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Super-ideal, historical perspective

Paul-Antwerp

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Seeing how many posters try to define ‘super-ideal’ here, I think some historical perspective might help. Pricescope has nearly a 20 year history, preceded by another forum some years prior. Luckily, I have been active on these very early on. Seeing how a certain term pops up with its definition gradually changing is very interesting.

So, for the start of the term ‘super-ideal’ on these forums we need to go back to the end of the last century. At the time, GIA did not have a cut-grade at all. AGS had started a lab in 1996, and there being a meaningful cut-grade with the top-grade of Ideal, caused a certain popularity of the new lab on the forums.

However, that first version of the AGS cut-grade was still 2-dimensional, leading to a rectangular Ideal-box on a PA-CA-chart. This led to division of cut-quality-followers into two groups:

- An industry-inclined group of professionals, used to selling cert-results, aiming to simply obtain the minimum of the AGS-Ideal grade.

- A more consumer-oriented group of professionals (including some specializing retailers who were very present on internet forums) seeking pavilion-angle and crown-angles to be complementary.

Both of these groups claimed to sell Ideals. But there was a rift between the industry-inclined group, who could find their interpretation of ‘Ideal’ with relative frequency, and the consumer-oriented group, who had a narrower range of ‘Ideal’, harder to obtain.

Out of the realization that not all Ideals were clearly equal, the term super-ideal originated. At the time, H&A was not a factor in calling a round diamond super-ideal. Somewhat to the contrary even, the main company in the US which created awareness for H&A, also used AGSL as their lab, but while producing somewhat of a H&A-pattern, they did not necessarily avoid the steep-deep-area of AGS-Ideal.

Next steps, AGSL totally overhauled their cut-grading-system in 2005 making it 3-dimensional. But before that could really sink-in, GIA launched their 2-dimensional proportions grade in 2006, taking into account in a very broad way the complimentary workings of pavilion and crown angles.

Suddenly, the old references to super-ideal were not correct anymore. But still, even within the new 2005 AGS-Ideal-grade, there were various levels of performance. Not to mention the new 2006 GIA-EX-grade was/is extremely liberal and wide. And here, especially, the long-standing HCA immediately contradicted much of the new GIA EX range, leading to new arguments among the industry-inclined pros versus the consumer-oriented pros. All this noise resulted in consumer regulars needing to invent some patchwork 2-dimensional ‘shortcuts’ in their communications to new posters.

Anyway, regardless of how one tries to define ‘super-ideal’ today, I think it is important to understand where the term originated.

Personally, I am not a fan of such categorizations. I understand the desire to simplify and especially to identify diamonds not making the ‘category’. But on the flip-side, every categorization also creates a race to the bottom of that category by many in the industry. It happened with the original 2-dimensional Ideal-grade of AGS. It is happening with the EX-grade of GIA. It is happening with the current Ideal-grade of AGS. I see it as a natural consequence of a method to categorize becoming popular.

Live long,
 

Karl_K

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The PS super-ideal standard evolve over time.
It came to mean a diamond that passes at a high level on every valid test thrown at it.
Which tests are considered valid has also changed over time with the pixel counters like gemex falling by the wayside.
Ray tracing is a test that came into popularity with the AGSL revised grading system.
There has always been different levels of ideal and super-ideal.
 

Paul-Antwerp

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Hi Karl,

You mentioning evolution in the way diamonds are categorized is interesting. You are correct, though, the assessment is a process constantly evolving, with regularly erupting new realizations.

On the other hand, the way light interacts with a diamond does not change over time. And the way cutters can control the cutting-process in order to create the best cut-quality also has not changed a lot over the past two decades.

The question then becomes: in the current way of categorizing cut-assessment, did we reach the end of the evolution, and is there nothing more to know, nothing new to find out?

Clearly, what a lab called 'Ideal' 20 years ago has changed and has become more refined? Will that happen again?
Clearly, what the forums called 'Super-ideal' 20 years ago has changed and has become more refined? Will that happen again?

Live long,
 

OoohShiny

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The question then becomes: in the current way of categorizing cut-assessment, did we reach the end of the evolution, and is there nothing more to know, nothing new to find out?

Clearly, what a lab called 'Ideal' 20 years ago has changed and has become more refined? Will that happen again?
Clearly, what the forums called 'Super-ideal' 20 years ago has changed and has become more refined? Will that happen again?
If we assume the status quo remains in terms of grading criteria (i.e. AGS ray-tracing / ASET modelling and AGS000 being the desirable target), I guess the question is whether we are tilting at an acceptable 'SuperIdeal' range narrowing to one particular combination of parameters or one small range of parameters, given the narrowing of the focus over the previous years?

