What are ‘Hearts & Arrows’ diamonds?

Hearts & Arrows” (H&A) diamonds are cut so precisely that their facet reflections overlap when viewed in a reflective scope. The kaleidoscopic pattern seen face-down in the pavilion resembles “Hearts,” and the pattern seen face-up in the crown resembles “Arrows.” Hearts & Arrows precision is typically associated with Excellent-Ideal cuts of superior quality.

How does a Hearts & Arrows viewer work?

Light entering from above remains white. Light coming from the sides is colored by filament paper (typically red, blue or purple). This creates a structured lighting environment where the primary facet reflections stand out as white against a darker background, permitting analysis.

Hearts & Arrows history

In the 1980s, Japanese diamond cutters were first to produce round brilliant diamonds cut so exactly that their facet reflections overlapped in 3D space, creating consistently shaped patterns when seen through reflecting viewers. Those polishers used “secret recipes” to create the pattern of “Hearts” – a combination of reflections circled in red below – when looking down on the pavilion and “Arrows” – reflections of the eight pavilion-main facets seen through table and bezels – in the crown, when viewed in the table-up position.

The precision and crispness of the patterns relies on precise angles in combination with specific facet length, width and azimuth. The techniques of the first producers spread to other cutting houses and Hearts & Arrows diamonds began appearing on several continents by the mid-1990s.

Hearts & Arrows symbolism

The eight uniform patterns seen in the top and bottom of Hearts & Arrows (H&A) diamonds have a historical association with good fortune and spiritualism. The number eight is considered lucky in Asian culture. The arrows pattern has been compared to the octagram of the I Ching, the Rinbo of Buddhist law and the eight-spoked wheel of Dharma, associated with spiritual perfection in the Buddhist faith.

Regardless of spiritual belief, the achievement of the perfect H&A pattern, painstakingly cut into the world’s hardest substance, can be appreciated by any admirer of structure. In its most fundamental form it symbolizes the diamond cutter’s quest for perfection in precision and ultimate beauty in a diamond.

Do Hearts & Arrows diamonds cost more to produce?

Yes, primarily due to weight loss incurred in refinement. Achieving strong Hearts and Arrows optical-precision is an exacting process. All facets must be aligned in both angle and orientation in a three-dimensional way. It requires better tools, more time and, most notably, more weight loss from the original diamond crystal.  The payoff is the potential to optimize light performance through cut-consistency, when paired with proper angles for light return, and more perceived dispersion, by optimizing the size of the diamond’s internal reflections, or compound mirrors.

Hearts & Arrows standards

A variety of different standards and definitions exist. Some are stricter than others. Moreover, many diamonds produced in modern times show some form of hearts and arrows patterns, simply from good tooling. These diamonds are sometimes nicknamed “Happy Accident” hearts & arrows. They do not have the distinctive crispness and precision of diamonds purposely produced to top levels of 3D optical precision.

IGI is among the world’s only gemological institutes to have established criteria and grading standards for Hearts & Arrows diamonds, featuring authentic images of the pavilion and crown patterns seen in a Hearts & Arrows viewer on the report.

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John Pollard

John Pollard is an educational consultant and subject matter expert for diamond producers, grading laboratories and jewelers in the USA, Europe and Asia. He has lectured for JCK Las Vegas, IGI workshops in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, the American Gem Society in Washington D.C., GIA's Alumni Association and other industry organizations.

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