Hearts And Arrows

top view and bottom view of the super ideal diamonds

Diamond displaying 8 arrows from table view & 8 perfect hearts from pavilion view.

Every industry has a flagship person/product. And in each industry, there is only place for one such icon.

For example, it is hard to talk about rock and roll without mentioning Elvis Presley because he is considered the representative icon of rock and roll. In comparison, Jerry Lee Lewis might have had a “whole lotta shakin’ going on”, but he will never be the most well-known figure whose facsimiles swamp the streets of Las Vegas.

Similarly, when it comes to diamond jewelry, the hearts and arrows diamond is definitely the masterpiece and most well-known phenomenon that people associate diamonds with.

The Emergence of Hearts And Arrows Diamonds

Diamond cutting can be considered a branch of liberal arts. As with liberal arts in general, artists want to push the boundaries of their craft further and further. Back in the 1980s, Japanese jewelers were the first to discover the existence of a kaleidoscopic effect when a round brilliant cut diamond was examined through a special viewer.

At that time, those diamonds didn’t feature perfect looking hearts and arrows patternings yet. As the Japanese started to refine their polishing techniques, the hearts and arrows phenomenon slowly gained popularity and was picked up by other cutting houses around the world.

By the time the kaleidoscopic cutting style arrived in the United States during the early 1990s, the foundational technique and guidelines for producing the H&A patternings had already been established before it underwent further development.

What Exactly is a Hearts And Arrows Patterning And How Do You See It?

hearts and arrows viewer scope with red and blue filter paper

Hearts and arrows viewer with blue and red color filter paper.

The hearts and arrows patterning can be viewed using an H&A scope which filters light that enters the side of the diamond. If you want, you can purchase one at this Amazon link. Depending on the color of the filter filament, the resultant image can be blue, red or even purple in color.

When viewed from the top (crown) using a hearts & arrows scope, an ideally cut diamond should reveal eight symmetrical arrows. On the other hand, when the diamond is viewed from the bottom (pavilion), it should reveal eight symmetrical hearts.

arrows patterning diamond blue color
hearts patterning view of diamond blue

This is what you will see when looking through the scope with a blue filter.

Due to the extreme level of cutting precision required for symmetrical patterning, Hearts and Arrows diamonds are sometimes called “super ideals”. In the modern jewelry market, the term “super ideal” is used to define a diamond with superior light performance, material quality and precise optical symmetry.

Very few companies in the world have the expertise and knowledge to consistently cut diamonds for extreme performance and precision. If you are looking for a truly well cut H&A diamond, White Flash and Brian Gavin are 2 of the best vendors that specialize in them.

Does an “Excellent” or “Ideal” Cut Rating Equates to Hearts And Arrows?

The answer is NO.

Not all diamonds with an ideal cut rating (AGS) or excellent cut rating (GIA) will automatically qualify it as a hearts and 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. Are you surprised to know this is what a typical GIA triple excellent round diamond looks like under a viewer?

arrows with misaligned shafts
poor definition of hearts and arrows diamonds

Now, “Hearts And Arrows” is a very loosely used term that many jewelers utilize to market their inventory and this is something you need to beware of. Any jeweler 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.

What About This? Surely It Looks Better Than The Previous One

inconsistent arrows thickness
near perfect 8 hearts from pavilion view

Does this qualify as a hearts and arrows diamond?

Don’t be fooled. Many sub-standard stones such as the example above are frequently passed off as the real deal. While I would consider the diamond to be pretty well-cut, it hasn’t achieved the pinnacle of cut precision.

So, let me set things straight. If you are going to be charged an additional premium for hearts and arrows diamonds, it had better be the cream of the crop. This diamond doesn’t make the cut (pun intended) and like the majority of diamonds in the market, it is polished to mediocre standards.

White Flash and Brian Gavin are 2 of the best retailers that specialize in hearts and arrows diamonds. The cutting standards for their diamonds set the benchmark for cut precision and craftsmanship.

What Are the Benefits of Buying a Hearts And Arrows Diamond?

poor contrast patterning messy arrows normal gia 3ex

Generic GIA 3Ex.

contrast patterning of super ideal cut diamond

Super ideal cut hearts and arrows.

Apart from the symbolic meaning of love and romance, there are 2 visual benefits of buying a hearts and arrows diamond. As mentioned earlier, the hearts and 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.

virtual facets vector diagram with corresponding live diamond view

Virtual facets add a multi-dimensional interplay of light within the diamond.

