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Buying a Heart-Cut Diamond

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Hearts are one of the rarest fancy shapes. Only a highly skilled diamond cutter can get their symmetry and proportions just right. Heart shapes make beautiful pendants, but they’ve also become more popular in recent years as engagement ring stones. Let’s take a look at the heart-cut diamond and the one-of-a kind characteristics that might make it the perfect choice for your own ring.
heart-cut diamond engagement ring
Find this Ring at CustomMadeLab-created, heart-cut diamond in a Claddagh-style engagement ring. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

What is a Heart-Cut Diamond?

Heart cuts create diamonds shaped like the traditional symbol of love, an idealized heart. (In other words, a heart cut looks more or less like this: ❤️).

Let’s get familiar with the anatomy of the heart-cut diamond. It consists of seven different parts:

  • Cleft: the point that’s turned inward at the top of the stone.
  • Lobes: the two rounded edges, also at the top of the stone.
  • Belly: the middle of the diamond.
  • Wings: the two sides.
  • Point: the bottom point of the stone.
heart-cut diamond parts
Heart cut, top view (left) and bottom view (right).

Fancy cuts — like hearts as well as ovals, pears, and emeralds — are evaluated differently than ever-popular rounds. Rounds receive cut grades from gemology labs, based on a very detailed, well-established grading system. Fancy cuts or “fancies” don’t. The process is much more subjective, ultimately coming down to the overall appeal of the stone to the customer instead of how close some measurements come to a standard.

Nevertheless, the heart cut is actually a modified brilliant round cut. That means these stones have triangular and kite-shaped facets designed to maximize brilliance and scintillation. As a result, hearts can be very bright and sparkly.

lab-created heart-cut diamond in pave shank
Find this Ring at CustomMadeThis lab-created, heart-cut diamond looks especially bright in a delicate, vining pavé shank. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Are Heart-Cut Diamonds Expensive?

Heart-cut diamonds usually cost about the same as rounds of the same weight. However, they typically cost more than other fancies of the same weight because diamond cutters rarely cut them — and cutting them well can be difficult. In addition, larger stones can show the heart shape more clearly. So, you’ll find more hearts in larger carat weights, which increases their price. (Some smaller hearts may not look heart-shaped at all. They may appear more pear-shaped if placed in a heart-shaped setting).

With hearts, don’t sacrifice the carat or cut in order to save money. If you’re on a tight budget and really want a heart shape, you can compromise in other areas. On the other hand, if you just want to buy a large fancy diamond for less money, you should probably consider ovals or other fancy cuts.

Shopping for lab-created heart diamonds is one way you can save money. Since synthetic crystals can be “made-to-order” in more regular shapes than natural crystals, diamond cutters will waste less rough cutting them. Synthetic rough is also “cleaner,” with none of the flaws that have to be cut out of natural rough. The more rough that cutters can “convert” into sellable finished stones, the less they will cost the consumer.

lab-created heart-cut diamond ring
Find this Ring at CustomMadeA 1.57-ct, lab-created, heart-cut diamond set in a unique partial halo of accent gems. These are the birthstones of the children the couple brought to the new relationship. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Do Heart-Cut Diamonds Have a Bowtie?

Some fancy cuts, like ovals and marquises, show what’s called a bowtie, or dark area, running through the middle of the stone. This occurs when light enters the diamond through the table, the large horizontal facet at the top of the diamond, but isn’t reflected back to the viewer. To some degree, all heart-cut diamonds show this bowtie effect, too, as well as shadowing around the edges.

Some consumers have actually come to appreciate the appearance of bowties in ovals. However, bowties in hearts don’t have quite the same charm. They take attention away from the heart shape itself. Usually, diamond cutters will strive to minimize the bowtie effect by making sure each facet reflects as much light back to the viewer as possible.

If you’re shopping for hearts, examine the stones you’re considering from several angles, either in person or via videos if you’re buying online. Get a good sense of how the bowtie looks before you make any decision.

The bowtie effect is most visible when you’re looking at the diamond from the top, through the table. The first diamond shown here has a minimal bowtie and shadowing, while the second has a conspicuous bowtie. The third one shows considerable shadowing.

How to Shop for a Heart-Cut Diamond

So, what do you need to look for to find a good heart-cut diamond for your engagement ring?

How to Examine a Heart’s Symmetry

Because hearts don’t receive cut grades from gem labs, it’s important for you to decide if you like the shape of a particular stone. Simply put, does it look good to you?