Given diamonds cannot be cookie-cutter exact because each rough responds slightly differently to cutting, I would have thought that it would be impossible to define just one particular combination of angles and measurements, so a range would still be required!

Does this mean that more and more 'SuperIdeal' stones will be cut in 'the race to the bottom' that occurs when a new target is set that enables added 'kudos' and therefore potentially higher profit margins? I don't know... Arguably the profit margins may actually be slimmer on SuperIdeals because of the increased time needed to cut to the level of accuracy required and the need to pay for the extra rough that is lost, so will it be an attractive option to most cutters/cutting houses? I'm all for more beautiful stones being cut but I'm not sure if cutting houses are willing to invest the extra time - I reference the 80/20 rule and all that!


I think the point about the changing assessment criteria is also an interesting one - would AGS need to add another criterion to their grading reports to identify/distinguish AGS000 being cut to SuperIdeal standards with 3D facet/light performance in mind? (AGS0000? lol)

Or if Serg's continuing work gains an increased foothold, would a currently undetermined 'beauty' factor also need to be added to reports?


The future is indeed an unknown, but I like to think that the demanding audience of Pricescope would be able to influence diamond cutting development in a positive way! :))
 

Karl_K

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The question then becomes: in the current way of categorizing cut-assessment, did we reach the end of the evolution, and is there nothing more to know, nothing new to find out?
There is always new things to learn but cut grading has killed the desire to do much of it.
Even Serg has abandoned much of it.
To be honest I dont feel the modern ideal cut will get any further refined than the best available today.
However eventually if history is an indication the changes in lighting will drive a slow change of what is considered ideal away from the modern ideal cut as we know it today.

Right now the most money with salability is in gaming gia EX cut grade to get more respected numbers on the report with wide ranging angles and twisted lowers.
 
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OoohShiny

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There is always new things to learn but cut grading has killed the desire to do much of it.
Even Serg has abandoned much of it.

To be honest I dont feel the modern ideal cut will get any further refined than the best available today.
However eventually if history is an indication the changes in lighting will drive a slow change of what is considered ideal away from the modern ideal cut as we know it today.

Right now the most money with salability is in gaming gia EX cut grade to get more respected numbers on the report with wide ranging angles and twisted lowers.
On the first point in bold, I wonder if MMDs will reignite the desire/ability to experiment because rough will be so much cheaper to buy? (That is if I understand the relative costs of MMD vs Mined rough, which I may not...)

On the second point, I know we can't predict the future but I can't imagine what changes there will be! A shift to LED lighting must be changing perception of body colour (because more blue light component means tint is more obvious when compared to yellower incandescent light?) and dispersion (in as much as the white light components must be different from incandescent light, therefore the coloured fans may have a wider range of colours?) but either way, I do hope that we retain point-source lighting and don't move to some funky panel lighting that gives a wall of light but no distinct point-source.
 

Karl_K

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panel lighting that gives a wall of light but no distinct point-source.
That is the way it is going to go in the long term.

Right now heavily diffused led and cfl lighting are very flat compared to older lighting.
It is also a different color which is actualy good as the blueish tint hides yellow diamond color.
cfl.jpg
 

Paul-Antwerp

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Thank you for the replies, OoohShiny and Karl. I guess you are missing my point. The distinction I am trying to make is:

The ability to assess, with online tools, has evolved over the years, with clear examples in the last two decades. This evolution inevitably has led to a race-to-the-bottom, with most of the supply concentrated at the 'just good enough to reach the new grade'. Whether that grade was a lab-grade or a convention amongst forum-regulars is immaterial, the process is the same.

The ability to cut the highest cut-quality diamonds has not changed during the same period.

Given that the past has taught us that what was considered the absolutely best assessment-method 15 years ago does not suffice today, can we conclude that this evolution did not reach its end yet? In case you doubt, my personal point-of-view is that even within the strictest assessment-criteria, layman consumers can still identify clear and repeatable preferences.

Live long,
 

Texas Leaguer

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The simplest accurate definition of the term 'super ideal' is an ideal cut diamond that is subjected to additional tests and must meet criteria over and above what it takes to get a grade of ideal from the lab.

In the evolution of the super ideal niche, this was largely based on 3D faceting precision as seen in reflector devices (hearts and arrows).

