excellence indicator

Does branding equate to excellence and a higher quality product?

Almost every big name jewelry retailer boosts their own line of “signature diamonds” where each stone is supposedly cut for the best sparkle and brilliance. Very often, these signature diamonds come with a hefty price premium because you are allegedly paying more for “better quality”.

Sad to say, most of these claims are mere marketing gimmicks. The truth is that very few brands in the world can consistently achieve such precise standards – on every diamond every time.

Now, one of my favorite pastimes is to walk into jewelry stores to take a peek at their offerings. And whenever I am being pitched with a store’s signature collection and how much better they are than other generic GIA/AGS graded diamonds, I instantly turn into a skeptic.

Unlike other unsuspecting consumers who simply accept the marketing fluff fed to them by a salesperson, I will start asking questions and ask for proof.

So, what really makes a line of signature diamonds stand out and justifiable for its premium pricing? How do you tell if a diamond really performs to what the marketing hype says it does?

In this write up, I’m going to show you the things you should look out for when dealing with premium cuts and how to separate the wheat from the chaff. You will also find out how to cut through the marketing BS that jewelers will say just to profit off your naivety.

Benchmarking the Industry With Brian Gavin’s Signature

Brian Gavin is a vendor that deals with super ideal diamonds and offers some of the best-cut diamonds in the industry. They are able to achieve this due to the stringent cutting parameters and selection process for their signature diamonds.

In each listing, Brian Gavin also provides in-depth technical details and information to show you exactly what you will be getting. For more details, click this link to browse through their signature diamonds.

Let’s do an analysis for a random 1 carat stone within their signature collection to see if their claim for a “signature series” is really top of the line. For this example, I had chosen an F color VS2 diamond (specifications that will offer great value for quality).

A common misconception amongst shoppers is that they need to buy a diamond of the best quality (D color VVS1/IF diamond) in order for it to be beautiful. That’s not true. A well cut K color SI2 diamond will look better than a poorly cut D color IF stone anytime.

A great thing I love about Brian Gavin is that they offer indepth data like videos and ASET/Idealscope images for their top-of-the-line diamonds. This means you can actually see exactly how the diamond looks like and will perform.

Breaking Down a Diamond’s Optical Performance

In order to determine a round diamond’s optical performance, data like Idealscope/ASET images are required. These can also be found on their listing page for your perusal. Also, with the cutting proportions/angles, we can quickly simulate the diamond’s performance with the HCA tool.

hca score for brian gavin signature round

A calculation on the Holloway Cut Advisor shows a value of 1.5 – a very good score!

The ASET and IdealScope images shown below also indicate a diamond with optimum fire and brilliance.

brian gavin signature aset and idealscope information

The point to take back here is that when most jewelers claim their diamonds to be super ideal or super super ideal, you should take it with a pinch of salt. What you need to do is to be rational and objective in your diamond selection process.

Any such claims of a stone to be ‘super’ ideal must be backed up with relevant information using optical performance tools and scientific data. Instead of blindly relying on a jeweler’s claims, you should request the technical information from them and make your own analysis to determine the diamond’s cut.

If any particular vendor refuses to show you these required images, walk away because they have something to hide. From experience, they are banking on you to be unknowledgeable about cut quality so that they can take advantage of you.

Talk is cheap. Deal with someone who is willing to use real information to backup their claims instead. If the vendor doesn’t provide you with these images or comes up with all kinds of excuses that they don’t have a viewer, it’s just a clear sign for you to head to the door.

The ugly truth is, once they show you the stone under the scope, you would probably change your mind about purchasing the stone. These are how the majority of diamonds in the market look like under the ASET scope:

asets of poorly cut round diamonds


examples of good round brilliant cut ASETs

Regardless of the cutting style, shape or number of facets a diamond has, the ASET is a universal tool that can help you assess the light performance of a diamond. Here are reference charts you can easily use for your own comparisons.

Why is Every Store Claiming to be Selling Hearts And Arrows?

Likewise, any stores that claim they sell hearts and arrows diamonds MUST provide you with the evidence to back up their claims. The most common way of determining this is to view the diamond under a H&A scope.