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 and arrows diamond will look livelier and brighter than a generic GIA excellent cut diamond.

Where Are the Best Places to Buy a Super Ideals Cut Diamond?

If you want a truly well cut hearts and arrows diamond, you need to shop at the right places as there are only a few vendors that specialize in them. The fact is, most jewelers would try to say the diamonds they sell are hearts and arrows when they are actually not.

When shopping for hearts and arrows diamonds, you need to work with a vendor that has transparent business practices that offer tangible data to back up their claims. These are jewelers that I trust and personally reviewed after making multiple purchases:



I bought this H&A diamond engagement ring from White Flash recently.

White Flash – They are known for their A CUT ABOVE® super-ideal cut diamonds which are carefully curated and cut to exacting standards. Their hearts and arrows diamonds are AGS certified and have ideal ratings for light performance, symmetry, and polish.

Brian Gavin – A pioneer and leading authority on super ideal cut diamonds, Brian Gavin is a legend in the industry. His signature round diamonds are cut to superlative standards and he also offers his patented hearts and arrows cushion cut diamonds.

James Allen – Their TrueHearts signature line offers a big selection of hearts and arrows diamonds. While you need to put in some effort to cherry-pick the better diamonds, there are plenty of options across different budget ranges and carat sizes to choose from.

If you need help with a selection or a second opinion on a diamond, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with me via email.

On the next page, I’m going to show you the guidelines for determining optical symmetry and teach you how to make your own judgments. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that any premium you pay for H&A diamonds is really justified and you aren’t walking away short-changed.

Next Page >>

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  1. Gussie-
    March 14, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Very informative website. Lot’s to learn.

    What’s the difference between hearts and arrows vs hearts on fire vs super ideal cut diamonds? I noticed a price variation between different vendors selling these stones with certification.

    Are hearts and arrows diamonds worth it when compared to one that displays near H&A patterns?

  2. Paul Gian-
    March 18, 2015 at 2:58 am

    H&A diamonds are frequently labelled as super ideal cuts. That’s just another terminology the trade use to differentiate stones that are cut to superior precision. Also, I’m not sure what you are referring to when you mention certification. As far as I know, there isn’t a widely recognized certificate for H&A patterns.

    In my opinion, hearts and arrows stones are worth it if you expect the best of the best when purchasing an engagement ring. For more practical reasons, I would prioritize light performance over H&A patterning.

  3. Kelv-
    August 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Hi Paul, if i just wanted to consider two variables, being your ideal proportions and getting the best H&As, would it be best to prioritise your ideal proportions first and then get as close to an excellent H&As second?

    What are the differences between hearts and arrows diamonds vs brilliant cut? I’m very confused as my jeweller told me that they are the same and that the brilliant cut diamond they are selling is made with hearts and arrows cut.

  4. Paul Gian-
    August 31, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Yep, that’s the way I personally shop for diamonds. It will weed out alot of lousy diamonds quickly and leave the better ones for me to cherry pick from.

    As for your other question, the two terms refer to different things.

    The brilliant cut is a cutting style where the finished diamond will resemble a cone and maximizes light return. Usually, the facets of the diamond are either kite or triangular shaped. This cutting style can be applied to many different shapes of diamonds like the princess, oval, marquise and heart.

    When people refer to hearts and arrows diamonds, they generally refer to round cut diamonds although specific cushion or radiant shapes can also display the kaleidoscopic H&A patterning. This effect is the result of a precisely polished brilliant cut diamond.

  5. Brian N Phillips-
    October 5, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Hi Paul, thanks for all the information. If all other features of the stone are the same, how much more should I pay for a near hearts and arrows stone or a true hearts and arrows stone? 10% premium for true hearts and arrows? I understand there are different levels of hearts and arrows and many vendors will market near hearts and arrows as true hearts and arrows. I consider Brian Gavin diamonds true hearts and arrows, and near hearts and arrows the same as “industry standard” hearts and arrows, such as the near hearts and arrows you get from a “true ideal” cut at James Allen. Thanks for all your information.

  6. Brian N Phillips-
    October 5, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I also consider blue nile signature cuts near hearts and arrows in most cases when they provide the gcal document (which is essentially worthless), unless they back it up with a picture. How much of a premium should I pay for a near hearts and arrows stone? Why is it that an Excellent symmetry or Ideal symmetry grade doesn’t result in a crisp looking 8 hearts 8 arrows patterning?

