The hearts & arrows (h&a) pattern (often marketed under brand names such as 'Hearts on Fire') refers to a symmetrical light pattern visible using a specialized viewer in diamonds cut within certain narrow specifications.
The hearts & arrows pattern was first viewed using a Firescope; a tool developed by Kazumi Okuda in the 1970s. Firescopes and their modern equivalents (such as the H&A Viewer, Idealscope and ASET Scope - Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology) use colored reflectors to display a pattern showing the direction and intensity of light emitted from a diamond. These colorful patterns can be evaluated to determine how much light is exiting the diamond at proper angles, and whether the diamond is optically symmetrical (indicated by a uniform pattern).
Idealscope & ASET Scope
Hearts & Arrows Viewer
In the example below, red represents light being emitted from the diamond in a direction and intensity that will be perceived by the viewer as brightness. Pink areas represent areas of less brightness. Dark areas indicate areas where light is blocked by the viewers head (these areas are perceived as dark flashes, or scintillation, when the viewer or the diamond moves). Finally, white areas indicate where light is traveling through the diamond, and 'leaking' out of the bottom (perceived as dull or dark areas in the diamond). Different types of viewers will use different color schemes, but all produce similar patterns.
One possible pattern is what is today marketed as "hearts & arrows". The "arrows" are visible when the diamond is viewed from the top. The "hearts" are visible when the diamond is flipped over and viewed from the bottom.
The hearts & arrows pattern was initially noticed by accident; the name first coined by Kinsaku Yamashita, and eventually trademarked in 1988, the birth of the hearts & arrows marketing campaign. The hearts & arrows phenomenon quickly spread from Japan to the U.S in the early 1990s. The hearts & arrows pattern is now so popular that many diamond manufactures cut to a specification that will yield this particular pattern, even at the expense of overall cut quality.
The intrinsic appeal of the hearts & arrows pattern, with its association to Cupid, is obvious; even if the heart pattern is invisible once the diamond is set. Often the presence of the hearts & arrows pattern is taken as confirmation that the diamond is well cut. This is not necessarily true. In a round diamond, a clearly defined set of 8 hearts and 8 arrows is a sign of excellent optical symmetry, an important component of cut. As such, its appearance is a very likely a sign of superior cut, but not a guarantee.
Consumers are often misled regarding the quality of a hearts & arrows pattern. While a diamond may display what appears to be a pronounced hearts & arrows effect, several subtle details in the shape, spacing, and positioning of the pattern can have a significant impact on desirability and therefore value. These variations are often not detectable by any except experienced graders or jewellers.
Even so, the marketing impact of the hearts & arrows campaign has been profound. Because well cut diamonds are rare to begin with, and diamonds with the particular hearts and arrow pattern rarer still, H&A diamonds carry a premium price. This is due not only to effective marketing, but because all well cut diamonds (including H&A) require more time to cut, and generate about 15% more waste than lower quality cuts.
For consumers, the greatest benefit of the popularity of hearts & arrows is actually the increased attention brought to the grading of cut. In the late 90s, major labs (including GIA) quickly perceived the demand for a cut grade by customers newly educated to the importance of cut and symmetry in the overall appearance of a diamond. Today, independent laboratory cut grades are the single biggest factor in helping customers to distinguish quality (beyond color and clarity) in diamonds.
Due to the extreme level of cutting precision required for symmetrical patterning, Hearts & Arrows diamonds are sometimes called "super ideals". In the modern jewellery market, the term "super ideal" is used to define a diamond with superior light performance, material quality and precise optical symmetry.
Not all diamonds with an ideal cut rating (AGS) or excellent cut rating (GIA) will automatically qualify it as a hearts & arrows diamond. Technically speaking, the formation of a precise H&A patterning is due to extreme care that is taken when polishing each facet to exact angles and proportions.
This level of precision goes way beyond the criteria needed to achieve an "excellent" or "ideal" symmetry rating.
Below are images of a diamond with poor optical symmetry and you could clearly see that the "hearts" aren't well defined. This is what a typical GIA triple excellent (3Ex) round diamond looks like under a viewer:
"Hearts & Arrows" is a very loosely used term that many jewellers utilize to market their inventory and this is something you need to beware of. Any jeweller who is claiming to sell you "super ideal" diamonds should provide you with all the necessary data (ASET, Idealscope, H&A images) to back up their claims. If they don't, you can be sure that it is a sham and just a marketing ploy they use to prey on uneducated consumers.