If you are working with online vendors, photographs taken with a Hearts and Arrows viewer will enable you to inspect details with ease. Here, the details do matter and a sloppy looking hearts and arrows patterning with inconsistencies is a tell tale sign of poor cut precision.

hearts patterning of super ideal diamond
hearts and arrows viewer

Crisp & perfect hearts patterning & a hearts and arrows viewing scope.

Here are the critical stuff about H&A diamonds which you need to pay attention to. Many times, the hearts and arrows patterning are of sub-par standards and are passed off as ideal because consumers don’t know how to detect the subtle nuances.

Click this link to learn more about the 11 guidelines for optical symmetry in a hearts and arrows diamond.

Clearly, I am using Brian Gavin as a good benchmark in this study. Whether you are buying online or shopping for a diamond in a physical store, these are things you need to look out for. If someone claims to sell you an ideal hearts and arrows diamond, you should subject the stone to the same scrutiny as I did above.

For people who are looking for diamonds with top of the line performance and cut precision, I recommend Brian Gavin and White Flash. Both vendors specialize in super ideal cut diamonds and provide a superb shopping experience.

On the next page, I am going to show you a free (and easy to use) tool that helps you reject poorly proportioned stones simply by inputting numbers from a grading report…

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  1. ajaz-
    May 25, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Firstly, I wish to thank you for the most wonderful and comprehensive information on signature diamond cuts. Could you please inform me whether high quality diamonds with DEF color have more brilliance, scintillation and fire than JKL color diamonds? …regards ajaz

  2. Paul Gian-
    May 26, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Color has nothing to do with the light performance of the stone. Cut is the ultimate factor that impacts how much brilliance, scintillation and dispersion the diamond has.

  3. Effie-
    January 16, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Dear Paul,

    My husband and I recently bought an upgrade to my engagement ring. We purchased the upgrade from the same store we bought our first ring. It is a family owned store with several locations in my state. When we ordered the ring we were told that the ring was of the highest quality they sold, their signature cut, with hearts and arrows. This info. was included in the receipt. We went from 50 points to 90 points.

    We saw the ring before we ordered it. On the receipt it stated that it was the signature cut and a hearts and arrows. It was an F color SI 1 with a GIA of excellent for cut and polish and a very good for symmetry. It looked very sparkly and I was happy.

    hen I went to pick up the ring, I was immediately disappointed at the diamond’s clarity. I did not say anything because I didn’t want to upset my husband.

    I requested the report for the ring many times. I finally became upset after 7 weeks of waiting and demanded the report. I finally received an incomplete report. The report did, however, state the diamond was not the signature cut and not a hearts and arrows diamond.

    The manager of the store promised to get me a diamond of the quality I thought I had purchased. I gave the ring back. He said that the owner of the company does not want any damage to their hard earned reputation.

    However, now more than a month later, I still have no ring. I have called several times and have gone to the store. I have been told that buying a diamond is not like ordering a car. There are limited diamonds that fit my criteria.

    Today the manager told me what they can do for me is 85 point diamond with F color that is flawless.

    My heart was set on 90 point. I only want to do this upgrade once. He insists that the 85 points is 1/10 of a mm smaller in diameter that my other ring. However, when I asked him for the exact measurement he named off a diameter that is larger that the 90 point diamond that they had given me.

    He said that I wouldn’t see a a gap in the same halo setting that was made for the 90 point diamond.

    If you could let me know your thoughts, I would really appreciate it.

    I didn’t expect this to be so stressful of an experience. My dad has been in the hospital twice in the last 3 weeks with heart failure. I am his caregiver. This diamond purchase should not be stressing me out even more.

    Thank you for any advice that you can give me.

  4. Paul Gian-
    January 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Sorry to hear about your experience.

    The best way to do this is to get your money back and go elsewhere. You are going to get ripped off if you continue dealing with this company.

    Read this: https://beyond4cs.com/best-place-to-buy-engagement-ring/ and buy only diamonds graded by GIA or AGS.

