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The Shapes of Things to Come
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don't tell that to Chicago-based image consultant Martha Weir. "If beauty boils down to personal taste," she asks, "why are America's sex symbols Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and who-knows-how-many-other look-alikes?"

According to Weir, beauty is far less subjective and far more standardized than most people think. And she uses diamonds to illustrate her point.

Weir, who is twice divorced and in her early 50s, recently bought what she calls a "survival diamond" to celebrate the success of her career counseling business and the self-sufficiency it has brought. Her choice of a stone was a 1 carat "hearts and arrows" round brilliant diamond featuring what she was told was "optical symmetry." That's a phrase for diamonds, which exhibit perfectly symmetrical eight- or ten-rayed light reflection patterns in special viewers (more on these in a moment).

For a growing number of consumers, these patterns are telltale signs of optimum diamond beauty. Weir says she won't ever again buy a diamond that doesn't have such a valid proof of perfection.

Such proof requires mathematical precision on the cutter's part and appears as what Weir calls "light signatures." Years ago, such signatures were rarely seen, more the result of chance than choice. Today they are deliberate, part of the diamond's design. As Weir puts it, "I always thought diamond cutting was an art, not a science. I was wrong. Beautiful diamonds are tiny feats of engineering."

Huh? Science? Engineering?

Here comes the revolution in diamond beauty—ready or not.

A Little HELP to Our Friends
To help you get ready for the revolution in diamond beauty, Modern Jeweler has prepared this guide, "Let There Be Light." It explains the momentous changes in technology and taste that are driving the revolution. As you will soon see, diamond cutting is undergoing a renaissance unlike any in history—a renaissance that affects every shape and style.

The revolution started with the most popular shape, the round brilliant. First, cutters began producing traditional rounds with craftsmanship so stringent you might have thought them cut by robots. Then they began to cut variations on the customary 57 facet style with extra facets that gave strobe-like sparkle.

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engagment rings from Nelson Jewellery
Diamond engagement rings courtesy of Nelson Jewellery.
yellow & white diamond set by Julius Klein Group
The beauty and fire of diamonds. Fancy yellow and white diamond jewelry from the Julius Klein Group.
high contrast white illumination diamond
Under very favorable, high contrast white illumination, the ideal cut diamond is capable of emitting fire from every facet of its crown.
© Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laboratory

Lucére diamond from Ernest Slotar
Diamond cutting is undergoing a renaissance in fancy shapes, too. This Lucére diamond from Ernest Slotar is a square brilliant diamond with 65 facets.
diamond changes due to light
Lighting changes a diamond’s appearance. These two photos show the same diamond under different lighting conditions. On left, in a brightly lit environment the diamond shows lots of contrast brilliance. On right, low light diffused through the leaves of a tree makes the same well-cut diamond explode in fire.
© Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laboratory

high performance diamond
What do high performing diamonds look like? The stone above got high marks from experienced diamond dealers thanks to the overall balance of patterns of light.
© Al Gilbertson and Barak Green, courtesy of GI

low performance diamond
This diamond pictured above didn’t score well. It has interrupted patterns, a dark rim, and asymmetry.
© Al Gilbertson and Barak Green, courtesy of GI

Three-stone diamond ring from Eugene Biro.
Three-stone diamond ring from Eugene Biro.
Philippe Diamond ring
Squares and other shapes are rising in popularity. This 6.02 carat flawless VVS1 radiant cut center stone is surrounded by diamonds in a platinum setting from Philippe Diamond.
PrincessPlus princess cut diamond rings
The AGS lab now grades princess cut diamonds. These rings from E.F.D. feature a custom faceted princess cut diamond called PrincessPlus.
three-stone ring from Fabrikant
Branded cuts and special shapes are taking the industry by storm. This three-stone ring from Fabrikant features Royal Asscher cut diamonds.
crown, pavilion & girdle on diamond
This side view shows a diamond’s crown, girdle, and pavilion.
© Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laboratory

Natalie K tear drop diamond
Diamond ring from Natalie K.
Natalie K square diamond
Antique inspiration: Fancy shaped diamond rings from Natalie K.
rainbow colors of diamond
Fire refers to the rainbow flashes of color that a well cut diamond shows. This image, taken in bright sunlight under a tree, shows incredible dispersion.
© Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laboratory

Carelle diamond ring
Past, present, and future: Three-stone diamond ring from the “Carizma” collection by Carelle.
4 diamond views
To see at a glance whether a diamond is an ideal cut, look at the relationship between three rings: the outline, the ring of the table facet, and the ring created by the girdle in the center of a diamond. These rings are marked on the diamonds on the right. On top, a small “pupil” and evenly spaced rings means this diamond is an ideal cut. On the bottom, a large “pupil” and “iris” that covers most of the “white” means a non-ideal style cut.
© Michael Cowing, ACA Gemological Laborator