The Ultimate Guide to Hearts and Arrows Diamonds

The term Hearts and Arrows (H&A) is by now familiar to many diamond shoppers. Originally introduced by Japanese gemologists and diamond merchants, H&A diamonds are increasingly appreciated worldwide. More diamond cutters are aiming for H&A precision today than ever before. Because the craftsmanship of hearts and arrows requires more skill, more time, and more rough material, H&A diamonds are more costly to produce and therefore command a premium in the marketplace. In this article we will explain the benefits of hearts and arrows diamonds.
Vatche 191 Swan Solitaire Engagement Ring
Vatche 191 Swan Solitaire Engagement Ring

What are Hearts and Arrows Diamonds?

Round brilliant diamonds that are cut to proper proportions and crafted with a high degree of facet precision will exhibit a sharp pattern of eight arrows in the face-up view and eight small hearts from pavilion view. The hearts and arrows viewer, a simple reflector tool, is required to see the patterns clearly. (For technical details see our article on how hearts and arrows are formed.)
Ideal Round Diamond Hearts
Precision Hearts
Ideal Round Diamond Ideal Scope
Precision Arrows
Apart from the fun of looking at the diamond through a fancy gizmo and the romantic notion that the diamond is full of tiny hearts, there is a real benefit of H&A patterning to the consumer. And that benefit comes in the form of light performance that is maximized by the precise alignment of the facets which form the system of tiny mirrors that refract and reflect light to the eye of the observer.

What Makes Hearts and Arrows Diamonds Special?

By aligning the facets precisely in three dimensions the cutter achieves what is known as optical symmetry. (In order to eliminate confusion with the “meet point” symmetry graded on lab reports, we prefer to use the term “optical precision”). Cutting to a high level of optical precision maximizes the light handling potential of the facet arrangement.
High Precision Diamond
High Precision Diamond
Ordinary Diamond Cut
Ordinary Diamond Cut
A diamond can be thought of as a tiny sculpture of mirrors. Each of these tiny mirrors has a specific job to do. With all facets positioned in exactly the right places and at the right angles to bounce light internally to other facets or out of the stone and back to the eye, the whole system is optimized for light performance.

Optimization of Virtual Facets by Precision Faceting

While a polished diamond’s form and construction is defined by its physical facets, light performance is a result of what are known as “virtual facets”. When a well cut diamond is observed in real life hundreds of tiny sparkles can be seen, even though the standard round brilliant has only 57 facets. Because a single facet is capable of reflecting light from multiple light sources, the collective impact of all of these virtual facets is what actually determines the dynamic beauty of a diamond.
Virtual Facets
Virtual Facets (image courtesy of AGSL)
The round brilliant design has enjoyed dominant popularity because of its capability for superb brightness and its balanced mix of both small glittering virtual facets and bold flashy ones. In order for the combination of virtual facets prescribed by the facet arrangement to be optimized, facet precision and optical symmetry must be maximized.

Faceting Precision and Fire

Brilliance can be thought of as a combination of brightness and dynamic contrast causing the diamond’s system of tiny mirrors to blink on and off. This scintillation is composed of both white and colored sparkles. The prismatic effect resulting in colored sparkles is known as “fire” and is one of the most magical aspects of diamond beauty. The ability to produce fire is highly dependent on the diamond’s cut quality. Ideal proportions and finish, combined with top levels optical precision, result in the best possible mix and sequencing of white flashes and colored flares. In the video below, the A CUT ABOVE®  super ideal on the left can be observed producing singificantly more fire than the GIA Triple Excellent cut on the right. 

Human Perception and Hearts and Arrows Patterning

Human vision has evolved to be selective for patterns. We make sense of the world around us by recognizing patterns. When we derive patterns from the visual information we see, we gain understanding. With understanding comes confidence and comfort. Hence, well defined patterns tend to be more comprehensible and pleasing to the eye than chaotic visuals. The very definition of symmetry implies beauty:
Symmetry (from Greek συμμετρία symmetria "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance.
Round Diamond Ideal Scope
Round Diamond Hearts
The Beauty of Perfect Symmetry
Round Diamond
According to studies done at Stanford University, “symmetry is a one of the most perceptually salient properties of visual images. Because of this, symmetry has been a recurring feature in art, architecture and other artifacts of human construction for centuries.”
Symmetrical patterns in diamonds, including the right amounts and distribution of contrast, give rise to appealing on/off sparkle patterns. While scintillation as a key ingredient in diamond light performance is not yet fully understood, it is clear that precise patterning enhances the appearance of brilliance and fire.

Hearts and Arrows Patterning and Super Ideal Diamonds

Although there is a tendency to equate Hearts and Arrows patterning with Ideal diamonds, the two do not always go hand in hand. It is possible to cut a diamond with optical precision while failing to proportion the diamond for optimal light return. For instance, it is quite possible to have hearts and arrows patterning in a diamond that suffers from light leakage. Similarly, it is possible to cut a diamond to ideal proportions and parameters without the level of optical precision necessary to create a distinct hearts and arrows pattern.
Diamonds that feature both top light performance and precision patterning are generally referred to as “super ideal diamonds”. However, not all super ideals are created equal. For instance, A CUT ABOVE® Hearts and Arrows Diamonds require the most stringent set of criteria in the industry requiring not only a Triple Ideal certificate from AGSL and perfect hearts and arrows patterning, but must also pass a rigorous inspection for additional qualifications and specifications.
Round diamonds in our Expert Selection category also feature hearts and arrows patterning as well as the top grades for cut quality from AGS. Diamonds in this category narrowly missed A CUT ABOVE for technical reasons, and while these diamonds are comparable to what other merchants sell as super ideal, we reserve that term for our A CUT ABOVE® brand.
Our Premium Select category features hearts and arrows diamonds with GIA Triple Ex reports.  They are diamonds of premium cut quality with proven optical precision in an otherwise broad GIA Triple Ex grade.


Hearts and Arrows patterning is visual evidence of high precision diamond craftsmanship. Facets must be in alignment in 3 dimensions in order for a diamond to exhibit a distinct H&A pattern. Proportions also matter in terms of determining whether the diamond has light performance deficits, with or without high levels of optical symmetry. Not all H&A diamonds are Ideal. Diamonds that feature both ideal light performance and top levels of optical symmetry can legitimately be called “super ideal”. A super ideal can be thought of as a diamond that not only has a powerful engine, but it also perfectly tuned.
It is widely understood that cut quality has a greater impact on diamond beauty than any other aspect in gem diamonds. Proper proportioning and precision faceting are therefore critical to getting full value from a diamond purchase.
Learn more in our series on Hearts and Arrows Diamonds:
Benefits of Hearts and Arrows (this article)

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