The Future of Cut

Cut is "The Final Frontier"

Cut is The Final Frontier The Cs of carat, color and clarity have been graded the same way for nearly a century.
D color will always be D color. VS1 clarity will always be VS1 clarity.

But cut-grading is brand-new and continues to change. Standards have tightened before and will tighten again. Whenever this has happened a vast number of diamonds that qualified for a “top” cut grade in the original system drop to a lower grade in the new system.

You may be surprised to learn that, unlike color and clarity, laboratories don't even take the same fundamental approach to grading cut. GIA did not include a cut grade until 2006. AGSL started in 1996 but has revised their system three times. In fact, since 1980 the world’s major laboratories - GIA, AGSL, IGI, HRD and EGL - have rolled-out, revised and re-introduced different systems more than a dozen times, with no uniform approach between labs.

Some laboratories use outdated lookup charts, with no meaningful research behind the determinations. The GIA applies two-dimensional measurements to a collection of sampled human observations. The AGSL uses computer modeling to score brightness, contrast and leakage. But most significantly, no major laboratory cut assessment currently includes a meaningful judgment of scintillation, which many people consider to be the most important and attractive component of diamond performance.

As a result, laboratory cut grades such as “Excellent”, “Ideal” and others remain relatively wide, spanning a tall range of different visual appearances and quality factors. This is unarguably less refined than the trade's clarity and color grading scale, which is divided into invisible or nearly-invisible increments.

Logically, diamonds cut to reach the minimum border of any given cut grade today will lose value when systems tighten tomorrow. This affects consumers more than professionals, since the trade recognizes details of crafting which move a diamond's value up or down behind industry doors. But those details remain ungraded and undisclosed on USA grading reports - so several diamonds represented as "the same" to a shopper may actually differ to a very wide degree.


Cut Grades visibility chart How Wide are Today’s Cut Grades?
To understand how wide the young cut grades of today are they need only be compared to long-established color and clarity grades.

Even trained gemologists have difficulty separating DEF color outside a lab, and find it impossible to divide Flawless, VVS1, VVS2 and VS clarity grades without the aid of magnification.

But millions of diamonds cut as “Ideal”, “60-60”, “Transitional”, “Antique” and several other makes are all lumped together in the Round Brilliant cut-category, even though their characteristic differences are visible to any observer. More importantly, quality differences in light-return exist among diamonds of the same "top" cut-grade. These differences can also be visible to the naked eye, which is clearly not the case within top color or clarity grades.


The Last Decade
Shoppers may be surprised to learn that, prior to 2006, the GIA did not even grade cut. This would be like allowing all color appearances, DEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, to be classified as the same on a lab report.

The GIA now applies a cut grading system to Round Brilliants, but the lab awards around 30% of common round diamond makes their "Excellent" grade, and nearly 85% of common makes will receive either 'Excellent" or "Very Good" in cut. If we applied this to color grading it would be like grading all diamonds DEFGHIJ as “Excellent” in color, everything KLMNOPQRSTU as “Very Good” and only VWXYZ as “Fair” or “Poor.”


AGSL was the first major USA lab to introduce two-dimensional proportions grading in 1996. Over the next decade that system underwent several revisions. In 2005 the AGSL changed from two-dimensional proportions to three-dimensional performance grading. Compared to GIA, the current AGSL "Ideal" grade is tighter. Using the color comparison, AGS "Ideal" is commensurate to grading all diamonds “DEFG” as “Ideal” in color. But even the AGSL system is wide relative to the strictness of color and clarity divisions, and no USA lab yet applies a cut-precision component, as described below.

Infinity has selected the American Gem Society Laboratories for diamond certification. But Infinity Diamonds go far beyond the minimum performance standards required by this and all other major laboratories. Factually no laboratory has yet subdivided cut-quality components to anywhere near the level that color or clarity are subdivided. Doing this is already possible behind industry doors, but pressure from mass-manufacturers prevents public disclosure of greater cut detail for any given diamond.