  5. Effie-
    January 20, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Thank you very much for your response. I have one more question I was wondering if you can advice me on. The jeweler has come back with a diamond.

    It is AGS certified. The AGS certification states that it is the jeweler’s signature cut diamond with hearts and arrows. It has a D color, SI1, the cut grade of 2, the light performance, polish and symmetry are all 0. I am wondering what you think. When I voiced my concern over the cut grade, the manager told me that the diamond is a great diamond. The manager told me that I am being unreasonable because I have very little knowledge about diamonds. He stated that the diamond I want is worth $9,500 and it is not fair to expect this from their company. I am wondering if it would be better for me to go with a diamond that is not hearts and arrows but has 0 AGS cut grade?

    I didn’t ask for a D color but it seems that they have given me this color to try to appease me so that I overlook the cut grade. I don’t want to appear crazy picky. This whole experience has me very stressed out.

    I am wondering what you think. I paid $6,300 for the initial diamond that I returned. I requested an F color .90 carat SI1 with an ideal cut. When the owner of the jewelry stores wrote me to tell me about this new diamond, he told me it was an AGS ideal 000. When I went, I saw that the AGS report gave a cut grade of 2 and a light performance of 0. If you can advice me, it would help me a lot. I am worried that they are going to call me in the morning and say they cannot do anything more for me.

  6. Paul Gian-
    January 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    It seems like they are misleading you. An AGS 000 is totally different from one that has a cut grade of 2. It’s a huge difference in cut quality. Try to get your money back and get away from this jeweler. Apparently, they don’t know what a well cut diamond is and are just trying to low ball you into choosing a mediocre stone.

  7. Effie-
    January 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you again Paul for your response.

    We asked for a full refund from the owner. He wrote in an email that he would give me a “full refund.” However, the manager says that they will give me my traded in ring back and only refund what we paid for the upgrade. It is very disappointing that after all this waiting – 5 months – and the stress we been through, we are back where we started.

    I explained that the owner has told us time and again that he doesn’t have a diamond for us because he is waiting on new inventory. I expressed that it is hard to believe that a company with 10 stores in the most affluent areas of the state would have little inventory. The manager stated that the Hearts on Fire brand is buying up all the well cut diamonds and it is very difficult to find them. I highly doubt that is much truth to this.

    I believe what the owner is doing is picking out a mediocre diamond for us and is sending it to the AGS to mark on the grading report as their stores signature brand. The AGS grading report, however, still reflects to lower cut grade.

    We paid $3,000 for the initial diamond 3 years ago. It is .51 carat, SI1, F color, with excellent polish, cut and symmetry. There is no fluorescence. The inclusion is a light twining wisp. What percentage of the $3,000 do you think we could get if we sold it?

    I am not a vindictive person but I am thinking of writing a very unfavorable review of this store on yelp and other websites. We have been lied to so many times, I think they deserve it.

    Thanks again.

  8. Casey-
    March 6, 2018 at 3:37 am

    I have read just about everything on your website and it has been extremely helpful. I have a few questions as I search for the perfect diamond for me. I am a very detailed oriented person and really want to find the best diamond I can even if my fiance to be has no idea just how nice it is.

    I am comfortable going up to a 100K budget excluding the setting but if this is not necessary then I am more than happy to spend less.

    So my preliminary criteria is based on the 4C’s

    Shape: Round Brilliant

    Cut: Excellent
    Clarity: Flawless
    Color: D
    Carat: 1.5-2.5

    I chose this carat size because I thought it was as large as my fiance, with around size 5 fingers, would be comfortable wearing. Though I am willing to be narrow in on a size. I don’t want her to feel ridiculous wearing it but I also want it to blow her away 50 years from now when she is a successful professional. One way I thought of a concession is to have a rather nice engagement ring and a simple band wedding ring so if she is doing something where she doesn’t feel comfortable with her fancy ring she can wear her wedding band. She is an established professional and I don’t think that she would have trouble wearing this ring on a daily basis.

