The Hearts and Arrows Diamonds Guide

diamond in a hearts-and-arrows-viewerYou might have stumbled upon the term “hearts and arrows diamonds” and somehow have seen it referred to diamonds of superb cut quality. And indeed, just around 1% of all diamonds produced in the entire world are true hearts and arrows diamonds!

The term hearts and diamonds actually refers to the heart and arrows patterns that can be viewed in an optically perfect diamond when viewed through a hearts and arrows viewer. A hearts and arrows viewer should not be confused with an Idealscope or an Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET). These are both tools to evaluate the light performance of a diamond. A hearts and arrows viewer however only has the function of depicting the hearts and arrows patterns of a diamond as crisp as possible by providing a color contrast.

On the left side on the picture below you can see a perfect diamond displaying eight symmetrical hearts. This results from putting the diamond into a hearts and arrows viewer with the table down. On the right side you can see the typical eight arrows which result from viewing the diamond with the table facing up.

Hearts-Arrows-Diamonds in table-down and table-up view

By the way, don’t be surprised if you will sometimes find hearts and arrows pictures in blue, purple, orange or some other color. Red however is the most popular because it provides the highest degree of contrasting.

History of the hearts and arrows diamonds

In the 80es someone noticed in Japan that certain diamonds exhibited the typical hearts and arrows patterns. Japan was and still is a huge diamond market with a customer base that is particularly status oriented. If you have ever been to Japan you certainly will have noticed the high percentage of women walking around with Louis Vuitton bags.

The same applies to diamonds. Nowhere in the world are D-colored and IF graded diamonds as popular as in Japan. If you have read my posts about diamond color and diamond clarity you certainly know that this is a huge waste of money because you won’t really be able to appreciate these premium grades with your bare eyes, anyway.

Thus, hearts and arrows diamonds quickly became all the rage in Japan and made it into the new diamond status symbol.

These diamonds gradually swept over to the USA in the 90es and became popular as well. Diamond cutting pioneers such as Brian Gavin had a major influence in bringing hearts and arrows diamonds to further perfection.

Where exactly do the hearts and arrows patterns come from?

So, what is it inside a diamond that creates the hearts and arrows pattern?

This might be interesting for the diamond geeks among you. Let’s have a look at how the hearts are actually formed in a hearts and arrows diamond. If a diamond has perfect hearts it will also automatically exhibit perfect arrows! This is why diamond experts like Brian Gavin for instance tend to only look at the heart patterns to check the quality of a hearts and arrows diamond.

Furthermore, the hearts image of a diamond can only be taken if the diamond is lying flat on its table. In order to take the arrows image of a diamond the diamond has to be balanced on its tip which can cause some camera tilting so that the resulting image might be slightly inaccurate.

On the picture below you can see in sequence how the main pavilions are reflected to create the heart. The pavilions in a diamond are the 8 facets of a diamond that lead up to the pointed culet at the bottom of the diamond:

Pavilion reflections create the heart in a hearts arrows diamond

As you can easily see, the reflection of two pavilions is required to create one heart pattern.

Two pavilions form one heart in a hearts and arrows diamond

Thus, two Pavilion facets create 1 heart and 2 single sides of the next heart and so on until all the hearts are complete.

Are all hearts and arrows labelled diamonds the same?

Now, for one thing you have to be aware that there is no industry standard whatsoever in terms of what a true hearts and arrows diamond actually is.

Some grading labs like IGI, HRD and some smaller Japanese grading labs actually grade hearts and arrows diamonds. The most prestigious diamond grading labs GIA and AGS however do not grade hearts and arrows.

Do you see any difference between the true and the near hearts and arrows diamond on the picture below? Both appear to be hearts and arrows diamonds, right?

True and near hearts and arrows diamonds

The truth is that only the left diamond is a true hearts and arrows diamond whereas the right diamond is a near H&A diamond. In A1, A2 and A3, the heart is well defined, the gap between the arrow head is clear and distinct, and the clef split at A3 is very marginal. However in F1 and F2 the arrowhead border and the split between the heart and arrowhead is not distinct and clear. Especially, the clef split at F3 is too large for a true H&A diamond!

The truth is also that the difference between a true hearts and arrows diamond and a near H&A diamond is like the difference between an IF and a VVS1 diamond: You would not be able to make out the difference with your bare eyes but still there is a high premium price to be paid for the very best clarity grade.

What you are basically paying for in a true H&A diamond is the extraordinary craftsmanship that had to go into the production of the diamond. It takes a true master diamond cutter and many years of practice to be able to cut a diamond to true H&A proportions!

See the difference for yourself in action: This diamond is a true hearts and arrows diamond which you can see by looking at the hearts and arrows image. All hearts are equal, uniform and symmetrical. It sparkles very nicely and just like an ideal cut diamond should.

