It’s All About The Cut

Part 2 of a 6 part series on finance and engagement rings.  

A perfect 90-degree angle is at the intersection of a parallel and perpendicular line.

Any arguments there?

Let’s move on.

Remember those science exercises we had to do back in elementary and middle school with the flashlight and mirrors?  We were bouncing light off one mirror to hit another in order to shine it somewhere else.

In order to correctly shine the line, via the mirrors, to where you wanted, the angles of the mirrors had to be perfect.

Getting the perfect angle is a math equation.  There is an exact answer to the equation… but finding the perfect answer is easier said than done.

Back just a couple of years ago (1919 to be exact) a mathematician named Tolkowsky took this knowledge to diamonds.

He figured the exact formula that is needed to create the most perfect of diamonds.  Women don’t know about him, but they should… he should be the Prince Charming for all women.

In order to understand the brilliance of Tolkowsky, we have to understand what’s happening inside the diamond.  There is more to the diamond than just sitting on that setting on your future bride’s finger.

Inside a diamond, there are tons of those “mirrors” acting just like our mirrors did in science class.  All of them angled in an attempt to create that perfect diamond shine.

And what Tolkowsky figured out was how the diamond must be cut to create the brilliance.  Because the goal of the science project inside a diamond is to set up the mirrors in a way that allows light to come in, from the outside, and then shine back out of the top of the diamond.  That’s where the brilliance (or bling) happens.

Sounds pretty easy right?!  Well, not so much.  The precision needed is really difficult to achieve.  And if it isn’t achieved, the diamond will still be there, but the shine won’t be.  The cha-ching sound after purchasing the diamond won’t lead to any bling!

But Tolkowsky was very early in his findings.  Technology wasn’t at a level to effectively implement his findings.  So he had to implement as much of it as possible given the technology in 1919.

His findings though were never forgotten.  As technology advanced, so did the precision and brilliance within the diamond cutting industry.  And now that excellent cut is possible.  Thanks to Prince Tolkowsky!

The problem is that despite all of his hard work and brilliance, the findings by Tolkowsky are overlooked for other aspects of the diamond.

And that’s the first problem.


Carat outweighs cut… wrongly so

Alright, it’s time to buy that loved one the rock of her dreams!

It’s finally time to ask her for her hand in marriage and put that little Honda Civic on her hand.

First thought is let me walk on down to the jewelry store get her the biggest diamond I can on the budget I have and then walk out with a great piece of jewelry.

Stop right there, give me a chance to make you come back to a different sense of reality.

I’m not here to criticize how the world is today versus yesterday.  Let’s be real, the advancements we have made make our lives much easier… so despite people’s disappointments with the generations of today, the advancements they have helped create makes everyone’s lives better.

Given that preface… we are a much more materialistic society.  People tend to want to have bigger, more and they want to show it.  Okay.  Fine.

But the problem is that bleeds into the engagement ring process as well.  All these guys want to get their girl the biggest diamond to show how much they love their baby.

That is the first (and really only) C (cut, clarity, color, carat) that they care about.  Although they think that is what will be seen the most, they are actually wrong.

Carat should be a high priority, but it shouldn’t be the priority.  It tends to be top for most men because it is the easiest C for all of us to understand.

It’s about to change.


Cut should dig deeper than anything else

Despite the innovation of Google and the access to information that it provides, I still think education on diamonds is the biggest problem right now.

It’s not a matter of getting the biggest carat rock. Just because we understand carat doesn’t mean that should be the sole basis this purchase.

I would say, personally, the most important thing with any diamond is the shine, the sparkle, the bling.  That is what will glare into someone’s eye when they are not looking.  It is the way to grab attention… subtly.

Going big and over the top may grab attention, but it may also scream “obnoxious.”

Understanding what is behind the shine of a rock is a bit more difficult than just knowing how many carats it is.  I mean, the advancements in the diamond business have made it a lot easier, but really understanding the nuances is still more difficult than just asking the weight.

The cut of a diamond is what really makes it shine.

So in order to make the diamond sparkle and bling, we need to have a lot of light coming out of the top of the diamond.  This is the area of the diamond that everyone sees.

But we never know where the light is coming from.  So the cut needs to be appropriate in order to allow for light coming in the side of the diamond or the bottom of the diamond to reflect out the top of the diamond… so everyone can see it.