    Now I realize there are multiple grading agencies. While I accept both GIA and AGS I prefer AGS. They seem to be remarkably hard to find though.

    Now to go a step further I want to maximize Scintillation, Fieriness, and Brilliance.

    I want to do this through two additional criteria:

    Polish: Excellent
    Symmetry: Excellent

    I also want to avoid worries about fluorescence and have to been looking at no fluorescence in diamonds.

    Now to optimize these factors I would like some guidance on optimal table % and depth.

    In addition, I have questions about ASET images, IDEALSCOPE, HDR Images, and other ways to identify the best diamonds.

    There are a few brand criteria a am interested in delving deeper into:
    A Cut Above-White Flash
    True Hearts- James Allen
    Super Ideal
    Flawless vs Internally Flawless

    I also want to figure out what you meant by dark spots on these certain cuts when you look in the table. If there are any other specialist designation you think would be worth my while to look into please let me know.

    I also like duplicate documentation. If possible I would like to know where a diamond stands in the AGS and GIA systems. I would be happy to pay to have the diamond certified by both even if I don’t end up buying it. Do you know if there is a vendor that would be open to doing that with me?

    The last but very important factor is this. The diamond needs to be ethically mined. This will be the first question my fiance asks about the diamond and that’s a question I want to feel confident answering. I really like the system that Brilliant Earth has but I find their diamond selection to be limited. I have also looked at White Flash but have had trouble finding diamonds that meet my criteria. James Allen on the other hand has had a plethora of options. They have a brief education section about no-conflict diamonds but I wasn’t particularly reassured.

    The goal of this email is to ask for your help in taking my diamond search to the next level. If you were going to identify the perfect diamond in that carat range what would you be doing? I am all about education and am willing to put serious time and effort into becoming an expert on this topic.

    My last comment is on my setting ideas. I am thinking of a 6 prong solitaire setting. I like the simplicity and elegance. I really like Tiffany’s process with this but I do not like the lack of information or say I get in selecting the diamond. Do you know if they ever accept diamonds given to them to be put through their in-house evaluation and then on to setting? While I want the best diamond out there, spending extra for the brand prestige is something that I am willing to consider.

    I have time before proposing but I like to plan ahead in my life and know exactly what I like. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and if there is anything I can do for you in turn please don’t hesitate to let me know. You have a fabulous and extremely helpful website!

  9. Paul Gian-
    March 8, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Based on what you had laid out about duplicate documentation, the only vendors who are willing to do this and can offer Well Cut diamonds are White Flash and Brian Gavin.


    You need to get in touch with them to do a custom cut and they will give you a quotation for that with the diamond being graded by both AGS and GIA (you will need to place a deposit to get the job started and if the documentation doesn’t come back as expected, the money will be refunded.) these 2 vendors are good this way.

    Tiffany will not set a diamond that isn’t purchased via them. They won’t even entertain requests for dual certification; so, don’t waste your time with them. Almost all vendors have similar tiffany settings. White Flash for one, offers one that’s extremely close and well crafted.


    If dual certification isn’t necessary, here’s a well cut diamond I would personally buy.


  10. Evelyn-
    August 16, 2018 at 3:52 am

    I contacted Brian Gavin and asked about the diamond. Supposedly it was reserved for an upgrade and that’s why it’s taking awhile to be taken off the website. The rep mentioned they have a waitlist of people so I asked typically how long it takes to get their diamond by enrolling on the waitlist. After 10 days of not-so-useful back and forth, I ended up talking with the director of sales and she mentioned if I make a non-refundable deposit, they’ll cut it the way I want and I’ll have it in max of 8 weeks.

    Do you recommend this process? How granular of details do you think I should give them?
    And would giving them everything I listed below be enough? What do you think?

    I’m torn between going through that process or just purchasing the diamond from James Allen that I mentioned before: https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/2.02-carat-g-color-vvs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2171547 Can you perhaps give me any suggestion?

    By the way, when I was filling out their contact form, I put beyond4cs.com as my referral. I hope you get a commission from that.