Don't be fooled. Many sub-standard stones such as the example below are frequently passed off as the real deal. While we would consider the diamond to be pretty well-cut, it hasn't achieved the pinnacle of cut precision:
So, if you are going to be charged an additional premium for hearts & arrows diamonds, it had better be the cream of the crop. This diamond doesn't make the cut and like the majority of diamonds in the market, it is polished to mediocre standards.
Apart from the symbolic meaning of love and romance, there are 2 visual benefits of buying a hearts & arrows diamond. As mentioned earlier, the hearts & arrows patterning is a by-product of facets that are aligned with extreme precision.
First of all, a diamond will display better contrast patterning when it is cut to super ideal standards and this creates a more appealing appearance that captures the viewer's attention.
Secondly, the brilliance and sparkle factor of a diamond is directly affected by the virtual facets it displays. Basically, you can think of virtual facets like mirrors that reflect mirrors. Having an optimized and better alignment of polished facets will result in bigger virtual facets.
And having bigger virtual facets will result in more reflection of light and better scintillation. This is why a super ideal cut hearts & arrows diamond will look livelier and brighter than a generic GIA excellent cut diamond.
If you want a truly well cut hearts & arrows diamond, you need to shop at reputable jewellers, as there are only a few that specialize in them. The fact is, most jewellers would try to say the diamonds they sell are hearts & arrows when they are actually not. When shopping for hearts & arrows diamonds, you need to work with a reputable jeweller that has transparent business practices that offer tangible data to back up their claims.
Laser inscription of diamonds is a relatively new feature. It is a handy tool for quickly identifying a diamond. Most commonly the diamond is inscribed with a lab report number. Other numbers and symbols are also sometimes inscribed including logos and even "H&A". But anything inscribed on a diamond needs verification.
It is important to understand that inscriptions are often done by the manufacturer or by third parties at the behest of a diamond merchant. Therefore a designation of H&A amounts to a claim, but is not conclusive until independently verified.
You may see "H&A" mentioned on either an AGS or GIA report under the 'Comments' section. This is not a verification that the diamond is indeed true hearts & arrows. It is simply a statement that diamond had those letters inscribed on it when it was submitted to the lab.
Neither AGS nor GIA currently grade hearts & arrows, therefore assessment of the level of H&A requires either inspecting the diamond with a hearts & arrows viewer or analyzing images captured with an H&A device.
Idealscope and ASET can help you evaluate the light performance of a diamond.
Hearts images viewed through a hearts & arrows viewer, on the other hand, will help you evaluate symmetry. They are often provided for hearts and arrows diamonds which are well known for being super symmetrical.
The Idealscope is an invention by Gary Holloway who is a legend in the diamond industry. He is also the inventor of the Holloway Cut Advisor - a very useful tool in weeding out low-performing diamonds based on their proportions.
The Idealscope is a hand-held version of the Firescope that was invented in the 1980s by Mr. Kazumi Okuda in Japan. While the ASET Scope was invented in 2005 by AGS (American Gem Society) which is among the two most reputable grading labs in the world. AGS even uses ASET results to determine the cut grade of a diamond.
How do you determine whether a diamond is well cut (brilliant) or whether it had been cut to less than acceptable standards? This problem is further compounded when diamonds are viewed under strong lighting in a jewellery stop. Every jewellery stop's lighting system is carefully designed to make their products look amazing and sell better. Unfortunately, this happens to be one of the most common pitfalls that unwary consumers fall into. Under such conditions, even diamonds with the worst cut quality can be made to sparkle. And to the untrained eye, it is very difficult to differentiate between the truly well cut diamonds from the poorly cut ones.
This is the reason why a diamond ring can suddenly lose its sparkle once it leaves the jewellery stop. If you intend to buy diamonds from a physical stop, we recommend that you purchase an idealscope and use it to view the stones on-site. This is the easiest and most portable method for you to critically select or reject diamonds based on its optical performance. Compared to the costs of buying a diamond, the idealscope is only a tiny investment (around $50) that will help you make objective decisions.
It is such a simple and wonderful tool, yet so obscure in Stops. In fact, the majority of the sales assistants are totally clueless when it comes to judging a diamond's cut (reading a cut grading off a report is what they can do at best). Most big-name jewellery stop don't provide IdealScope data as well. Likewise, the phenomenon of poorly trained sales staff is very common worldwide. You are very much dependent on yourself to make informed and educated decisions when selecting a diamond.
