does exhibit a pretty nice pattern of hearts. However it is not a diamond which I would select for myself, because it has a 35.2 degree crown angle, which is likely to produce a little more dispersion than brilliance. My guess is that the steeper degree crown angle is the reason why this diamond was placed in the Whiteflash Expert Selection category instead of the A Cut Above™ classification. It should be noted that the presence of a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows results from a combination of proportions and optical symmetry.[separator]
It is apparent from the hearts pattern exhibited by this Expert Selection diamond from Whiteflash, that it has been cut to a higher level of optical symmetry than the average round brilliant ideal cut diamond; however if you look carefully at the darker separations created by the pavilion main facets, you’ll see that they are a bit uneven in length and width, and this might be another reason why the diamond was placed in the Expert Selection category instead of being placed in the A Cut Above™ inventory, which is supposed to represent a higher level of diamond cut quality and visual performance.
Don’t be frustrated if you don’t see the variance in indexing that I’m referring to right away when you first look at the photograph of the hearts pattern provided above, it is something which comes with practice. Just take a moment to look at the dark area which represents the pavilion main facet located between the hearts positioned at the top of the diamond, and allow your eyes to see past the different shades of light and dark, whites, blacks, and blues, to see the actual facet structure of the diamond, as outlined in orange in the image featured to the left, which was created by Brian Gavin, formerly of Whiteflash, to explain how the hearts pattern of a diamond is created.[separator]
Now that you know what to look for, take another look at the relative outline of the pavilion main facet located in the twelve o’clock region in the hearts image for the 1.700 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash Expert Selection round ideal cut diamond provided above, and then look at the relative outline of the pavilion main facet located directly across from it in the six o’clock region, and then allow your eyes to move clockwise around the diamond and compare those outlines to each other… do they look even to you?
And now that you see what I’m referring to, take another look at the size and shape of the hearts and tell me whether they appear to be slightly different in size and shape also… So the hearts pattern isn’t quite perfect, but it’s pretty darn good, and the reality is that they are not ever going to be 100% perfect. I’m just trying to teach you a bit about what to look for when evaluating diamonds for hearts and arrows, so that you don’t fall into the trap of believing that a diamond is “Hearts and Arrows” simply because it happens to exhibit some sort of hearts pattern as a result of its facet structure.
One thing that I definitely like about this diamond is that the combination of the 40.8 degree pavilion angle and the 77% lower girdle facets, should result in a high volume of light return and nice, broad flashes of light. So this Expert Selection diamond from Whiteflash is an excellent option if your preference is for an ideal cut diamond which probably exhibits a bit more dispersion than brilliance.
The first thing that I noticed when I pulled up the images for this 1.713 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash ACA diamond, is that the hearts pattern shows a lot more variance than I expected from A Cut Above™ diamond. I used to buy A Cut Above™ brand diamonds from Brian Gavin from his wholesale division Alpha Creations, and I don’t recall seeing the kind of variance that I see in the hearts pattern of this particular diamond. I honestly think that the hearts pattern of the Whiteflash Expert Selection diamond reviewed above looks better than this one, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Once again, I want you to allow your eyes to relax, and allow yourself to see the pattern clearly.[separator]
Begin by looking at twelve o’clock region of the diamond, here again there are slight difference in the pavilion mains, which is most likely created by slight differences in the length of the lower girdle facets. Allow your eyes to move around the diamond in a clockwise direction, taking into account the slight differences in the pavilion mains, and now direct your attention to the outline of the hearts themselves… do you see how the tips of the hearts bend slightly?
Going back to the graphic featured above which demonstrates how the hearts pattern of a “Hearts and Arrows Diamond” is formed, you’ll be able to see that each heart is actually created by the reflection of the pavilion main located on the opposite side of the diamond, which the reflection of is being split into two as it is reflected off of the lower girdle facets opposite of it.
The illusion that the tips of the hearts are bending in one direction or the other, as well as the slight splits which you see in the clefts of the hearts, are signs of Azamet Shift which results from subtle variances in the indexing of the pavilion facets, it can also be due to slight variances in the angle of the pavilion main facets themselves…
Now this concept can be a little challenging to grasp at first, because people tend to think that if the pavilion angle of a diamond is indicated on the Diamond Quality Document (DQD) issued by the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGSL) as being 40.9 degrees, then that is the angle which the pavilion mains are cut to, but there is more than one angle to take into consideration and thus the facets can be tilted slightly in one direction or the other, resulting in slight variances in the consistency of the hearts pattern.
It seems apparent to me that the hearts pattern exhibited by this 1.713 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash ACA diamond shows more variance than the hearts pattern which is present within the 1.700 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, Whiteflash Expert Selection round ideal cut diamond referenced above, and that seems kind of strange since my understanding is that the A Cut Above™ diamonds from Whiteflash represent the best that they have to offer… Interestingly enough, the last time I wrote a review of Whiteflash Expert Selection vs Whiteflash A Cut Above diamonds, I also concluded that the Expert Selection diamond seemed like the better option.