    • weight: 2.0 ~ 2.1
    • budget: thinking around $28,000 ~ $33,000
    • shape: round
    • cut: black by Brian Gavin (if I go through Brian Gavin). Otherwise most ideal.
    • color: G
    • clarity: prefer VS1 or up. no black marks
    • Table/Depth/Crown Angle/Pavilion angle: your guide line here

    Thanks so much!

  11. Paul Gian-
    August 17, 2018 at 1:25 am

    I personally like Brian Gavin for their better cut quality. Here’s a review about that signature line I did before: https://beyond4cs.com/reviews/brian-gavin-diamonds/black/

    Black by Brian Gavin is a brand new class of super ideal cut diamonds launched in 2016. In this review, we investigate their cut quality and performance.

    With the Black series, you are getting the best quality money can get you.

    This True Hearts diamond, 2.02 Carat G Color VVS2 Clarity has ideal proportions and a diamond grading report from GIA, is a well cut diamond. If I were to put it on a scale, I would rate this diamond around 90/100. There can still be improvements to be made to optical precision. (H&A symmetry)

    With Blacks, you are getting quality in the 98-99/100 range.

    With Brian Gavin’s custom job, you are guaranteed of the cut quality and 4Cs (or better). Otherwise, you get your money back 100%. At such a large sized carat weight, going custom is the way to go because of the lack of availability. Depending on the rough that is source, you should allow Brian Gavin to work on the stone. The exact proportions will definitely fall within my range of ideal proportions.

    Let them know the color, clarity, carat weight you require. They will work out details before any payment is required. E.g. if they come back to you guaranteeing a G color, VS2 clarity 2.00 carat weight, they will fulfil that or better. After that, you make the deposit. If the diamond comes back in at G, VS1 clarity, 2.04 ct, you do not have to top up anything. If the diamond comes back in at a G, SI1 clarity, 2.01 carat, you have the option of getting your money back or paying a lower price for the SI clarity.

    Basically, you are protected and this is risk free. In my experience, BGD are usually spot on about what they guarantee they can deliver.

    At the end of the day, it depends on your preferences and what you want. Both routes will work. The James Allen diamond is a well cut diamond. As will Brian Gavin’s be.

    Hope this helps!

  12. Evelyn-
    August 18, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    I wrote a review the other day. I was waiting until I figure out my final option but just went ahead and wrote it thinking you might be waiting for it.

    Brian Gavin uploaded the images for me. Originally, they said VS2 G 2.0~2.01 will be approximately $32000 so I decided to go with the waitlist option. They quoted $34500 for VS1. It looks like the price that came back is a bit higher than I expected. $33k-34k. So questions for you.

    1. Do you think the price is reasonable? I remember reading from your blog their price is usually a bit pricier but it seems a lot higher compared to Whiteflash.

    2. If you were to choose between the two on Brian Gavin’s site, which diamond would you choose? I read your website and it looks like 2.050 could be a better option regarding alignment of symmetry. However the little abnormality on hearts image make it look less desirable as well.

    3. http://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/2.050-g-vs2-round-diamond-bkags-104095160008

    4. http://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/2.090-g-vs2-round-diamond-bkags-104095160007

    5. If you were to compare the above two diamonds to the ones on whiteflash, what would you recommend? There are two available right now. 2.053 and 2.056 at G, VS2. $30k each.

  13. Paul Gian-
    August 20, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Brian Gavin is generally a little more expensive than WF because of brand premiums. Pricewise, I can tell you that BGD is still way cheaper than local stores (provided that you can get the same level of cut quality in the first place).

    Beyond that, the choice of setting should also be the deciding factor as both vendors carry different designs.

    That said, you are right about this option:
    http://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/2.050-g-vs2-round-diamond-bkags-104095160008 it is the better option in terms of optical symmetry. But that’s me being really anal. Both stones are actually extremely well cut.

    As for White Flash, these 2 diamonds are on par.



    I have a preference for the second diamond between the 2 wf stones. If you asked me, I would gravitate towards the WF diamond above because I’m practical. Again, let the choice of setting decide whom to work with.

    You are in safe hands with both vendors.

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