Does an Ideal or Excellent Symmetry Grade Always Equate to Hearts And Arrows?

hearts and arrows inspection

Brian Gavin’s Signature H&A Diamonds – Neat Arrows + Crisp Hearts!

The distinctive hearts and arrows patterning is often used for marketing round brilliant cut diamonds with superior cut quality and craftsmanship.

Now, most consumers believe that if a diamond is a GIA 3Ex or AGS Ideal cut, it would automatically qualify it as a hearts and arrows diamond and display a pristine patterning.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true and jewelers often use the H&A term loosely just to portray mediocre stones in a better light. This is why I wanted to address this common misconception many people have when shopping for hearts and arrows diamonds.

The fact is: Ideal/Excellent Cut + Symmetry + Polish ≠ Perfect Hearts And Arrows.

Why is There Such A Prevalent Misconception?

Whenever there are huge sums of money involved, you can be sure that things tend to get abused and facts get twisted. Unethical jewelers would prey on unsuspecting consumers by passing off a mediocre stone to be a hearts and arrows diamond.

At other times, the problems lie in poorly trained sales staff with very limited knowledge. Like the uneducated customer, these salespeople actually think that a diamond with excellent symmetry would automatically qualify it as an H&A stone.

The confusion stems from the fact that many consumers assume the symmetry grade in a grading report to be an indication of the diamond’s optical symmetry (H&A). These two terms DO NOT refer to the same thing.

When it comes to the symmetry rating found in a grading report, the diamond is visually examined under 10X magnification for a number of symmetry features like tilted tables, wavy girdles, facet sizes and etc…

how does gia grade symmetry?


A grade is then assigned based on the gemologist’s findings. For a diamond to be graded with “excellent symmetry”, any symmetry flaws it has are often minute and very difficult to detect under 10X magnification.

For example, a stone with slightly misaligned facets could still make it to an excellent rating. To put in layman’s terms, the symmetry grading focuses on the diamond’s overall shape and how the diamond’s facets align with each other. It doesn’t tell us how all the individual facets intertwine together in a complex relationship!

On the other hand, optical symmetry seen through the H&A viewer takes into account the relationship of every facet that comes together as a whole. In fact, the virtual facets (facets that are created by a diamond’s internal reflections akin to a hall of mirrors) play an important role in the crispness of the hearts and arrows pattern we see.

So, What Does a True Hearts And Arrows Diamond Look Like?

Many jewelers claim that they sell hearts and arrows diamonds but only a few in the entire world actually sell truly well cut diamonds. The fact is, less than 0.1% of the world’s cut diamonds would qualify as hearts and arrows.

Here’s what a true hearts and arrows diamond looks like with 8 perfectly formed hearts patterning and 8 correctly aligned arrow shafts. Notice how clean and symmetrical the details are?

super ideal cut hearts and arrows perfect patterning image

Feel free to click this link to view the full details of the diamond.

It is relatively easy to cut a diamond to ideal proportions and achieve AGS Ideal or GIA Excellent polish and symmetry. However, it is on a completely different level to polish the facets with the extreme precision needed to generate a consistent hearts and arrows pattern.

Anyway, the diamond above was one of my most recent purchase for a diamond engagement ring.  If you want to find out how much brilliance and sparkle a super ideal cut diamond has, watch the video below…



Vendors like White Flash and Brian Gavin Diamonds specialize in super ideal hearts and arrows diamonds and are the best places to shop for an engagement ring. Most importantly, they provide transparent and tangible data in their listings to help you easily analyze the caliber of their diamonds.

AGS Triple 0 And GIA 3 Ex Does Not Guarantee Optical Symmetry!

While most GIA triple excellent or AGS triple 0 diamonds exhibit some kind of hearts and arrows effect when examined with a viewer, the level of craftsmanship is usually less than perfect upon scrutiny.

More often than not, what you will see through the viewer are misaligned or lopsided H&A patterns. You see, when a diamond is polished to different standards in craftsmanship, they will look different even though they have the same symmetry grades!

