When it comes to buying fancy cut diamonds, the selection process for a well cut diamond can quickly overwhelm a first time shopper. This is because fancies are very difficult to define using proportion parameters and there are various factors which affect their appearance.
In this write up, I’m going to show you the exact steps to cherry picking the best diamond within your budget and where to get the best value for your money when buying a fancy shaped diamond ring.
Screenshot of fancy cut diamond grading report from GIA
Unlike round diamonds, the GIA grading reports for fancy shape diamonds do not contain a cut grade which provides an indication of its light performance. This is the primary reason why many beginners find it hard to assess diamonds as there is no reference or cut grading system to help in decision making.
If you’ve done some research on Beyond4cs.com, you might had come across tables of recommended proportions for the various shapes with guidelines for table % or depth %. The thing is, tables and figures like these are only useful as a “first screen” and the criteria listed are not cast in stone.
The second reason is that the majority of fancy shaped diamonds in the market are poorly cut and your chances of finding a well cut diamond in a store is very slim.
To make matters worse, the special lighting employed by jewelry stores are designed to make even the poorest cut diamonds sparkle. This is the main reason why some diamonds seem to lose their sparkle and look totally different once they are out of the store.
With that said, don’t get your hopes too high. Even if your local jeweler does carry inventory of a certain fancy shape you are interested in buying, they usually hold a very limited stock with few choices (and probably badly cut ones) for you to choose from.
The truth is, the odds of finding a well-cut diamond are stacked against the general shopper who has limited experience and knowledge. To make rational decisions, you’ll require additional data and tools to help you determine the light performance and optics.
The biggest mistake that you can make when shopping for a diamond ring is to “buy blind” and that means you make a purchase based solely on a grading report and nothing else.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Imagine you are shopping for a cushion cut diamond and come across a particular diamond that meets your budget and specifications on a website or via a recommendation from your local jeweler.
Now, you are only given the following information based on a GIA lab report.
On paper, everything might appear OK and the stone might seem to be a decent choice. Now, if you were to go ahead to make the purchase thinking that you made a great buy, imagine how you would feel if you opened up the parcel and saw this?
Would you still feel the excitement of receiving your brand new diamond that looks like this?
Contrary to what you may think, the phenomenon of buying diamonds blind occurs regularly in physical brick and mortar stores as well.
For reasons I stated about having very limited inventory on hand, most local jewelers attempt to work around this by offering to bring in a diamond based on your desired specifications.
They do this by requesting full payment upfront or imposing a shipping fee or requiring a non-refundable deposit before you can “see” the diamond in person. What happens here is that all the RISK is placed on you and they simply “buy” the diamond blind on your behalf.
It’s silly if you think shopping in a physical store in this manner would give you the peace of mind you think you are getting.
Sadly, that’s how the majority of uneducated diamond shoppers actually buy their engagement rings. It perplexes me how people can spend thousands of hard earned dollars without evening “seeing” the diamond. It’s not very smart at all.
The key to choosing a fancy cut diamond is to be able to see and review the diamond for its appearance and brilliance. The best way to do this is to go online and work with vendors who provide tangible data and offer a sizable inventory for you to cherry pick from.
Now, I want you to get this straight. I’m not referring to the bad online retailers where they only list an inventory of stones and expect you to make a selection based solely on the information extracted from grading reports.
Instead, I would recommend shopping at some of the best vendors in the world that offer HD videos and analytical data for their listings. The ideal choice of vendor may differ based on the shape of the diamond you are looking for:
Here’s why… Every diamond is uniquely different and no 2 diamonds are alike even if they share the same exact specifications on a grading report. When it comes to fancy cuts, subtle differences in clarity and cut can make or break a deal.
This is where vendors like James Allen stand out compared to traditional businesses in the industry.
They feature magnified HD videos of every single stone in their inventory. The user-friendly video technology enables you to inspect their diamonds in far greater details than you ever would at any other physical jeweler.
With this feature itself, they have made it so much easier for you to navigate their inventory, select and shortlist possible candidates for purchase.
Besides having lower prices, one of the main advantages of going online is the huge selection of diamonds that can be made available to you at the click of a few mouse buttons. Instead of the usual 1 or 2 options you can get at your local store based on your required specifications, online vendors can easily allow access to more than 100s of stones for you to pick from.
Photographs and videos are crucial in the selection process for a fancy cut diamond as they allow you to see how the diamond looks like in real life. Here’s where things get even better.
When it comes to cherry picking the most brilliant and best performing stone, you need to go beyond photographs or videos. One such tool that will offer you an objective analysis of how well cut a particular stone is the Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool (ASET) where you get to see how the diamond interacts with light.
How do you decide which is the best amongst them in terms of optics?
Based on magnified pictures above, it is very difficult to tell which diamond will have the best performance and look the most brilliant. However, the use of an ASET image will allow you to objectively evaluate performance even if you are a complete beginner.
Black field ASET images & White field ASET images
In an ASET image, we want to see lots of reds that indicate light return. Green is OK and blue adds contrast to the outlook. What we don’t want to see is whites or blacks (indicates light leakage). From the example above, the first stone is obviously lacking in terms of brilliance as there is a significant amount of light leakage at the 4 edges of the diamond.
Between the other 2, my preference goes to the 2nd stone as we see the reds reaching to the edge of the stone. This edge to edge brightness will make the stone look larger than it is. Also, based on the ASET image, you can also infer the contrast, patterning and scintillation of the diamond.
Pretty obvious that the top most princess cut has the best light performance
In the above example, the 2nd stone is the clear loser and doesn’t perform.
Did you know that most other retailers don’t even provide basic photographs of their inventory, let alone being able to provide you with ASET data for critical evaluation. For these reasons, I recommend you to work with vendors like James Allen, Blue Nile and White Flash.
Besides having high resolution videos of every single diamond in their inventory, they also have the proper equipment to capture ASET images. More importantly, they are offering this free service to consumers as a value add.
Try doing that with any other vendor and you’ll likely get charged hundreds of dollars for shipping fees just to get a diamond evaluated.
Step #1 – Use search tool to filter diamonds based on your budget / 4Cs.
Step #2 – Inspect diamond for eye-cleanliness and shape appeal with the videos.
Step #3 – Review ASET photographs to determine optical performance.
Step #4 – If ASET images are not listed, contact support & request for them.
Step #5 – Cherry pick and choose the best stone based on tangible data!
As a recap, I recommend the following vendors and classified them based on their specialties for different types of shapes:
– James Allen for all types of fancy shape diamonds
– Blue Nile for cushion, emerald and large carat sizes
– White Flash for ideal cut princess diamonds
– Brian Gavin for ideal cut cushion, emerald and princess diamonds
For new and inexperienced diamond shoppers, I know this article might be a handful of information to digest. But if you think about it, this is really the best method to go about shopping for a great looking stone.
For a purchase that would cost thousands of dollars, I am sure you want it to be the best possible one that is based on solid tangible information. So, take a deep breath and take your time to review and understand the entire process again if need be.
If you encounter any problems or want to save yourself the hassle of picking out your own stones, drop me an email with your budget and other relevant details. I will be glad to help you shortlist some diamonds.
Lastly, feel free to approach me with any other questions you might have. I love to hear from readers and I usually respond to queries within 24 hours.