Under the Idealscope, the characteristics of the diamond's cut will become clear and objective. Not surprisingly, most jewellers do not have this tool available for their clients even if they know what it is. The truth is, once you view their inventory under the Idealscope, you would most probably not want to make a purchase. Did you know that most diamonds in the market today aren't cut for optimal light return? Instead, they are cut to retain weight at the expense of optics so that jewellers can sell the stones for more and maximize their profits.
If you are in the market for fancy shape diamond, then this guide will help in your selection process. There are 2 main reasons why fancies are harder to choose:
Unlike the popular round diamonds which can be found in almost every jewellery shop, fancy cuts aren't high in demand. This means that stores typically don't hold a wide selection of fancy cut stones where you can simply and easily find a diamond that matches your requirement.
There is a lack of objective cut information presented in grading reports. Most gemological labs do not assign any cut grades to the fancy shapes (with the exception of AGS for top-of-the line princess and cushion cuts) and this makes it extremely difficult for consumers to determine cut quality.
In a GIA report for a fancy shaped diamond you will notice the absence of a cut grade in the report for a fancy shaped diamond. You will also see that that the measurements for crown and pavilion angles are also missing.
Using only the limited data on cut proportions, physical dimension measurements and carat weight, it is impossible to tell how a fancy cut diamond would look like in real life based on its grading report.
However, as a general guideline to help you narrow down your initial selections, you can use the tables of recommended proportions for the various shapes as a reference. These tables can be found in the corresponding sections we have written for each individual shape.
For online shoppers, having a magnified image or video to help you visualize the stone's appearance is a must. The same goes for people who intend to make a purchase in a local shop. Make sure you perform an inspection with a loupe and pay attention to the outline of the diamond.
Once you are done filtering down your selections, the next most important step is to obtain an ASET image. This will help you determine the optical characteristics and performance of the diamond.
The ASET (Angular Spectrum Evaluation Technology) tool was developed by the American Gem Society (AGS) and works in a similar fashion as the idealscope. It is used to demonstrate how a diamond handles and returns light to the observer by using colored bands of red, green, and blue.
The main difference between an ASET and Idealscope lies in how light performance data is being presented. In terms of practical usage, the ASET is predominantly used to determine optical performances for fancy shaped diamonds whereas the Idealscope is utilized for round brilliants.
Most local shops do not provide any ASET data or possess an in-house setup that customers can use.
The truth is, the majority of fancy shapes are cut to optimize carat weight instead of brilliance. For this reason, we advise you to work with jewellers (either online or offline) who can provide you with the required ASET data and impartial analysis for their inventory. Unless you have a trained eye and know what kind of brilliance and patterns to look out for, shopping without any light performance data is risky.
The handheld version of the ASET scope is a simple and portable device you can carry around. However, the limitations of the device lie in getting a consistent source of lighting when examining diamonds. Having said that, you don't have to worry about learning how to use the ASET tool if you don't want to, if you want to buy online.
Most reputable jewellers online all have professional ASET setups in-house. If need be, you could easily make a request for the jeweller to capture an ASET image of the diamond on your behalf.
In an effort to help you better understand what to look out for in an ASET image, we have compiled some images of diamonds with various levels of optical performances. Feel free to make comparisons of your diamond's ASET against those listed below and you'll quickly find out how well it returns light:
Below is an explanation of what the different colors represent:
Red - intense light return - red is generally what you want to see.
Blue - contrast - important for contrast and scintillation. Blue areas should be as symmetrical as possible.
Green - less intense light return - keep green areas minimal.
Black/White - light leakage - keep black/white areas minimal.
For fancy shapes like ovals, pears and radiants, you shouldn't be expecting to see saturated reds (like those in ideal cut rounds) throughout the entire ASET image w3-hide-small of the diamond. Due to the nature of how light works, light leakage (white) will be seen even in the most well-cut stones.
At the end of the day, if you are more comfortable about shopping in a physical shop, then the other alternative is to invest in your own scope and bring it along with you when viewing diamonds.
Nowadays, both Idealscope and ASET images are extensively used to evaluate the light performance of a diamond. The main difference between an Idealscope image and an ASET image is that the ASET Scope uses several colors to represent areas of light leakage and light entrance. For beginners, ASET images might, therefore, be easier to interpret.
