Hearts and arrows are an effect you can see when you view a round diamond through a specialised viewer – one that has a magnifier and a blue (or red) filter in it. The filter is designed to show the way light is travelling through and leaving the stone. It will also show a trained observer how precisely all the facets have been cut, and whether there are any facets that are out of alignment. Arrows The arrows can be seen when looking at the diamond face up – that is, the way it would normally be set in a ring.
When you’re looking at the arrows, ideally you want to see a perfectly formed arrow head and shaft. The arrow shaft should be a nice thickness – not too thin (like needles) and not too fat. (Just like the cereal commercial ‘Not too heavy and not too light – just right’.) Likewise, the arrow head should line up with the arrow shaft and be perfectly formed. Basically, what the viewer is showing you is the reflection of what is happening on the other side of the stone. So if one of the arrows is malformed, it is because there is a faulty facet on the opposite side of the diamond. (See following figure for an example of the arrow effect.)
The other main thing to look for when looking top down at your diamond is that a small octagonal circle appears in the middle of the stone. If the circle is too big, off-center or misshaped, this indicates an incorrectly cut table facet (the biggest top facet on a diamond). While new to viewing diamonds, you will need the viewer to see this effect. However, with practice you will start to see the arrows without the viewer. If you look through a hearts and arrows viewer and see nothing but blue or red, this is a good sign that the diamond isn’t cut to the optimum hearts and arrows formula.
Hearts This is the effect that you will see when you turn the diamond over, so the cutlet (point) of the diamond is facing up. When you place the viewer over the diamond from this angle, you should see eight little hearts. In a perfectly cut diamond, the symmetry of the hearts should be even. In less well-cut stones, you might notice that one side is higher or bigger than the other. While most diamonds will show the image of the hearts, it is the arrows that are the hardest to perfect. (See following figure for an example of the hearts effect.)
What makes high-performance diamonds unique? The precision of their cutting. I call this the Rolls Royce standard to cutting. While most jewelers understand that a diamond’s sparkle is linked to the symmetry of its facets, the truth is it is a lot more complicated than that. We know that a diamond with a star facet should be 50 per cent of the way from the table to the edge of the stone. In some stones, you may have one that is 55 per cent while the next one is 45 per cent. This would still give you an average of 50 per cent, but the effect of this variation is a reduction in the optimum sparkle. While this might be acceptable for some excellent cut grades, a high performance diamond should be aiming for perfection and for all facets to be exactly 50 per cent. (See following figure for an example of star facets on a diamond.)
But let’s assume that they do all have a 50 per cent facet length. The requirements for a perfectly cut diamond don’t stop there. This is because a facet doesn’t just vary in length – it can vary in its rotation or pitch as well. Imagine sliding down a slippery slide that was angled to one side. You would fall off the slide before you hit the bottom. It wouldn’t matter if the slide was the right length or angle.
On average you can pay between 15 and 20 per cent more for a high-performance diamond. This will vary a little depending on the size and quality of the stone you are looking at. Beware of imitations. Just like the fake Nike shoes and socks you might buy at the local overseas market, a lot of imitation hearts and arrows diamonds are out there. Rather than a diamond specially selected as a hearts and arrows diamond and then cut by a master cutter, these cheaper knock-offs are simply selected by merchants who look through their existing stock for anything that closely resembles a ‘hearts and arrows’ effect. They then try to charge you the extra premium for a perfectly cut stone. It should either be a perfect cut or it’s not – close enough is just not good enough if you are chasing the best cut diamond on the market
A high-performance diamond will cost a little more for a few reasons.
Firstly, the cutter is generally sacrificing more of the initial rough diamond crystal to end up at a smaller but more perfectly cut diamond. Because they have paid the same money for the initial crystal as the next cutter, the price of a smaller perfectly cut diamond is equivalent to a larger, less well cut diamond.
Secondly, an expert diamond cutter can spend as much as six times longer cutting a higher performance diamond. When you consider that the average cutter will make only 10 per cent margin for their expertise in cutting, this extra time is an extremely large sacrifice. A cutter is paid on the amount of stones they can polish, so a cutter who cuts six averagely cut stones will make more than one who cuts one perfectly cut diamond.
Thirdly the expertise of the cutter is greater. It can take more than 20 years to become an expert cutter qualified enough to consistently cut a high-performance diamond. Imagine a master diamond cutter who has spent their life perfecting the act of cutting a diamond then taking on an apprentice to follow in their footsteps. The apprentice then starts learning year after year, diamond after diamond, acquiring all the best skills and techniques handed down from one cutter to another. Mastery like this can never be rushed.