Here’s a simple analogy that I always use – 2 students may have gotten the same distinction grade of “A” in an exam. However, one student scored 97/100 while the other scored 76/100. On their educational records, both have the same “A” grade and yet one fared significantly better than the other.

That’s the same scenario for 2 diamonds with similar “excellent” symmetry ratings. The grading system can accommodate and categorize diamonds with the same rating even though they may possess different degrees of flaws.

Triple 0 AGS diamond with poor optical symmetry (wonky arrows and twisted hearts)

ags ideal with poor optical symmetry

Although this diamond is graded by AGS as an ideal cut, it’s still not good enough to qualify as a hearts and arrows diamond because of its bad optical symmetry.

proof of triple 0 ideal cut

Here’s what an above-average GIA triple excellent diamond (report no. #1166789377) looks like. Even though it received a 3 Ex rating, the optical symmetry is sub-par and the hearts & arrows shapes are not well defined.

gia triple ex g half carat vvs1 diamond bad optical symmetry

As you can see above, the images do show 8 arrows and 8 hearts. To the uninitiated, the jeweler may just pull a smokescreen and make you believe this is a true hearts and arrows diamond.

Even Poorly Cut Diamonds Can Have Excellent Symmetry Ratings!

poorly cut diamond with gia Ex/Ex

Gasp! How did an Ex/Ex polish and symmetry end up so ugly? 

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. It is possible for ugly diamonds like the example above to achieve excellent/excellent symmetry and polish grades. When the proportions are all wrong, it doesn’t matter how accurate each facet lines up to another.

The stone will look dull and lack life! And the point here is that an Excellent symmetry rating can be assigned to a diamond but it doesn’t mean the diamond will have better performance or even display crisp hearts and arrows patterning for that matter.

Why Won’t GIA Make Things Simple For Consumers By Grading H&A?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the gemological labs can include a section for grading optical symmetry? Unfortunately, that won’t be happening anytime soon. Major labs like GIA won’t grade H&A patterns because they believe that it is NOT a key component for a diamond’s beauty.

The truth is, even if a diamond displays perfect H&A, it doesn’t guarantee that the stone will be brilliant or possess excellent light return. So, until the day the entire industry agrees on a consensus to grade H&A patterning, you should always take things with a pinch of salt whenever you hear a jeweler label their inventory as such.

When you are shopping for a hearts and arrows diamond (or being sold one), a transparent vendor would offer these data readily without you even asking. White Flash is an example of a fantastic vendor where you get to see exactly what you are buying. Click the image below and view the full details of the listing to see what I mean.

listing with data for cut precision diamond analysis sarine certificate h&a

Listing with magnified image, idealscope, ASET and hearts & arrows patterning data.

To sum things up, you want to see proof and tangible data instead of relying on the jeweler’s words when buying an H&A diamond. Grading reports alone will not tell you the degree of craftsmanship and precision that a diamond is cut to. You will need to examine the pictures taken from the table view and pavilion view to help you discern such details.

With that, I hope this article has offered useful insights to you. If you have any questions or need help with a second-opinion, feel free to get in touch via email or the comment section below!

Shopping for an ideal cut hearts and arrows diamond at White Flash and Brian Gavin Diamonds is hassle-free. The stringent selection process their signature diamonds go through ensures tip-top quality and they even provide the technical data for you to critically analyze their diamonds.

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  1. Bill J-
    June 27, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I’m, hopefully, learning a lot from your many articles and your ebook. I wonder if you would give me your opinion on the two diamonds that Emily, at Brian Gavin recommended (stones that are in my price range)?

    I am looking for something around 1.5 carat +/- that I could buy from Brian, then send him two smaller stones that I have (about 0.75 carat each) that he could mount on either side of it in one of his rings. See links below:

    Many thanks,

  2. Paul Gian-
    June 28, 2018 at 5:17 am

    The size differences will be somewhat noticeable. Are you OK to live with that?

    There’s quite abit of assumption here as the reports you showed me are “questionable”. I won’t expect color/clarity ratings to be accurate and they would probably be a few grades off.