Many factors contribute to the visual appeal of the heart cut, but symmetry plays an especially important role. To judge a heart-cut diamond’s symmetry, draw an imaginary line down the middle of the stone, from the cleft to the point. If the sides of the diamond look like mirror images, then it’s symmetrical.

symmetrical heart

Since the heart shape itself is probably what attracts most consumers to this cut, check the following areas carefully. 

Cleft and Point

Your heart should have a well-defined cleft and point. If the cleft isn’t deep enough, your diamond will look more pear-shaped.

heart-cut diamond - shallow cleft
This heart has a shallow cleft, which makes its shape hard to see. © James Allen. Used with permission.

If the point isn’t pronounced, your heart will look too rounded. This doesn’t mean the point must be “pointy.” You might even prefer a slightly rounded look. However, the point should still clearly divide the diamond into two distinct halves.

heart-cut diamond - no point
The point in this heart is hardly discernible. As a result, the diamond looks somewhat kidney-like. © James Allen. Used with permission.
Lobes and Wings

Make sure the lobes are well-shaped, not too rounded or too pointy. Otherwise, your diamond won’t have a nice heart shape.

heart-cut diamond - pointed lobes
Slightly pointed lobes give this heart a moth-like look. © James Allen. Used with permission.

If the lobes or wings are uneven, the whole stone will look lopsided.

The first stone shown here is symmetrical. The second stone has uneven lobes. (One lobe is wider than the other). The third stone has uneven wings. (One side is rounder than the other).

What’s the Best Length-to-Width Ratio for a Heart-Cut Diamond?

A stone’s length-to-width ratio is a useful bit of information for jewelers as well as consumers. The length of the heart divided by its width (L/W) will indicate how thick or thin your stone appears when viewed from the top. Both brick-and-mortar jewelers and online vendors should provide this information. Blue Nile even lets you specify L/W values when you search their inventory online.

For a heart-cut diamond, the L/W value should be as close to 1.00 as possible. According to Blue Nile, the traditional L/W range for hearts is from 0.90 to 1.10. Stones beyond those ranges may look too broad or too narrow. (Stones with a L/W below 1.00 will look wider. Those with a L/W higher than 1.00 will look thinner). Of course, you’ll have to judge for yourself what kind of heart shape looks best to you.

These heart-cut diamonds have L/W values that range from 0.70 to 1.10. Which appeals most to you?

How Do You Measure a Heart-Cut Diamond?

For diamonds, the length of the heart is usually measured as the distance from the point to the topmost part of the cleft end. The width is usually measured as the distance between the widest part of the lobes.

heart-cut diamond - length and width
Standard length and width dimensions for heart cuts.

However, be aware that some vendors, including James Allen, will treat the “length” as the longest dimension, whether it’s the actual length or the width. As a result, all their L/W values for hearts will be 1.00 or higher.

If you find a heart that’s wider than its L/W value would indicate, check the actual dimensions your vendor lists for the stone. If it’s still not clear to you how the L/W was determined, speak to the vendor.

heart-cut diamond - wide
A length of 5.44 mm and a width of 6.83 mm means this heart has a L/W of 0.80. However, James Allen lists it with a L/W of 1.26. © James Allen. Used with permission.

How Do You Examine a Heart-Shaped Cut?

Hearts don’t receive cut grades from gem labs, so you’ll have to rely on your own two eyes to determine if the cut looks good.

Watch How Your Heart-Cut Diamond Performs

Since a heart cut is actually a modified brilliant round cut, it should reflect as much light as possible back to the viewer.

Move your diamond in the light (or use the magnified videos of diamonds on sites like James Allen and Blue Nile) and watch for three things:

  • Brilliance: how the diamond reflects white light, “brightness.”
  • Scintillation: how the diamond sparkles, the contrast between light and dark points.
  • Dispersion: how the diamond breaks up light into many colors within the stone, its “fire.”

Look for a diamond that shows the brightness, sparkle, and fire that you want. 

Ask Your Jeweler About Total Depth Percentage and Table Width

A heart cut too deep or too shallow won’t reflect light back to the viewer. Instead, it’ll throw light downward or off to the side. This will make the stone look dull.

If you’re shopping in person, ask your jeweler or staff gemologist for the heart’s total depth percentage and table width. (If you’re shopping online, read the diamond description or contact one of the site’s online experts). These measurements can give you some indication of how well the diamond will perform. According to DiamondPro, you should search for hearts with depths between 56 and 66% and table widths between 56 and 62%. (Please note, the DiamondPro depth recommendation is broader than the IGS general recommendation of 57 to 63%. However, remember that fancies aren’t graded to the same exacting cut standards as rounds. Judge the performance of the stone for yourself).