Looking at an Idealscope viewer, you can see that it has a black lens and a red belt. ASET, on the other hand, has a blue, a red, and a green belt. Both tools expose areas of white (or black if it's not backlit) light leakage, but the ASET image reveals more information. The ASET can also show the intensity of light that is returned to the eye thanks to the lower green belt.
The portable versions are very popular because you can always take them along. The only issue you might have is that the light source can be different depending on where you use it. This is why professionals always use an independent light source when using the Idealscope or ASET Scope:
For most consumers, however, it will not be so much of an issue of how to make your own Idealscope or ASET image. Every good offline and online diamond shop should be able to provide these images when asked.
Idealscope and ASET images are also very helpful in picking a true hearts & arrow diamond with superb fire, brilliance, and sparkle.
You shouldn't confuse Idealscope or ASET with hearts images. The latter comes into being when you make a picture of a diamond through a hearts and arrows viewer.
For hearts and arrows viewers, there are also hand-held devices and desktop devices that work together with the computer. Corporations and grading labs will rather use desktop solutions that are high-tech and can simultaneously calculate proportions. However, a hand-held hearts and arrows viewer will be more than enough to give you lots of information about the symmetry of a diamond.
A hearts & arrows viewer can depict hearts & arrows in a diamond but only in a diamond that actually is a hearts & arrows. Only around 1% of all round cut diamonds worldwide are actually real hearts & arrows diamonds.
Whether you see hearts or arrows will depend on how you put the diamond into the hearts & arrows viewer. If you put it table-down, you will see hearts, and if you put it table-up, you will see arrows. Sometimes, you may see blue, red, orange and green hearts images. The most popular color though is red because it can provide the strongest contrasts:
Now, it is entirely sufficient to only look at the hearts image of a diamond to determine whether it is a true hearts & arrows diamond. If the hearts are perfect, the arrows will be perfect, too.
That is why diamond experts usually only look at the hearts images to evaluate the symmetry of a diamond. Thus, you need not worry so much about the arrows image.
The one thing they all have in common is you can see the Hearts & Arrows pattern in the diamond clearly when using these tools. The H&A viewer easily lets us know of the diamond's cut grade. But an excellent symmetry doesn't guarantee superb sparkle, so it's not a reliable option.
Idealscope, however, showcases light return with its red colors and light leakage with white. We would recommend it for round cuts, but do avoid it when it comes to fancy shapes as it wouldn't reveal other intensities of light. It will simply be red, not disclosing the angle of light origin.
The more accurate one is ASET. With its green color, we are able to see less intense light return in specific angles of the diamond. You can trust that it will work perfectly for both round and fancy cuts.
The hearts & arrows is initially excluded from the choices as its main purpose is only to help us see the ideal h&a symmetry. When it comes to light performance, ASET, as proven earlier, offers more information. Although, you would have to look into the colors' meaning further. This brings out the simplicity of the Idealscope that directly reveal the amount of light and contrast.
If you're shopping on your own, the Idealscope image tells you point-blank what you need to know regarding diamond optics. If you need a more detailed knowledge on your expensive purchase, there's ASET.
The Heart & Arrows viewer, Idealscope, and ASET will only show your diamond's light leakage/return, contrast, and symmetry. Its fire and scintillation will depend on precise cut proportions. So, while they are great tools, they are not the end-all-be-all sparkle parameter. Cut, as always, is the most important.
The way you should go about choosing your diamond is to narrow down your search to the best three options that you could find! All these options should be within the perfect diamond proportions for round cut diamonds. Then, in order to make the best decision, you should look at the Idealscope and ASET images of each diamond.
For diamonds advertised as hearts & arrows diamonds, it is also vital to check the hearts image to make out which diamond has the better symmetry. Making these kinds of decisions can be tough sometimes and so you will have to know exactly what to pay attention to in every image.
GIA does not recognize hearts & arrows as a component of cut grade. This is partly due to the fact that the presence of the pattern is not a guarantee of cut. Occasionally you will see a hearts & arrows notation on a GIA certificate. This is simply GIA noting that an H&A insciption is present on the girdle of the diamond. This is provided as information only, not as a confirmation of the presence or quality of any hearts & arrows pattern in the diamond itself.
We believe the best approach to hearts & arrows is not to be carried away by the marketing of the pattern. One of the reasons GIA (and AGS) do not incorporate or acknowledge H&A in their grading is that it has never been shown to be preferred by consumers in blind tests. While the pattern has an emotional appeal, its actual affect on appearance is debated.