Ideal Diamond - What does the term really mean?

If you are in the market for a diamond these days you will likely hear terms like “ideal” and “hearts and arrows”, and “triple excellent”. What exactly is an ideal diamond and what do all these different superlatives mean?
Round and Princess Ideal Diamonds
Round & Princess Ideal Diamonds
First, it should be understood that these terms really refer to only one of the diamond 4 C’s (albeit the most important one) – CUT. The color, clarity and the carat weight of a given diamond are assessed in roughly the same way today as they have been since the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) first began issuing diamond grading reports in the 1950’s. But the all-important cut grade has undergone an evolution in understanding and interest in the past 10 to 20 years.
Experts have long known that a well cut diamond displays much greater fire and brilliance than a diamond of average cut quality. But until recently there was not enough understanding or appreciation in the broader market of the impact of cut quality on diamond performance. Therefore, there was not enough demand for very precisely cut diamonds to justify the extra expense in manufacturing them. With the advent of the internet, this information began to circulate widely and there is now a strong movement towards ideal cut diamonds.
Princess Ideal Diamond
Princess Ideal Diamond
One of the most influential developments in the ideal diamond movement was the establishment of the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL) in 1996. Their mission, on behalf of consumer protection and education, was to research diamond cut and provide objective measurement of this crucial aspect of diamond quality. Their work was quickly embraced by a market hungry for certified diamonds with the best light performance.
With AGSL leading the way and demonstrating the strong demand in the diamond market for a much better reporting of cut quality, the GIA developed its own cut grading system which was launched in 2005. In the interim AGSL continued intensive research into diamond light performance and at about the same time unveiled a revolutionary new light performance based cut grading system which represented a quantum leap in sophistication. It remains today the state-of-the-art for diamond cut evaluation, standing alone as the only scientifically rigorous, peer reviewed and academically vetted cut grading system in the world. The term “Triple Excellent or Triple Ex” refers to the highest cut grade in the GIA system and “Triple Ideal “or “Triple Zero” is a reference to reports with the highest cut grade in the AGS system.
Round Ideal Diamond
Round Ideal Diamond
Using advanced ray tracing software, the AGS light performance system performs direct assessment of light behavior on a precise model of the diamond based upon a full three dimensional scan of every facet. It is not only the most accurate and critical cut evaluation performed by any gemological laboratory-the real beauty is that the foundational science supporting the system allows it to be applied to a variety of diamond shapes. Already the AGSL is able to provide light performance analysis on princess cuts, ovals, emerald cuts, Asscher, and a variety of specialty cuts. In contrast, the GIA cut grade system is presently limited to round brilliant diamonds.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s research was conducted in Japan culminating with the invention of the Firescope. This ushered in an era of intense interest in round brilliant diamonds cut with superior three dimensional symmetry. When observed with a simple reflector these diamonds exhibit a pattern of 8 arrows when viewed from the top and eight hearts when viewed from the bottom. Thus the term “hearts and arrows diamonds” was born. Using a hearts and arrows viewer to observe a diamond it is possible to make an assessment of its optical symmetry. When a diamond is properly proportioned and all of the facets are precisely aligned in three dimensions, it is perfectly tuned for light performance. Ideal diamonds with hearts and arrows patterning represent the top few percent of all diamonds on the market and display the ultimate in diamond sparkle.
Modern understanding of the extreme importance of diamond cut quality has created demand for ultra precise diamond craftsmanship culminating in the availability of “super ideal diamonds”. A round super ideal such as the A CUT ABOVE® not only has the highest cut grade from the AGSL (Triple Zero), but also exhibits perfect hearts and arrows patterning. These diamonds are capable of drawing light from even the dimmest lighting environments and returning maximum light to the eye in sparkles of flash and fire scintillation. They represent the ultimate combination of extreme precision, proven light performance and extraordinary beauty in a diamond.