Blue Nile lets you enter ranges for total depth and table width when you search their inventory online.

What’s the Best Carat Weight for a Heart-Cut Diamond?

Although people may refer to carat as a measure of a diamond’s size, it actually refers to the diamond’s weight. Of course, “heavier” diamonds are usually bigger in size, too.

For engagement rings, a one-carat diamond has become the standard. That’s a good lower limit for a heart cut, too. However, larger diamonds — whether rounds or fancies — cost more.

Try to choose a heart that’s at least one carat in weight. You’ll probably have a hard time distinguishing the cleft in anything smaller. As a result, heart shapes will generally look less defined at smaller weights.

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See all heart shaped diamonds at…

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What’s the Best Clarity for a Heart-Cut Diamond?

Make sure to review the lab report of any diamond you’re thinking of buying. You won’t find a cut grade, but you will find the diamond’s clarity grade. All diamonds, whether fancy or round, should have a clarity grade.

A diamond’s clarity grade doesn’t just refer to its transparency. It also specifies the type, size, and number of imperfections on its surface as well as inside, such as tiny bits of minerals and even air bubbles that formed within the diamond itself. These are called inclusions. Larger, darker, and/or more numerous flaws will result in a lower clarity grade.

Choose an Eye-Clean Stone

Clarity grades for diamonds in the GIA system, the most widely used system, range from “Flawless” (F) to “Included” (I), with several grades in between. Some grades even have numbered subdivisions. Higher numbers mean a higher grade.

A diamond doesn’t have to be graded Flawless to be beautiful. After all, gemologists grade these diamonds under 10X magnification. Instead of looking for a heart-cut diamond with a high clarity grade, look for one that’s eye-clean. That means it has no flaws visible to the naked eye. It may take some searching, but you can even go down as low as an SI1 clarity grade and still find an eye-clean diamond. (And the lower the clarity grade, the lower the price).

“Internally Flawless” (IF) is the second highest clarity grade for a diamond. An IF stone, like the one shown here, has blemishes only on its surface. On the other hand, an SI1 grade is on the lower end of the clarity scale. However, the SI1 diamond shown here only has very small, light-colored inclusions under the table. It will most likely look eye-clean in a ring and also costs about $3,200 less than the IF stone.

Do Hearts Have Lower Clarity Than Other Diamond Cuts?

Larger diamonds tend to show inclusions more easily. So, if you’re shopping for hearts one carat or larger, you’re likely to encounter stones with eye-visible inclusions. However, there are ways to hide flaws in heart cuts.

First, brilliant cuts can hide flaws easily in the many reflections of their facets. Fortunately, hearts are cut in a brilliant style. Second, flaws in the outer edges of a diamond can be hidden in the setting. A well-placed prong or a bevel setting can cover obvious flaws.

Most importantly, avoid stones with large, numerous, or dark inclusions under the table. Smaller or light-colored inclusions in this area will be harder to see when you view the diamond from a normal viewing distance, about six inches from your eyes.

If you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, make sure the jeweler shows you the diamond under magnification as well as from different angles and distances. If you’re shopping online, use viewing tools and magnified videos to examine the stone.

What’s the Best Color for Heart-Cut Diamonds?

If you’re looking for significant savings on a heart, compromising on color is a good choice. Of course, that’s assuming you’re staying with white or colorless diamonds, the kind most commonly used for engagement rings.

Color Grades

All colorless diamonds receive a color grade. Stones that come closest to colorless get a D, the highest grade. Stones with slight yellow or brown tints get letter grades that go further down the alphabet as they show more color, all the way to Z.

Fancy colored diamonds, like pinks or blues, have a different grading system and cost far more than their colorless counterparts. (Just to clarify, a fancy cut diamond can be fancy colored or colorless. They’re just two different uses of the term “fancy”). Lady Gaga’s fancy pink-colored, heart-cut diamond engagement ring caused quite a stir in 2015.

heart-cut diamond - fancy pink
Even with very light, but natural, color, this 6.01-ct heart-cut pink diamond commands a very high price. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Bid Global International Auctioneers.

For a colorless heart-cut diamond, you can find stones with color grades as low as H that will still appear white. However, keep in mind that stones larger than one carat will show more color. Therefore, the larger the heart, the higher the color grade you should consider. As a type of brilliant cut, hearts will showcase brilliance instead of color, so they actually hide color better than some other fancy shapes. However, brilliant rounds will still hide color better than hearts.

