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Buying a Diamond Designing Your Ring Carat Clarity COlor Cut Gem Lab


Passion Fire diamonds are best distinguished by their exceptional cutting. Nature leaves one aspect of diamond beauty entirely in the hands of man: cutting. By following certain principles of shaping, faceting and polishing evolved over the centuries, the cutter unleashes the diamond's peerless ability to reflect and refract light. When this happens, the diamond has no rival for brilliance, fire and scintillation. To idealize the diamond's full prowess with light, the cutter must sacrifice more weight from the rough, and take far more time at the wheel, than is necessary with a conventionally cut diamond. Sad to say, most diamonds are cut for weight, not beauty. Sadder still, the compromise of beauty is something you might never notice if your jeweler doesn't stock finely fashioned diamonds, such as our signature diamonds. But place a superbly crafted diamond next to a conventionally crafted one and you will see an immediate difference. The better cut diamond will look far more lively.

Until fairly recently, diamonds were graded only for color and clarity. No lab actually gave an over-all grade for the cut of a diamond comparable to a color or clarity grade. All of that changed in 1996 when the American Gem Society opened a gem lab and introduced what it calls the diamond quality document. Using its 0 to 10 grading system (with 0 the top grade), AGS grades a round-brilliant diamond individually for three important aspects of cutting:

  • Proportions - the angles of a diamond and the interrelationship between them,
  • Symmetry - the exactness of shape and placement of facets.
  • Polish - the final finish of the surface of the diamond.

When a stone meets the society's highest criteria for any of these three aspects of cutting, it receives a zero (0) grade. When diamonds are given zero grades for proportions, symmetry and finish respectively, they earn a coveted triple zero grade. This is the standard for the American Gem Society Ideal cut diamond. Currently, several laboratories are adding a cut grade classification of 'ideal' to their reports. These labs use somewhat different standards for their 'ideal' classification than the American Gem Society Lab, which maintains the highest standards of any of these labs. In order to truly compare diamonds one must use a consistent standard. There will be vast differences in price, marketability, and appearance for 'ideal' diamonds from different labs.

It is important to note that when these labs grade cut, including the American Gem Society Lab, they remain limited in their scope. This is why two diamonds may have the same 'triple zero' grade, but appear very different visually and have differences in price which would be otherwise unexplainable. It is also why diamonds graded ideal by two different labs may have as much as a 50% difference in price. When a lab grades proportions, they take an average of all the angles, not an actual measurement; a cutter may 'over cut' one facet and can still make up by 'undercutting' another and thus remain within 'ideal' parameters. The two together may average to the preferred angle, yet they can each be far outside the ideal range. A diamond cut in this manner may still attain a triple zero grade. Additionally, when grading symmetry, labs only look at 17 facets of the 58 facets. 41 facets are not even considered by grading labs, including the American Gem Society Lab. These limitations to grading cut make it impossible to compare diamonds without actually seeing them side by side. The internet abounds with 'bargain' ideal cut diamonds; hopefully the reader can now have a better understanding why there are such differences in price.

The Ideal Cut

How to recognize the Ideal Cut among 'branded' diamonds? Some brands are based on a unique arrangement of facets, while others are based on quality of cut, like Hearts on Fire or our own Passion Fire. Many jewelers carry a variety of diamonds which are variations of the traditional round brilliant, having anywhere from 66 to 129 facets, or more all with different names. The unique arrangement or addition of facets does not assure one of a standard quality in that type of diamond. Often, the proprietary cut diamonds, have different appearances, and different levels of quality even when compared to one another. The shopper will remain in the dark as to what actually constitutes a 'good' Leo, versus one that is poorly cut. We have tested the many of these proprietary cut diamonds. Our experience is that we have never found one that approaches the beauty of a traditional round brilliant cut diamond when it is cut "perfectly." Additionally, we have been disappointed by the lack of consistency in quality of the proprietary cut diamonds we have examined.

In recent years, diamond cutters have developed 3-dimensional ways to show the perfection of their art. Using special optical viewers, like the 'Sarin', the AGS Asset, the 'BrillianceScope', the 'FireScope', or the 'Proportionscope', you will see actual reflection patterns in a diamond that reveal the cutter's skill or lack of it. Only a Master Gemologist versed in the interpretation of these patterns can know which diamonds are truly the best of the best. Some computer programs are designed to grade a diamond cut by the particular manufacturer higher than another diamond cut by a competitor, such as the Isee2 system. The technology must be carefully considered before depending upon it to assist in comparing one diamond to another. We have evaluated most of the technology involved in grading diamond cut and can assist you in determining which systems are more reliable based on our experience. If you have questions please do not hesitate to email your question to our Master Gemologist: Appraisergemologist@passionfirediamonds.com

'Hearts-and-Arrows' diamonds are cut to reveal two patterns visible on the top and bottom, when viewed through a particular viewing device. A diamond cut to this pattern may or may not be an ideal cut diamond, yet, never-the-less, it will show the pattern. The pattern is not indicative of an ideal cut diamond and an AGS ideal cut diamond may not have a perfect hearts and arrows symmetry. The patterns are themselves graded from weak to strong. It takes about four times as long to cut these diamonds, and they are each very brilliant. The diamonds cut with 'thicker' arrows are generally classified as 'Eight Stars.' These will have more white light but less scintillation, in our opinion. They have the highest return of white light of any diamond we have seen on the market. At times, the white light extinguishes some brilliance, in our opinion. The 'Hearts on Fire' Diamond is a classic "hearts and arrows cut diamond. Passion Fire diamonds are cut to the same standards as Hearts on Fire.

Every Passion Fire trade diamond is cut to the American Gem Society standards for an Ideal cut proportion. We use the Sarin machine to confirm these measurements. Further, they exceed the American Gem Society standards for ideal cut proportions because we evaluate all 58 facets, rather than just 17. Passion Fire trade diamonds are graded "excellent" by our Master Gemologist Appraiser to a standard 10 times higher than the GIA lab for polish. Each Passion Fire diamond exhibits a very strong pattern of star bursts and hearts symmetry, in the classic tradition. We use the AGS Asset, the Brilliance Scope Viewer and the Fire Scope to evaluate these patterns. It takes much more precision and time to cut like this, but you can really see the difference; and the difference is well worth the extra labor involved!