Ugly Diamond Bow Ties – Signs of Poorly Cut Stones

bowties in diamonds

Dark Black Triangles Obstruction

Ideally, a diamond should reflect every ray of light that enters through its table facet back through it. However, not every stone is perfect and when we speak of diamonds with a poor make, we usually think of light leakage through the sides or the bottom of the stone. 

In the case of fancy cut diamonds like the oval, marquise or pear, another type of cut imperfection can appear. It is called the bow tie and it looks like what its name implies. It takes on an appearance of black patches that resembles a man’s bow tie across the width of the diamond’s body.

So, What Exactly is a Diamond Bow Tie?

The bow tie effect has a direct relationship with one of the most important diamond characteristic – cut. When there are facets that do not reflect light properly no matter which direction you turn or tilt the diamond, this phenomenon can develop.

Unlike other common cut related problems, the bow tie effect is not caused by light leakage. Instead, it is created as a result of light obstruction caused by the process of viewing the stone.

I know this may sound strange and you might be wondering why the process of viewing a diamond can be responsible for creating the bowtie. You see, when an observer looks at a diamond, light rays travelling to the stone are shielded by the human head. This obstruction creates the dark looking shadows that gets reflected within the stone.

No Light In = No Light Out

While it is possible for cutters to eliminate and lessen the intensity of bow ties, it isn’t as straightforward as you think it is. First and foremost, the skill and experience of the cutter plays a large role in this aspect. On top of that, when cutters are working with the affected shapes (pears, ovals, marquises and hearts), they are also faced with other considerations and constraints for profitability. For instance, it may not be economically viable for them to polish a diamond at the expense of losing too much weight from the rough.

A cutter cannot just say “I am going to cut here or there, because I do not want a bow tie in this stone”. The entire process is a lot more delicate than that as it is determined by a whole range of angles. In order to minimize the bowtie effect, the cutter has to carefully design the stone and take into account every possible angle that might yield unwanted results.

oval cut diamond with bow tie effect


marquise diamond with small bow tie


pear cut diamond with obvious head and body shadow


Bow-Ties Aren’t Necessarily Bad

A slight bowtie can actually give fancy shaped diamonds a sexy appeal and define the diamond’s character. What you want to avoid are diamonds with bowties that are so prominent that they black out a huge area on the stone. I will show you photographic examples of such stones in a moment.

On this note, I also want to offer you a word of caution here. I have had experiences with jewelers who had the cheek to tell me diamonds with dark bowties are actually more appealing and dark bowties are inevitable in fancies. It’s not true. Very often, unethical jewelers are willing to say anything just to mislead you in an attempt to offload poorly cut diamonds onto unsuspecting consumers.

How to Go About Shopping For Fancy Cuts Without a Severe Bowtie?

pear cut diamond with small bowtie

Bowtie In Fancy Cuts Are Normal

The bow tie effect is a tricky property to deal with because the grading report makes no mention of it. There isn’t any indication of whether a diamond displays a “small bow tie” or “big bow tie”. So, if you are going to make a purchase based solely on a grading report, you might easily end up with a diamond with an unwanted bowtie effect and inferior cut.

Since most online diamond distributors are unable to provide you with any visual assurance (the inventories that you see on most sites are a virtual listing of stones from their suppliers), you have to be extremely careful when purchasing fancy cuts online. If these vendors had never seen the diamonds themselves, how would you expect them to tell you if there are any potential problems with the diamond?

So, what’s the best solution? Your own eyes! The bow-tie effect usually reveals itself when the diamond is inspected in person. If you are buying online, this is going to be a huge problem at the majority of vendors. The workaround here is to collaborate with online jewelers who can help you physically call in the diamond and “analyze” the issue.

Should This be Treated as a Flaw?

Not every imperfection has to be regarded as a flaw or as a deal breaker. Before treating a stone as worthless just because it has a bow tie effect, try to imagine a few settings which it could be used in. There is a chance that you and your jeweler can even make great use of the “alleged” flaw with a little creativity.

Also, you need to keep in mind that a bow tie effect of some degree will almost certainly appear in fancy cuts like ovals, marquises or pears. In fact, fancy cut diamonds without any traces of bow-ties are usually cut to dismal proportions and have issues with brilliance. What you should do is to choose one where the bowtie doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb and blends in well with the body of the stone instead.

If you are shopping for fancy cuts, I recommend checking out James Allen first. They have physical access to the diamonds listed on their website and offers a full fledged 360° video for every single diamond.

The Video Technology Reveals Everything!

Once you head over to James Allen, you’ll find out for yourself why it is so much easier to shop there. The first thing you can do is to use the search filter tool to narrow down your choices. Next, inspect the diamonds one at a time by viewing the videos and start creating your own shortlist.

Check out these diamonds with their respective photographs that depict desirable and undesirable bow-tie effects. You will see why I love the use of images and videos as they can explain everything far better than what words can do.

Feel free to click on the images and interact with the video listings for yourself!

f internally flawless poorly cut pear bowtie black lines
80 carat d si1 oval huge bowtie

Avoid diamonds with appearances like this!

f vs1 pear shape diamond excellent scintillation
good brightness faint bow tie contrast example

These are the types of diamonds I would recommend buying.

When you have a final shortlist of 3 diamonds, you should then approach their support staff via live chat. Request a physical examination and obtain a review of your selections from their in-house gemologist.

Since this is a free service provided by James Allen, I always recommend my readers to take advantage of this “fail-proof safety net” approach. Besides their revolutionary Diamond Teleport technology, James Allen will go beyond the mile to win your business by providing extra services that you normally won’t get elsewhere.

All right, I have said enough for now. Click here to visit James Allen and experience them for yourself.

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  1. Paul Gian-
    June 8, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Here are a couple more examples of oval diamonds that showcase the difference between well cut and terribly cut quality.

    oval diamond with severe dark bow tie

    how to buy diamonds without bowties by viewing videos

  2. Chris-
    February 1, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Are the presence of bow-ties contemplated in GIA’s diamond grading (as part of their comments or remarks)?

  3. Paul Gian-
    February 1, 2018 at 5:45 am

    There’s no such remarks in the lab report. The presence or absence of bow ties can only be determined via videos or photographs.

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