ideal cut vs. best cut?

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Dec 14, 2002
Hey y''all,

We''ve finally decided on a setting, and are now trying to find the perfect stone. We''ve looked at several internet sites for the stone and are wondering about the cut. For example, Dirt Cheap Diamonds differentiates by "Hearts and Arrows Ideal Cut" and "Best Cut." What is visually the difference between these two? Is it noticeable? Is it worth saving ~$700 to go for "Best Cut" instead of "Ideal Cut"? The explanation of a "Best Cut" on the web site says:

Best Diamonds on Paper
These diamonds have been grouped together because they represent diamonds that have been cut to maximize light return over all other factors. Round diamonds in this group have Polish and Symmetry ratings of either "Very Good" or "Excellent". Regardless of shape, all of the diamonds in this category represent the finest cuts available, regardless of cost.

Does that mean that it''s an ideal cut without the hearts and arrows?

I guess I''m asking if anyone has seen both of these cuts and can explain what they saw as the difference.

Thanks! This forum has been incredibly helpful.



Jan 19, 2003
I've been wondering the same thing - what is the difference between "Ideal" and "Best" cut? Is it worth the price difference?



Dec 9, 2002

I think you should never buy a diamond because the seller is telling you
it's an "Ideal", a "best cut", or anything. Remember that the term "Ideal" is loose
and can be applied by anyone to any type of diamond, well cut or not.
However, major part of the industry recognize that some specific features
make a beautiful diamond. You can find them in tutorials like the one
here on So for a particular stone, you'll need to
get as much info as you can, at least a certificate (GIA, AGS,...)
and if you can a Sarin report AND an independant appraisal.
Also, go see some diamonds and COMPARE. You'll find what you
like the most then decide on a specific stone.



Dec 28, 2002
It's worth noting that the "best" cut for a diamond is actually a pretty subjective thing, and as such is going to be impossible to achieve in practice. Some people like a lot of brilliance (white light return), some people like more fire (spectral dispersion of colored light), and just about everybody likes scintillation (the flashing or sparkling "on-off-on" effect of the diamond when it or the light source is moved). The problem is, monkeying with the proportions/angles/facet arrangements of a diamond affects all three of these dynamics, and while one method of cutting might increase the brilliance of a stone, it could very well negatively impact another aspect of the stone's performance.

The "ideal cut" that we all hear about today attempts to find a reasonable mix between these three main factors that people think of when they talk about diamond "performance." Many people have tried to determine what proportions yield the best mix, but easily the most famous of these efforts was undertaken by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. He used mathematics and observation (purportedly including asking individuals in the streets to rate the appearance of various diamonds) to develop a formula for what he considered the "ideal cut" diamond. This system, although modified somewhat over the years, remains the foundation for modern diamond design. Tolkowsky was apparently a pretty bright guy, as the "best" diamonds currently available are typically close to his criteria, but many other potential combinations of proportions can also yield a stunning diamond.

"Hearts and Arrows" is the result of cutting a diamond extremely symmetrically, with precise facet alignment. Although the marketing dollars thrown at the cut would say otherwise, I think it's important to remember that an H&A cut is only a definitive indicator of the overall symmetry of the diamond's facets, and doesn't always mean it's a well-proportioned diamond. In my experience H&As typically are also very well proportioned (probably due to the fact that a cutter who puts the level of craftsmanship required into producing an H&A will also go to the trouble of making sure the proportions/angles are ideal as well), but the H&A pattern by itself isn't a concrete indicator of brilliance/fire/scintillation.

DirtCheapDiamonds (DCD) is making a judgment call in their classification of certain diamonds as "the best cut," using maximum light return as their criteria (according to their site). Light return is certainly one of the more common factors used by many companies to determine the "quality" of a diamond (just look at EightStar, which uses light return as their guiding principle when cutting diamonds), but many different ideas exist of what a truly beautiful stone is. As long as humans are the judges there will be no real "best" cut for a diamond, but there will be many attempts to pitch a certain cut as the best.

Reading DCD's descriptions of their different classifications from their website, I wonder if they're really examining the stones to determine if they are cut for maximum brilliance or if they're just using the information from the lab reports. That "best diamonds on paper" line could be pretty meaningless, especially if the "paper" is a GIA report (which, although from the premier grading lab, contains none of the angle information that can be so important to performance). If they're just using the polish/symmetry information from the reports (as the website description may be saying) then I would use caution when choosing a diamond from them. Polish and symmetry is a factor, but both of those can be "excellent" on paper but still be attached to a stone that doesn't perform very well. The symmetry rating is especially confusing for a lot of people since it's easy to mistake "excellent symmetry" with "excellent proportions," which are two completely different things.

In the end, as much as it would be nice to be able to just buy a great diamond by looking at a vendor's "best cut" collection, it is typically still in the buyer's best interest to do the research and learn what it takes to make a diamond really perform well. Then again, that's one of the great things about Pricescope and other Internet destinations -- There are lots of people to help you along the way!

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