The specifics of what is meant by 'super ideal' varies by merchant and even by merchant category. But it may or may not be possible to fully understand all the specifications and requirements for the designation in the case of merchants who do not publish their qualifications.

Our particular definition has evolved over time as we have gradually tightened requirements for our top brand. For instance, we no longer allow a stone with a chip, scratch or an extra facet. These features may not result in appreciable light performance deficits, but we feel a finely crafted, precision cut diamond should be free of such things. And, something very relevant to light performance, we no longer allow any diamond in our top brand that is found to have any clarity characteristic that appreciably diminishes light return. It is not just craftsmanship that shoppers are looking for it is net light performance!

By some definition all our in-house categories contain 'super ideals' since even our Premium Select category of GIA Triple Ex contain diamonds exhibiting high 3d precision and have performance images that indicate the potential to attain AGS Ideal grades.

The term 'super ideal' is a little like 'eye clean'. It depends on how the merchant actually defines the term, and that can sometimes vary from merchant to merchant.

Will the concept of super ideal continue to evolve? I firmly believe it will. Especially as new ways of analyzing light performance are developed and as new cuts and facet arrangements are brought to market. A certain segment of the consumer market is always looking for "the best of the best".
 

Garry H (Cut Nut)

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I am very positive about the new advances in removing negatives.

(That reads pretty well I think)
Some issues yet to be resolved:
1. transparency of the diamond material
2. solving the issue of Fluorescence being bad (it is a good think now)
3. new techniques for polishing better like water cooled devices to stop metal expansion, wobbling polishing wheels and all sorts of other new developments.
4. not super relevant to supa dupa ordeals, but my own soon to be launched addition to hCA - Looks Like size
I welcome additions to this list (or criticisms)
 

Karl_K

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Garry,
1: Is being addressed by the stocking super-ideal vendor vetting stones. Still an issue for virtual stones and some of the larger vendors who do not vet the stones to the level of the specialty vendors.
2: yes more work needs to be done there both on research and education.
3: advances in tools and process can make it easier to cut ideal cuts but the same can be used to game the systems like intentionally cut wide ranging pavilion angles and twisted lowers that is going on now.
4: some level of look like size will soon be declared ideal.
 

Karl_K

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The biggest danger of the idea of ideal and super-ideal is if does not evolve.
Lighting changes are here and are only going to get more so.
We could reach a point where the ideal and super-ideals of today are no longer ideal for the lighting conditions of the day.
 

Garry H (Cut Nut)

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The biggest danger of the idea of ideal and super-ideal is if does not evolve.
Lighting changes are here and are only going to get more so.
We could reach a point where the ideal and super-ideals of today are no longer ideal for the lighting conditions of the day.
Then shallow big table BIC's will rule! And they look bigger.
Re your earlier post Karl - point 1. there does need to be a scale and scientific system for transparency - even the best of us are not digital machines. If black = 0 to 10 and milky white is 50, then how can Paul or WF claim all their soupy doopy orwelian cuts are 99 to 100?
 

diagem

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We know how to produce such superb super-doopers but we are a long (long) way from knowing how to market them accordingly.

I believe @OooShiny mentioned it rightfully above in her post.

As long as selling diamonds is a race to the bottom literally (no pun intended), and as long as most vendors (in the world! Not necessarily just on PS) are busy marketing their diamonds as “the lowest available...” then I wouldn’t expect any changes. Evolution in the diamond cutting history in general has been moving forward very slowly, maybe a bit faster in the last two decades because of new technologies entering, but who knows, maybe we are entering a phase of lost decades.
 

diagem

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- cut or diamonds ?

I am seeing your beginning of an answer: WWW

Obviously, these are not pearls for which finding is art enough.
Diamonds in general but more specifically cuts, we spend so much time and energy perfecting the craft and at the end, we market those extreme cuts just like every other diamond seller. same names, same imaging, same video's same, same and again same.

We have not yet figured out a way to differentiate super dupers from the rest of the crowd. We also dont have unique identities for our super dupers (or is it super Ideals?) which is for an entirely different thread.
 

AV_

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@diagem 'The same' - is hardly to wish for.

I am often intrigued by how beautiful objects are signed or not, and what is in these names. I can only immagine that you also have made a few things that you'd want your name on. The likes of yours truly might a well wish for a taste - which is not anything to measure, of course.

(more talking to myself!)
 

Paul-Antwerp

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We know how to produce such superb super-doopers but we are a long (long) way from knowing how to market them accordingly.