Obviously I prefer the overall proportions of this 1.713 carat, Whiteflash ACA diamond to those of the 1.70 carat, Whiteflash Expert Selection diamond reviewed above, because the 34.9 degree crown angle is likely to produce more of a balance of brilliance and dispersion, while the 40.9 degree pavilion angle should create a high volume of light return, and that is the look that I prefer from an ideal cut diamond.
Here again I prefer the proportions of this 1.733 carat, I-color, SI-1 clarity, A Cut Above™ Diamond from Whiteflash to those of the 1.70 carat, Whiteflash Expert Selection diamond reviewed previously. The 34.8 degree crown angle is likely to produce a nice balance of brilliance and dispersion, while the 40.9 degree pavilion angle results in a high volume of light return, while the 77% lower girdle facets create nice broad flashes of light. It is unfortunate that the hearts pattern of this diamond also appears to be suffering from signs of Azamet shift. Not only do the hearts vary in size, but the tips of several of them are bending considerably more than they did in the other two diamonds.[separator]
Now before you go thinking that the variance in the hearts pattern might be due to the alignment of the camera lens to the surface of the diamond, or because the diamond is not sitting flush on the platform, etc., take a look at the hearts pattern of the diamond as exhibited on the ASET diagram provided on the diamond quality document issued by the American Gem Society and you’ll see the same variance in the size and shape of the hearts, as well as the bending of the tips of the hearts, and some variances in how light is moving through the diamond. Keep in mind however, that the diamond is still cut well enough that it qualifies for an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 on the Light Performance grading platform, so it is still going to look amazing… it’s just on the outer edge of what I consider to be a hearts and arrows diamond and less precise of a pattern than I recall being exhibited by A Cut Above™ brand diamonds.
Of course all of this is a moot point because this diamond would not have cleared my desk when I was the diamond buyer for Nice Ice, because the primary inclusions consist of feathers which are stacked together along the edge of the diamond in close succession, in such a way that I wouldn’t have been comfortable selling them under our brand name. This of course is a matter of personal preference, and every company is free to decide what level of inclusions they are comfortable selling under their brand, but if you read my article on diamond clarity characteristics you’ll see that I indicate that we would routinely reject diamonds with substantial feathers or stacks of feathers located along the girdle edge because of the potential durability issue that they present. Specifically what I am referring to are the abundance of feathers indicated along the girdle edge of this diamond on the plotting diagram provided to the left.[separator]
In case you’re not familiar with how to read a diamond plotting diagram, the top or crown portion of the diamond is represented by the facet diagram positioned on the left, and the bottom or pavilion portion of the diamond is represented by the facet diagram positioned on the right. Imagine a vertically oriented dotted line positioned between the two diamonds, that you would use to fold the lower half of the diamond under the upper half to create a three dimensional model of the diamond.
Upon doing so, you’ll be able to see that the feathers indicated by the little red lines in the relative four o’clock region of the diamond in the crown section, align with the feathers indicated in the eight o’clock region of the pavilion, thus it is likely that the feathers crossover between the upper and lower sections of the diamond.
Likewise the feathers indicated in the relative ten o’clock region of the upper half of the diamond, line up with the feathers indicated in the relative two o’clock region of the pavilion half of the diamond… Now these feathers, which are minor fractures within the crystal structure of the diamond tend not to be much of an issue after a diamond has been polished, but I feel that this is a bit much and I would not have purchased this diamond for inventory when I was the diamond buyer for Nice Ice, thus I’m certainly not going to recommend that you purchase it now.
But I do love the proportions of this diamond! I kind of feel like if it were possible to combine the proportions of either the 1.713 carat or the 1.733 carat, A Cut Above™ diamonds from Whiteflash with the hearts pattern exhibited by the 1.700 carat, Whiteflash Expert Selection diamond, that we’d have a clear winner.
The challenge that I have with these particular options, is that I truly feel that a spectacular looking diamond is the result of extremely precise optical symmetry and center range zero ideal cut proportions… if you want a diamond that people are going to notice from across the room, which delivers an incredible amount of light return and sparkle, and a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion, focus on finding a diamond with proportions within my preferred range, which exhibits a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows… they simply can’t be beat!
And I’m not alone in the belief that optical symmetry and proportions are a critical factor of the diamond selection process, an abstract published by the American Gem Society in September 2007, titled the Evaluation of Brilliance, Fire, and Scintillation in Round Brilliant Gemstones, indicates that diamonds cut to the level of precision required to produce a crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, is likely to display a higher number of virtual facets, exhibit a higher volume of light return, and exhibit larger flashes of light, than ideal cut diamonds which are cut to a lesser degree of optical symmetry.
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