  7. Paul Gian-
    October 5, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    I would say around 10-15% more when compared with a decently well cut diamond. I say decently well cut because most diamonds (GIA 3EX) aren’t decently well cut by my standards.

    When diamonds are graded in the laboratories, they are assessed for the “meet point” symmetry. Basically, graders only looking at factors such as how much each individual facet is varied from another in terms of shape or how the points of each facet meet another facet.

    There is a lot of allowances for a diamond to meet Excellent symmetry as long as polishers get some basic fundamentals right.
    However, optical precision (hearts and arrows patterning) takes into account the interaction of every single facet within the diamond in relation to other facets. In order to create a crisp patterning, the cut precision and craftsmanship needs to go above and beyond the requirements of an Excellent symmetry rating.

    I’ve explained this more extensively in the article here: https://beyond4cs.com/hearts-and-arrows/does-ideal-or-excellent-symmetry-always-equate-to-optical-symmetry/

    You can think of this as an examination where a score of 80 marks out of 100 will put you within the excellent band. However, to get a true hearts and arrows diamond, you will need to score at least 98 marks.

  8. seth lim-
    October 18, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Reminds me of the story of that college geek who created an entire social network just to get to know the girls in school. You probably taught yourself website design as well, did you build your own computer? Enjoyed reading your work although i have little interest in gems and always thought it ironic that after all the fuss over cut, light performance is always compromised after setting it on a ring or any piece of jewelry, do you agree? How much weight would you place on going for luxury brands (vca, cartier or t&co etc) when shopping for a diamond ring instead of trusting online or homegrown vendor? What does hearts and arrows mean in a diamond? Thank you for your free lessons.

  9. Paul Gian-
    October 18, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Yep. Light performance will be somewhat affected when it gets mounted in a setting and depends on the type of setting used. Put it this way, if mounting it in a setting would decrease light performance by 5%, wouldn’t it be wise to choose a diamond that’s better cut. Placing a poorly cut diamond into a setting will only make it worse.

    A diamond displaying symmetrical hearts and arrows means that it has been cut to high precision and craftsmanship. Here, I do want to point out that good precision in facet placements may not necessarily translate into better light return (although the majority of diamonds with symmetrical hearts and arrows patterning will also have superior optical performance).

    In terms of symbolic representation, the hearts and arrows could mean anything you want. I’ve heard of romantic stuff like the arrows being shot from a cupid’s bow through the hearts. But really, you can spin your own stories about what it represents to suit your needs when you propose with the diamond.

  10. Morgan M.-
    August 6, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Are DeBeers new Black Label Forevermark Diamonds really the top one percent of the one percent of diamonds that they say and are they graded as strictly as AGS and GIA? Thanks Morgan

  11. Paul Gian-
    August 7, 2017 at 4:54 am

    I have yet to seen enough Black Label Forevermark diamonds to offer any constructive insights yet.

  12. Elsa-
    October 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Hi Paul, Excellent website and really informative. The more I read and understand the more confident I feel but also more concerned of the many pitfalls I need to be aware of. I would love to buy a round cut diamond and I am going to buy an idealscope or ASET beforehand. I find it more difficult to distinguish the ASET graphs than idealscope so probably an idealscope. I am also considering going for an H&A. Do I need an H&A scope in addition (like the one you have a link to) or does an H&A scope also qualifies as an idealscope? I see many idealscopes being sold online with embedded lighting, is that recommended or not?
    Thanks in advance and a big thank you for such an informative site!

  13. Paul Gian-
    October 28, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Elsa, the ASET scope is actually easier for beginners to tell a diamond with great cut quality compared to another with good cut quality. You can simply refer to the chart here to make the comparison: https://beyond4cs.com/grading/aset-reference-charts/

    If you want to decipher cut precision, you definitely need a hearts and arrows scope to see the patterning. Whether you need the backlighting device is entirely up to personal preferences. If you are buying a mounted ring, the backlighting is useless.

    And just so you know, there isn’t a need to buy all of these devices as you can easily rack up to $100 in costs (with shipping etc included). You can also forgo all the unnecessary hassle simply by buying from a vendor like White Flash or Brian Gavin which provides these data in their listings.