I believe @OooShiny mentioned it rightfully above in her post.

As long as selling diamonds is a race to the bottom literally (no pun intended), and as long as most vendors (in the world! Not necessarily just on PS) are busy marketing their diamonds as “the lowest available...” then I wouldn’t expect any changes. Evolution in the diamond cutting history in general has been moving forward very slowly, maybe a bit faster in the last two decades because of new technologies entering, but who knows, maybe we are entering a phase of lost decades.
Hi Yoram,

We are on the same page, not surprisingly. It is the double-edged sword of categorization.

Sure, we like there being cut-grades at labs, for instance. It makes part of our communication so much easier. But there is a flip-side. If the categorization (for instance of a lab's cut-grade) becomes accepted, cutting-houses in general tend to cut towards the minimum requirements of that category. See for instance the cutting of steep/deep in the old AGS-system or in the current GIA-system.

See also the abundance of diamonds just reaching a weight of 1 Ct. It is because the categorization into Rapaport size-brackets creates huge benefit to just be within the 1Ct-category, and not below it. Let's hope that Garry's initiative with relation to apparent size will help attacking that one.

In that sense, every categorization also is a burden in marketing a product better than the minimum requirements of a category. This makes me relatively skeptical about simplifying categories, also the category of 'super-ideal'.

Live long,
 

Texas Leaguer

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Hi Yoram,

We are on the same page, not surprisingly. It is the double-edged sword of categorization.

Sure, we like there being cut-grades at labs, for instance. It makes part of our communication so much easier. But there is a flip-side. If the categorization (for instance of a lab's cut-grade) becomes accepted, cutting-houses in general tend to cut towards the minimum requirements of that category. See for instance the cutting of steep/deep in the old AGS-system or in the current GIA-system.

See also the abundance of diamonds just reaching a weight of 1 Ct. It is because the categorization into Rapaport size-brackets creates huge benefit to just be within the 1Ct-category, and not below it. Let's hope that Garry's initiative with relation to apparent size will help attacking that one.

In that sense, every categorization also is a burden in marketing a product better than the minimum requirements of a category. This makes me relatively skeptical about simplifying categories, also the category of 'super-ideal'.

Live long,
Agree Paul. Categorization is a double-edged sword.

Consumers want ratings to base their decision-making on. Much more so today than ever before with the rise of information technology and online shopping. But there is no single rating system that astute consumers can rely completely upon.

This is both a benefit and a curse (double edge sword), making the best decisions more difficult for consumers to make, but enabling some merchants to fill the void by providing the extra information and guidance that is sought after by many shoppers.

While, as @Serg reminds us frequently, we need to do a better job as an industry of communicating the complexities of the diamond value proposition to the consumer market, perhaps we are searching in vain for a 'holy grail' that can't exist because of the nature of the product. There will always be that part of the equation in the realm or art and beauty that defies any standardization in the way it can and should be discussed.

But I think there is ample room for improvement in the industry's understanding of the factual substance and scientifically understood components of diamond beauty that can give consumers much more confidence in the product in general.

And as @diagem mentioned, our industry seems to move at a slower pace in many regards which should give merchants a chance to 'catch up' and operate closer to the 'cutting edge' (so to speak) of the current knowledge base.
 
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Texas Leaguer

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It surprises many people to learn that there were a few Americans cutting to essentially the same proportions decades before Tolkowsky published his famous work!
 

John Pollard

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Hi @defrant . Welcome to Pricescope.

If you enjoyed reading about Tolkowsky in science-study preparation you'll probably enjoy a lot of the technical dialogue on this forum since 2001.

Three comments RE the above -
  1. Tolk was a mathematician, not a diamond cutter. So his depth calculations made no consideration for a girdle, which is needed for durability. Practical girdles take his depth postulations up a few tics.
  2. In his 'calculated' best proportions (represented by the C in the image below) the crown height was actually higher, but this was based on conventional indoor-lighting of the day, which has evolved over time. In essence, 'modern' Tolkowsky table is considered 56%, with crown height closer to 15%.
  3. These are 2D proportion calculations, but RB diamonds have 57 or 58 facets. So within these conceptual averages there are a lot of details and devils to chase-out, which is key to the impetus of this thread.
It's absolutely a tribute to Tolkowsky - as well as cutters like Henry Morse who were fashioning for beauty in this vicinity - long before the abilities we now have to verify how right they were.