Now have a look at this near hearts and arrows diamond. If you hover above the hearts and arrows image it gets enlarged. You can clearly see that there is much more variation in the sizes of the hearts. The hearts do not appear to be completely uniform anymore. Although this seems like a very tiny difference this diamond would only be categorized as a neart hearts and arrows diamond.

However, I also think that this diamond has a superb sparkle, brilliance and scintillation and I don’t see any difference between the first true hearts and arrows diamond.

Thus, if you are looking to get the biggest bang for your buck I would definitely recommend to go for near H&A diamonds and not true H&A diamonds! There will be a large premium to pay for a true hearts and arrows diamond and the difference in terms of light performance will most likely not be noticeable.

How to differentiate between true H&A diamonds and near H&A diamonds?

Okay, so how exactly do you differentiate between a true and a near H&A diamond?

Assessing whether a diamond is a true H&A diamond is an visual exercise in which you will have to look closely at the following factors:

– There should be eight equal, symmetrical and uniform hearts.
– The hearts should be distinct and separated from the arrowheads above. Thus, there should be a gap between the hearts and the Vs. The gap should be crisp and clear.
– There should be no clefs in the outter middle side of the heart.

Are hearts and arrows diamonds really better than “usual” Exellent/Ideal diamonds?

Now, that all sounds really good. But does it really make a difference whether you have a hearts and arrows diamond or just another Excellent/Ideal cut diamond without the hearts and arrows pattern?

For one thing, a H&A diamond is superb marketing instrument that also appeals to the romantic nature of the people who are usually looking for a diamond.

In the end a true H&A diamond is a diamond with a perfect symmetry. But the light performance of a diamond is only partly based on the symmetry of the diamond. The most important thing in a diamond is and remains the cut. A diamond could for instance be a true H&A diamond but have a bad crown angle degree for instance which would cause the light performance to become bad. Thus, the perfect symmetry in a diamond is only useful when the diamond is cut to perfect proportions. Read my post about the perfect diamond proportions for round cut diamonds to get to know more about this.

So, how is the light performance of a hearts and arrows diamond compared to a usual Excellent/Ideal diamond?

The true value of a hearts and arrows diamond in terms of light performance does not become apparent in very good lighting conditions with a lot of light. In such a situation the sparkle of a H&A diamond and a regular Excellent cut diamond will most likely be very similar. Generally, the brilliance and fire you see in a diamond depends on the cut. However, if there is a lot of light entering the stone the “fine-tuning” of the hearts and arrows patterns will not be able to impact you as much as the pure amount of light return does.

Now, H&A diamonds perform better in two specific lighting conditions:

For one thing they do perform better in lighting conditions with diffuse light, i.e. on a cloudy day or under fluorescent lights in an office. Usually, these are situations where you can hardly see any fire in a diamond. Diamond fire is the dispersed light of a diamond that appears as rainbow colors. Excellent cut diamonds will still return white light but there will hardly be any fire. H&A diamonds will even exhibit a remarkable amount of fire in a diffuse light sitation due to their symmetrical contrast patterns.

Furthermore, H&A diamonds perform much better in soft lighting conditions such as a diamond near a monitor in the dark, a lantern or a candle light. In a situation like that where the diamond is not bombarded with light, the H&A finetuning begins to kick in noticeably! Without much light entering the diamond, a H&A diamond will maximize the light return and offer a lot of brilliance and fire. H&A diamond are known for sparkling in white and rainbow colors even in rather dark environments.

As pointed out before, you will have all these benefits with a near hearts and arrows diamond so that you will not necessarily have to buy a true H&A diamond – unless you want to of course.

In good lighting conditions I myself see a small difference between a regular Excellent/Ideal cut diamond and a H&A diamond but I also know people who don’t see the difference!

Where to buy hearts and arrows diamonds?

The best place in my opinion to get true hearts and arrows diamonds is Brian Gavin Diamonds or Whiteflash! Both websites were founded by Brian Gavin who is obsessed with hearts and arrows diamonds and only accepts the very best diamonds in his signature series.

Another great place to get near hearts and arrows diamond which are cheaper is James Allen with their “True Heart signature series”. If you are not looking for the ultimate perfection in diamond craftsmanship but rather to get the biggest bang for your buck you should definitely go and check out James Allen “True Hearts” diamonds!

I know that it might be difficult to discern a true H&A diamond. Thus, if you need any help in getting a perfect hearts and arrows diamond, just drop me a comment or write me a mail!

The Hearts and Arrows Diamonds Guide
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Sebastian Naturski loves to write about diamonds and share his knowledge with his readers.
When he is not working on his website he is studying law at Humboldt University of Berlin.
He has taken part in several international law competitions and likes to broaden his horizons.
His other big passion are languages. He is fluent in German, English, Polish and Japanese and got basic skills in French and Spanish as well.