Color Grades D Through H

Differences in color grades can be difficult to detect, especially between adjacent grades. This becomes even more difficult when stones are set. However, you’ll find noticeable increases in prices as color grades get higher. All these 1-ct heart-cut diamonds have SI1 clarity grades, but their colors go from D to H.

Choosing a Setting for Your Heart-Cut Diamond

The right engagement ring setting can enhance both the brilliance and color of your diamond as well as protect it. It can also help define and emphasize the shape of a smaller heart.

heart-cut diamond in Celtic setting
Find this Ring at CustomMadeThis heart-shaped, Claddagh-inspired Celtic setting beautifully frames the 0.70-ct heart-cut diamond. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Solitaire Settings

If you like the classic solitaire arrangement, a four-prong setting will let more light reach your stone. This will help maximize the brilliance of the heart-cut diamond. A six-prong setting will let less light in, but it’s a more secure setting. Of course, a solitaire bezel setting will provide the most protection but allows far less light to enter the diamond. On the other hand, it can help hide inclusions on the edges of the stone, too.

Multi-Stone Settings

A classic halo setting will surround your center stone with smaller diamonds. This will not only add elegance and sparkle but also make the center diamond appear larger. (That’s especially helpful if you have a heart-cut diamond smaller than one carat).

A three-stone setting will also help the center stone appear larger. Two smaller side stones, either diamonds or colored gemstones, are placed on either side of the heart. If the side stones have non-heart shapes, this can also help emphasize the heart shape of the center stone.

heart-cut diamond - infinity ring
Find this Ring at Custom MadeThis three-stone infinity ring holds a round ruby and pearl next to a 0.46-ct heart-cut diamond. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

If you choose a three-stone, halo, pavé, or any other setting that places stones next to your heart, make sure their colors match. At the very least, don’t use side stones with higher color grades than the center stone. Otherwise, your ring might have a very non-harmonious appearance.

D color heart-cut diamond halo and pave ring
Find this Ring at CustomMadeD-color, heart-cut diamond center stone with a channel-set halo and pavé band. The diamond colors work together wonderfully. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Protect the Point

Whatever setting you choose, make sure the point of the heart is well-protected. This is the area most vulnerable to damage if it strikes a hard surface. Although diamonds are famously resistant to scratching, they can still fracture or chip if struck hard enough. Unprotected points can also catch on clothing or other objects. You can learn more about protective ring settings here.

V-shaped prong - heart-cut diamond ring
A V-shaped prong provides great protection for the point of this heart-cut diamond. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Conestoga Auction Company Division of Hess Auction Group.

Choosing a Metal Color for Your Engagement Ring

You can make your heart-cut diamond appear whiter than its color grade may indicate by choosing the right metal for your ring.

White Gold

Stones with high color grades, from colorless (D through F) to near-colorless (G through J) will look their whitest in platinum and white gold settings. However, check any I or J color hearts carefully against white metal to see how the individual stone appears.

G color heart-cut diamond - platinum
The G color, heart-cut diamond center stone looks colorless in this platinum ring. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Jasper52.
Yellow Gold

Stones with mid-range color grades (K though M) will actually look whiter in a yellow gold setting than in a white gold setting. (A white metal setting will just accentuate their yellow tints). Stones with higher color grades may look white in yellow gold if the setting uses white metal prongs.

yellow gold ring with white prongs - heart-cut diamond
White prongs help this G-I color heart-cut diamond look colorless in a yellow gold setting. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and DuMouchelles.
Rose Gold

You’ll have to check an individual stone against a rose gold setting to see how it appears. Usually, D through F grades will look off-color in rose gold. Colors from G through M may either appear whiter or take on a deeper color. White prongs might help stones with higher color grades appear whiter in rose gold, while rose color prongs may help stones with lower colors appear whiter in rose gold.

Where Should I Buy a Heart-Cut Diamond?

Since heart-cut diamonds don’t receive cut grades from gem labs, you simply must examine these stones in person or through an online vendor that provides tools and videos for you to view them in 360°. Both Blue Nile and James Allen make it possible for you to view your diamond this way. Their online tools will also help you examine a stone’s shape, clarity, and color.

If you want something unique, the experts at CustomMade will not only work with you to design the engagement ring but also help you source the perfect heart-cut diamond for your project.

toi et moi ring - heart-cut diamond and garnet
Find thie Ring at CustomMadeCustom-made two stone, “toi et moi,” ring with a heart-cut garnet and diamond. © CustomMade. Used with permission.