And if you liked the history provided by Tolkowsky, by all means download the groundbreaking book by our esteemed friend Al Gilbertson. If you have any nerd-genes like I do it's an epic page-turner!
https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/american-cut-the-first-100-years-al-gilbertson-free-pdf.228643/

tolk-diamond-design.jpg
Reproduced from "American Cut" by Al Gilbertson - used with permission.
 
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denverappraiser

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If you're inclined to dive down the rabbit hole a bit, here is the entire text of the Tolkowski book, translated to English. It's not the easiest thing to read, it reads sort of like a math book, but it's not all that long and it's a big player in this whole issue of idealness. For people who count themselves as diamond insiders, it's essential reading.

http://www.folds.net/diamond_design/index.html
 
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Matilda

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I am far out of my depth here however ... (haha)

Although the vast majority of diamonds bought are ROUND, it would be excellent to create a way in which "Ideal cut" can apply to fancy shapes. OR even a number of strategies which a seller and consumer can use based on "numbers" to predict the performance of the diamond they want. This would be even more useful as more and more consumers are buying off the internet and therefore are unable to see a diamond in person prior to purchase. Sure videos and photos are useful, but not always and not completely.
Regardless, even in a "shop" setting the lighting can lead a consumer to make a purchase which he/she would not have otherwise made if they had seen the diamond in more regular settings. So all in all it would be great to expand methods of predicting round diamonds performance to fancy cuts also.

I hope I made sense!
 

OoohShiny

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FWIW, I feel defrant's post is spam because it contains a link to an essay writing website...
 

OoohShiny

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Re your earlier post Karl - point 1. there does need to be a scale and scientific system for transparency - even the best of us are not digital machines. If black = 0 to 10 and milky white is 50, then how can Paul or WF claim all their soupy doopy orwelian cuts are 99 to 100?
Would it be the case that Type IIa would be the magic 100?

If so, could that increase demand for MMDs? (If I am correct in thinking most are IIa??)


See also the abundance of diamonds just reaching a weight of 1 Ct. It is because the categorization into Rapaport size-brackets creates huge benefit to just be within the 1Ct-category, and not below it. Let's hope that Garry's initiative with relation to apparent size will help attacking that one.
I am now wondering if an HCA with increased focus on apparent spread could potentially increase demand for 60/60 and shallow-cut Super Ideals!
 

Texas Leaguer

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I am far out of my depth here however ... (haha)

Although the vast majority of diamonds bought are ROUND, it would be excellent to create a way in which "Ideal cut" can apply to fancy shapes. OR even a number of strategies which a seller and consumer can use based on "numbers" to predict the performance of the diamond they want. This would be even more useful as more and more consumers are buying off the internet and therefore are unable to see a diamond in person prior to purchase. Sure videos and photos are useful, but not always and not completely.
Regardless, even in a "shop" setting the lighting can lead a consumer to make a purchase which he/she would not have otherwise made if they had seen the diamond in more regular settings. So all in all it would be great to expand methods of predicting round diamonds performance to fancy cuts also.

I hope I made sense!
With regard to light performance cut grading of fancy shapes, AGSL grades princess, oval, emerald cut, and certain cushions.

Not much utilization by manufacturers at this point however, because it is so tough to make Ideal and there is not enough volume to justify the expenses involved.
 

Matilda

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@Texas Leaguer I understand. I do believe that it would nonetheless be helpful to consumers and increase sales if there was at least some type of small headway in that area. At the very least a guiding tool to give confidence to those selecting, both sellers and consumers. On an 'intellectual' level I suppose, the evolution of diamond cutting should encompass all shapes in my opinion.
 

Texas Leaguer

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@Texas Leaguer I understand. I do believe that it would nonetheless be helpful to consumers and increase sales if there was at least some type of small headway in that area. At the very least a guiding tool to give confidence to those selecting, both sellers and consumers. On an 'intellectual' level I suppose, the evolution of diamond cutting should encompass all shapes in my opinion.
I could not agree more. I do think that cut grading of fancies has the potential to significantly unlock growth in the industry.

Without AGSL light performance grading Whiteflash would not be in the princess business. Just not enough potential volume yet in other shapes to justify the investment in stocking and marketing them. But I have seen some Ideal ovals and emerald cuts and they are killer.

I wish more manufacturers would dedicate at least a small portion of their production to making AGS Ideals. I believe that if the market gets introduced in a big enough way, and a quantum level is reached, it will get traction in the market.

But I'm sure the cutters have a variety of good reasons for being conservative.
 
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