Choosing the Perfect Diamond: Diving into Cut Grade
Choosing the perfect diamond doesn't have to feel like a monumental task, I promise
We all start out at one place in life. Maybe you got engaged young, when money was tight. Maybe you’re springing for The Big Rock now. Maybe you’re looking for a nice balance of all those C’s people keep talking about.
Whether you have $500 to spend or $500,000 to spend, there is a beautiful diamond at every budget. Don’t think that “budget” and “bad” are in the same category, simply because they both begin with B. After all, everyone has a budget, and if you “don’t have a budget”…you’re straight-up lying through your teeth. We’ve all got that magic number in our heads!
This post is one in a series of making the most in your budget. Today, we’ll start with cut quality.
Lesson 1: There is no “right budget,” only the right diamond for you.
Sure, all of those adverts give roundabout figures, which is nice when getting a general baseline. However, don’t feel pressured to spending a certain amount, just because some industry advert said to do so.
Why is CUT so important?
The most important, the single most important thing when considering any diamond of any shape and size is…CUT QUALITY. This does not refer to a diamond’s shape, such as round, cushion, emerald, radiant, marquise, princess, heart, oval, or pear. When you hear the word CUT, you should think about how well the diamond’s material is situated to best return light and create visual size.
Cut quality is the only thing that actually makes a diamond sparkle. Why? There are some known, critical angles by which light enters a diamond, bounces off a surface, and returns up to the eye. Scientifically studied and proven, friends. If any one of those little angles are off, then you’ll have diminishing returns in fire and sparkle. This goes hand-in-hand with how the diamond’s material is shaped into the sparkler before you.
Words to Add to Your Diamond Dictionary
Before we dive in, you need some terminology.
Diamond shapes are divided into two categories: Round and Fancy.
Round diamonds are the only shape to receive an official, lab-given cut grade. This shape has been perfected over the decades, and we now have a distinct blueprint of what makes a round sparkle the most. (More on that in a second). “Fancy” diamonds include all shapes other than round (oval, pear, marquise, princess, emerald, radiant, heart, etc.) and do not receive an official cut grade by any grading house. These “Fancy” shapes are all a little different, and although there are some general parameters to predict the sparkle quality of these diamonds, I always like to see images or videos of these stones before advising a purchase.
For round diamonds, I only have one cut quality to suggest: Excellent/Ideal. GIA uses the term Excellent to describe a round diamond that has an even dark/light pattern and extreme sparkle. The angles and percentages that make up this cut grade have a range, and the diamond is evaluated “on the whole” rather than strictly by one, single measurement. However, there are some hard boundaries that the stone cannot pass out of, lest it be downgraded in cut grade. An Excellent cut grade not only ensures maximum sparkle, it also ensures that the diamond appears as large as the carat weight suggests. You see, carat weight has nothing to do with beauty, and doesn’t always have a direct correlation to visual size. It is a measurement of weight, after all. (Another day, another dollar for that conversation!) If a diamond receives an Excellent cut grade, you can rest assured that it won’t look spread out like a lifeless pancake, nor will it look like a little chunky nugget. Only lots of sparkle and appropriate visual size. If you can invest in anything of the 4 C’s, make sure it is cut grade.
FANCY SHAPE DIAMONDS
These beauties are all a little different, with differing “best” parameters of table percentage, total depth percentage, and ratios. However, these items are universally true of fancy shaped diamonds:
Girdle Thickness: (Minimum) Thin to (Maximum) Thick
Symmetry: Very Good or Excellent
Polish: Very Good or Excellent
These parameters allow a fancy shape to be well-aligned (sparkle factor), with a nice outline and shiny surfaces. It will also ensure against diamond material hiding out around the center, where it won’t contribute much to visual size. Sound good? Great.
But wait, Very Good cut grade sounds pretty good! Should I consider it?
In short, you do you. I’d advise against a Very Good cut, though. What you will likely save in cash by going with a lower cut grade will show up in performance. Sure, I’ve seen some pretty Very Good cut grade round diamonds. But, I’ve also seen some nightmares–dull, dark, and lifeless. Why chance it? Go for the sparkle + size in an Excellent cut and compromise somewhere else.
What’s this Hearts and Arrows thing I hear about?
In short, it’s a fantastic marketing quip. You don’t have to have a specific brand or diamond termed “Hearts and Arrows” to get max sparkle and size. All Excellent/Ideal cut diamonds will show this lovely pattern of 8 “hearts” when viewed diamond facing down with a special (quippy) tool and 8 “arrows” when viewed diamond facing up with a special (quippy) tool. Will you see these quippy hearts and arrows without that tool? Nope! Eye on the prize, friends: we’re looking for sparkle and size. You’ll find that, every time, in the Excellent/Ideal cut grade.
There’s nothing better than a sparkly diamond. What I would rather compromise than cut quality (and thus sparkle):
Clarity Grade (who cares as long as it is eye-clean!)