  14. Elsa-
    October 29, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Paul, thank you so much for the advice and for clarifying my questions. I don’t live in the US and will visit NY for a week in December. I think because of this buying online will be difficult for me but I see you also recommend James Allen and they have a showroom in NY by appointment only. I chatted with them briefly and they said I could select up to 3 diamonds in advance (you probably know all this but I just thought to mention it just in case as extra info) to see in the appointment so that is what I am considering now. They don’t have the idealscope or ASET online so it will be a bit tricky for me to select beforehand. Any tips from you? And apologies in advance if I am asking too many questions.

  15. Paul Gian-
    October 30, 2019 at 6:15 am

    James Allen does provide idealscope images for their diamonds in True Hearts series of diamonds. My recommendation is to make your selections from that range of diamonds to view in person. I’ve actually purchased a ring from them recently with a True Hearts diamond and you can see details of the idealscope/hearts patterning image they provided and compare it against those I taken manually myself here: https://beyond4cs.com/reviews/james-allen/

  16. Elsa-
    November 3, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Thanks Paul, it is an awesome review and really has loads of useful information. I am more and more excited about the purchase. You see, I always wanted to buy a diamond ring but now I am so much more invested in it and know so much more than before. I have you to thank for sparkling (pun intended) my interest in the topic and making this process so much more fun and enjoyable!
    I am only looking at the True Hearts selection and because I have small hands (ring size 5) and I want something I can wear everyday I think 0.3 carat is probably the best for me now. Do you think I am going too small?

    If you don’t mind a few more questions I am trying to educate myself more in H&A images. I am a bit confused because some depict the hearts and arrows in purple and other images in white and the latter all seem to show more light leakage but it might be a trick of the mind. Of these 3 diamonds am I right in thinking the first one seems like a good sparkler (used your measures to filter out others) whereas the second shows more imperfections in the H&A shapes (also has the white colors in the hearts which I have trouble evaluating) and the third shows more light leakage?

    1) https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.30-carat-g-color-vvs1-clarity-true-hearts-cut-sku-7819427
    2) https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.30-carat-g-color-vvs1-clarity-true-hearts-cut-sku-7819402
    3) https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.30-carat-g-color-if-clarity-true-hearts-cut-sku-7819366

    Thanks again for being so helpful and a guru of diamond knowledge!

  17. Paul Gian-
    November 4, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Those whitish areas you see under the table are NOT light leakage. It is caused by overly intense backlighting and photography issues. All 3 diamonds have superb light return and are as good as it gets when it comes to sparkle and brilliance. Strictly speaking, the 2nd diamond here: https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.30-carat-g-color-vvs1-clarity-true-hearts-cut-sku-7819402 has the best cut precision out of the three diamonds and the hearts patterning images show precisely aligned facets.

  18. Sinead-
    April 1, 2022 at 10:37 pm


    Do you have any advice for purchasing in Europe or in the likes of Dubai? I am Europe based but have been looking at purchasing online from Dubai. Unfortunately the import taxes on anything online from the USA would be prohibitive cost wise.
    Thanks so much

  19. Paul Gian-
    April 17, 2022 at 8:15 am

    You should check out these links with relevant information to buying a ring in Europe and Dubai.


  20. Paul Gian-
    February 3, 2023 at 5:22 am

    The color of the images actually don’t matter that much in this case. For H&A images, the arrows may appear lighter or darker depending on the settings that the camera use but it doesn’t indicate anything about the diamond’s cut precision (H&A). What is more important is how uniform the hearts are formed, the symmetry they show and of course, the V clefts.

    In my opinion, the ASET image is more discerning than the Idealscope image because areas where there are lesser light return will show up as green color in the ASET. This same area will show up as lighter red or pink in the Idealscope image. And because of photography settings and your computer’s display settings, it may not be as easy to tell such areas apart in the Idealscope image.

  21. Nauman-
    February 22, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Hi Paul, I have been reading a lot these days on Diamond for a first-time purchase of a Diamond. In above 3 H&A diamonds shared by Elsa, you mentioned no 2. has the best cut. As i am learning, the heart image for 1st and 3rd diamonds is blue whereas the heart image in 2nd diamond is white. Does that matter?

    Similarly, in the image of the arrow for 2nd diamond, the arrows are lighter compared to the 1st and 3rd diamond. Does it matter as well? Also, i have read that ASET images are more accurate as their data provide more accurate details compared to ideal scope. Please shed some light on it as well. Thanks.

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