Infinity Diamond signature example photos Three-Dimensional Cut Precision
Without dispute, the global diamond trade places greater value on diamonds with high levels of three-dimensional cut-precision. These diamonds, sometimes nicknamed "Hearts & Arrows" for the appearance of patterns created by symmetrical faceting in the pavilion and crown, trade for more money at every level. But USA laboratories do not yet grade three-dimensional cut-precision; they do not even grade simple 2D "H&A" patterns. This is is a result of long-standing pressure from DTC Sightholders producing millions of carats for sale in the USA which remain in the “top grade” as long as no cut-precision component is enforced.


"Happy Accidents"
Infinity Diamond signature example photos In any mass-production of millions of carats there will be round diamonds which show some semblance of Hearts & Arrows patterns, even if they were not planned that way. These "happy accidents" finish with enough 2D precision (usually in the crown or "arrows") to be separated out for marketing and sale as Hearts & Arrows diamonds. But with no regulation or standards enforced, these accidental successes vary wildly in consistency and value.

Until a major USA laboratory begins grading 2D H&A patterns (the first stepping stone) and eventually steps up to to grading 3D cut precision (which goes beyond "H&A" patterning) the purchase of generic H&A diamonds in the USA is a buyer-beware proposition. It is also important to note that diamonds can be cut with precision but fail to have been crafted with the critical angles required for optimal light performance: The two are exclusive of each-other, and no current USA grading system accounts for both elements.

Educated Markets
One needs to look no farther than the youngest and largest-growing market (China) to find laboratories disclosing more cut value-factors and consumers who are more cut-educated than their USA counterparts. Diamond shoppers in this new market are not only more aware of cut-quality subdivisions; they also recognize the added value commanded by diamonds with non-accidental, extremely high levels of three-dimensional cut-precision. Sightholders and cutting houses serving this market have improved systems to satisfy growing eastern demand for fine-make. Eventually these modern value-factors will become recognized in the older USA market, but mass-manufacturers and retailers are in no rush to assist that recognition, due to the extra work, training time and expense it will require:

Infinity Cut ViewerImproving Craftsmanship
A high level of micro-precision takes modern tools and added time to achieve. It also requires polishing away more carat weight. Assembly-line factories producing millions of carats with traditional equipment would require newer tools and higher laborer skill to raise their average cut quality; in effect taking more time to produce smaller diamonds. This would represent a profit-reduction of millions of dollars in tools, training, time and diminished carat weight. Additionally, at the retail level, a trade-wide improvement in cut quality would relegate stakeholders' current (and past) inventory to a second-best position. The bottom line is that cash is king, and while the trade already recognizes value differences in cut quality, the spread of this information to the USA public is slowed because it is more profitable for the industry-at-large to classify the maximum number of diamonds possible as "the best" for as long as possible.

 

Summary
Grading laboratories vary wildly in their fundamental approaches to cut. Some apply meaningless systems. Others use researched systems but only apply them at basic levels. An abundance of laboratories and sellers make no mention of three-dimensional cut-precision and include diamonds with variable light-return components in their "top" grade.

There is no doubt that cut standards will continue to increase over time. This process is happening right now: Infinity personnel are regularly consulted by some of the world's major laboratories on cut-grade improvement. Research continues and as time passes change will occur. As that happens many commercial diamonds will lose value when re-graded by stricter standards, as surely as if D color were suddenly subdivided into multiple grades tomorrow.

Personal Message for Infinity Diamond owners

Crafted By Infinity diamonds are planned and fashioned with the future in mind. They receive the highest performance marks in all systems, exceeding known metrics, and have done so since 2001, when Paul Slegers began crafting with his singular vision.

Some of the world’s top optical scientists, appraisers and laboratory facilitators choose to wear Infinity Diamonds themselves, or for their loved ones, acknowledging that Infinity's standards outpace all current metrics and more robust future systems, currently in-research. We are honored by their choice and support of our vision.

We make no apologies for the small premium required. It is a worthy investment of planning and cutting expertise, extra time, extra passion and everlasting value. Like any other purchase of elite quality, one may expect to pay slightly more now for a product that will prove itself over and over, to the delight of its owner and heirs, as the years pass.

 

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