Try to remember life before the Internet. Hard, isn't it? Not just because we spend more time site seeing on the Web than sightseeing in the world around us, but because on-line living has utterly transformed off-line reality.
Something similarly mind-altering has happened in the diamond world. Try to remember life before the elevation of cut to the most important of the 4C’s. Try to remember life when romancing stones didn’t involve talk about their optical prowess. For nearly a decade, the diamond has been positioned as the gem equivalent to the “ultimate driving machine.” And the cause is the development in Japan around 1985 of a super ideal cut round brilliant called the “hearts and arrows” diamond.
The name was derived from the distinctive light-reflection patterns these stones make when viewed in special performance-assessment devices like the “Firescope,” “Idealscope,” and “Hearts and Arrows” viewer. When perfectly aligned, pavilion mains facets produce eight black or white symmetrical arrow shapes swimming in fields of red or blue. At first, a diamond’s ability to make eight-rayed viewer images was touted, somewhat simplistically, as absolute proof of cutting excellence. In no time at all, hearts and arrows diamonds became as ubiquitous as flags on the Fourth of July.
However, image is not everything. The hearts and arrows diamond faces challenges to its swiftly earned leadership among diamond cuts. As brands have proliferated, they have staked their claim to fame on nuances of craftsmanship that have raised understanding, as well as awareness, of this style. Thanks, in part, to Internet sellers, the buying public has learned to appreciate performance-enhancing feats of faceting and proportioning. It has also learned that a hearts and arrows pattern per se is no guarantee of peak performance. When it comes to brilliance and fire, some are BMWs, others are Yugos.
Nevertheless, the hearts and arrows diamond has accomplished a mass-marketing miracle. It has firmly established cutting as the chief determinant of diamond beauty—a dream of ideal cut proponents since the 1930s. What’s more, early American makers of hearts and arrows diamonds like EightStar and Hearts On Fire started a revolution in branding that has created thriving niche markets for BMW and Mercedes-caliber stones. More brands whose chief selling proposition is provable, perceptible excellence achieved through cutting are appearing every day.
How did the hearts and arrows diamond revolution start? Who started it? The answers defy popular mythology.
Unsung Hero: Kazumi Okuda
The best hearts and arrows diamonds are those that indicate the highest light return to the observer. By now, sellers of these stones have become so adept at reading arrows patterns that they can tell at a glance what stones are—or are not—exhibiting the superb brilliance and fire associated with this diamond design.