    Based on the reports, I would say that the color matching would be better with this diamond:

  3. Bill J-
    June 28, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I found another appraisal on the diamond that is currently in my wife’s engagement ring. It was done by Richmond’s version of Tiffany’s, an old firm that’s been in business for about 150 years. I paid them several years after our marriage to apprise it for insurance purposes so they had no dog in the fight, so to speak.

    They said the carat weight is 0.74, not the 0.75 that I thought. With that in mind, I think I will take the existing 3 stone ring to a jeweler to see if he can take the 0.70 carat out of it and replace it with my 0.86 carat diamond and then I could send the 0.70 and the 0.74 carat stones to Brian Gavin to use with the new 1.457 stone that you recommended, so that my two stones are more similar in size.

    Does that make sense?

    Also, would it make sense for me to ask Brian Gavin to provide me with an Idealscope image and a hearts and arrows image? His website showing the 1.457 K diamond that you recommended says it’s a “hearts and arrows round”, but it also says “pre-order from the factory”, so I assume he does not have this diamond on hand? Could you shed any light on this? Also, should I assume that he will provide a lab report for this diamond if I buy it (and should I ask to see it, and the above images before making a decision)?

    Just out of curiosity, I would appreciate your opinions on the Idealscope pattern and the hearts and arrows patterns that he shows on his website for the larger 1.711 K diamond, which I assume he has in house, and why you recommended the smaller one when we don’t have the above images available at this point for it.

    I may have mentioned that my wife says that I tend to overthink everything??

    Thanks again,

  4. Paul Gian-
    June 29, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    The reason why I recommended the I color diamond is solely on color matching for the 3 stone ring. And with Brian’s cut quality you can rest assured that the diamonds are top notch. He guarantees it and I’ve seen a lot of his goods in person and I can vouch for it too.

    Get the images after the diamond is returned from the AGS grading lab. If it doesn’t achieve the stated parameters or if the cut quality doesn’t hit, ask for a 100% refund. They are good this way and their word is their bond.

    So, you are protected at every step of the way.

    And no, you aren’t overthinking things. As a consumer, I want to see tangible data before I buy a diamond. In Brian’s case, it’s slightly different because of demand and supply. They do the advance ordering for clients because some diamonds in popular sizes get snapped up fast.

    And to alleviate concerns, they put the guarantees in place. Makes sense?

    If you want something already in their current inventory, this would be an alternative:

    And I can tell you that the pre order is going to be just as good as this diamond in terms of cut quality. BGD is very very consistent.

  5. Sonia-
    August 13, 2019 at 2:20 am

    Do you know the reasons why the gem labs like GIA or AGS don’t grade round cut diamonds for their hearts and arrows precision? That would level the playing field if a 3rd party authority steps in rather than relying on any jeweller to provide the information.

  6. Paul Gian-
    August 15, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I had seen and heard jewelers using the term loosely just to draw in customers. Some even blatantly lie about the quality of their diamonds just to close a sale at the expense of the consumer. One of the main reasons why GIA don’t grade it is because they don’t view the phenomenon as a “gemological” property per se and that it is hard to establish a consistent and proper standard for diamonds with different cut proportions. For example, the patterning of a diamond with 75% lower girdle facets would look very different from that of an 80% lower girdle facets.

  7. Carine-
    July 18, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Hi there,

    A big thank you for pulling together all this information and helping people navigate the diamond information!
    I’m looking to buy a diamond and have requested an ASET image, but I’m told that for hearts and arrows all diamonds are cut exactely in the same way so the image will be the same as the sample… I found this doubtful.
    Am I correct to assume that even with H&A there might be some difference in the light return and leakage?
    Many thanks for your input.

  8. Paul Gian-
    July 21, 2022 at 6:18 am

    That’s bullshit. Even if you put hundreds of hearts and arrows diamonds together, there will likely be variations. The thing is, get the tangible data to verify the facts yourself. Jewelers lie but the data doesn’t.

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