If we set up the mirrors inside the diamond appropriately, then that will happen.  And then by determining the cut of the diamond, we are in effect setting up the mirrors inside of the diamond.


A quick cutting lesson

After doing some research I found that there are really three ways a diamond can be cut.  All of which tend to impact the path of the light.

You can have a deep cut.  This allows the rock to be bigger, again focusing on carat, rather than cut.  Given that the cut is sharper, the light hits the “mirror” higher and at a bad angle.  Thus, pushing light outside the side of the diamond… where no one is able to see it.  Take a look at this picture I got from

diamond too deep


But then you can have a shallow cut.  This can provide you a huge top of your diamond, which can help the diamond look bigger to the eye, but there is not much below.  This means light coming into the diamond hits lower on the mirror and at another bad angle.  It is a soft angle and thus the light just goes out the bottom of the diamond.  This is no good to you or your baby, because no one will see this light translate into bling. provides this image as well.

diamond too shallow


Then you got the ideal cut.  This is where math becomes sexy!  Because when you have the top of the diamond an appropriate size and a nice diamond depth, you get the bling.  The angles work like our science project should.  It reflects the light off the mirrors appropriately and sends us back this flash of brilliance… the bling baby.  Another picture from

perfect diamond


That picture above is perfection.  If solving the algebra equation appropriately gave us that every time, we would all love algebra!


Buying mathematical brilliance

For me, I went into the jeweler with a budget and a set mentality that I wasn’t budging on the cut of my diamond.

I knew that what I wanted my materialistic self to provide my fiancée with the shiniest, sparkleiest, blingiest diamond I could afford.

After that, I would then ratchet up or down on the other Cs based on how it best fit into my budget.

For me, carat was the second option and then color and clarity were my moving levers that I adjusted downwards in order to allow me to accomplish the best cut and a good size diamond—while staying within my budget.

But that was just me.  Everyone has different biases towards what materialistic aspect they would prefer for a diamond.

I think of it likes this, it does us no good to have the biggest, most technologically advanced truck on the road if it doesn’t have an engine.  To me, the cut of the diamond is the engine behind the engagement ring.


Cutting down the options

There are five different cut grades that we should be aware of.

And for all of us rookie diamond people, I found this website pretty useful to help actually see the differences on the diamond.

If you are like me, you may not really see the full extent of the differences between the cuts, but under a light you will likely be able to see the differences when actually holding the diamond.

The best cut you could have is excellent.  This is where the “mirrors” are working perfectly and the light is shining back out the top of the diamond.  Going this route allows us to loosen up on some of those later Cs like color and clarity.

After excellent, you have very good.  This is a pretty good option if you’re squeezed on your budget, but you want to also balance the desire for a bigger rock.  This cut has many of the same aspects of excellent and the majority of light shines through the top of the rock.

Next comes the good cut.  This only reflects a portion of the light out of the top of the diamond.  By going this route, you are definitely choosing more carats over cut.  Also, the ability to use color and clarity as price leverages is less likely with this cut.  Because you will need a better colored and clearer diamond to make it bling.

After good comes a fair cut.  Here again, a fair cut diamond is also prioritizing carat over cut. The fair cut gives more precedent to carat size.  A lot of the light that goes in the diamond is reflected out the side of the diamond.

Finally, you have the poor cut.  This is a diamond cut that is all about the carat size and not about the sparkle.  Most of the bling will be shown on the side or bottom of the diamond where no one can see it.


Priority of the Cs determines the bling

Tolkowsky spent a lot of time to create the answer for us.

He did all the hard work and came back with the answer to a very difficult math equation.  The perfect diamond cut.

We often spend a lot of time during our lives trying to find the answers to different problems we are faced with.

Frustrations ensue and disappointments occur when our answers are incorrect.  We tend to become lost when we can’t find the right answers… sometimes the answers aren’t there for us.

But with buying a diamond ring, the answer is right in front of us.  The solution to a perfect diamond is determined by the angles it is cut at.

Given the advancements in technology, we are now able to reap the fullest benefit of Tolkowsky’s work.  We are able to take his knowledge and provide our significant other with the perfect diamond.

All in all, the perfect diamond is a game of angles.  And if you want your purchase to shine, sparkle and bling, then the cut is the only way to accomplish that.

Starting with an excellent cut and then balancing the other three Cs to best fit within your budget seems to be the way to make cha-ching turn into bling-bling!