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What Is an "A CUT ABOVE®" Diamond?

An Extensive Guide

By Thomas J Stevens GIA DG CSG - Last modified February 26, 2020
Reading time: 10 minutes

Whiteflash is a diamond jewelry company that has signature diamond cut called A CUT ABOVE®. These are super ideal cut diamonds. Here you will learn what separates them from other diamonds available on the market.

A Cut Above diamonds by Whiteflash

First and foremost Whiteflash specialize in certified Ideal Cut diamonds.  Whiteflash is developer and sole provider of A CUT ABOVE® diamonds, considered by many to be the most precisely cut and vetted “super ideals” in the market.

What is a Super Ideal?

There is a small niche of diamond manufacturers and retailers specializing in precision cut diamonds and top of the line light performance.  The concept of super ideal is a diamond that gets an Ideal grading certificate from AGS Laboratories, but also has a very high level of optical symmetry as evidenced by perfect hearts and arrows patterning, and may be subject to additional tests and qualifications.

Why AGS?

The American Gem Society (AGS) is a sister organization of GIA. It was created by the founders of GIA in 1934 for the purpose of promoting ethical jewelry retailing dedicated to consumer education and protection. In 1996 the AGS saw a need among their members for scientific reporting of cut quality. It would be another 10 years before GIA would introduce their cut grade system.  And by this time, AGS Laboratories had transitioned from a 2 dimensional table-based cut grade system (like the GIA system today) to a scientifically vetted light performance based system that uses sophisticated ray tracing to asses brightness, leakage, contrast and fire by using a 3 dimensional scan (e.g. Sarin, Ogi, Helium).  The AGS cut grade system is more exacting and more stringent than any other cut grade system in the market.

https://www.whiteflash.com/about-diamonds/diamond-education/ags-cut-grading-scale.htm

Bulls Eye of Excellence

Quality of A CUT ABOVE® compared to GIA graded diamonds

A CUT ABOVE®

Whiteflash introduced A CUT ABOVE® diamonds online in the year 2000 and has been increasing the depth and breadth of their inventory over the years.  Whiteflash now offers more in-house AGS certified Ideal Cut diamonds than any other retailer, owning and stocking the diamonds in three in-house categories: A CUT ABOVE®, Expert Selection, and Premium Select (GIA graded).

Super ideal Specs and Qualifications

Proven Light Performance – Uncompromising Beauty™

A CUT ABOVE® super ideal diamonds are cut to the most exacting standards on earth. Of the elite diamonds in the world, one diamond holds its place at the top. You have certainly heard that the quality of the cut is the one most important aspect that affects a diamond's light performance and beauty. Most importantly, unlike other diamond brands which may claim to be comparable, A CUT ABOVE® diamonds come with fully supportive documentation and indisputable proof.

A CUT ABOVE® super ideal diamonds are available exclusively through Whiteflash. They are considered by experts and diamond enthusiasts around the globe to be among the finest diamonds ever brought to the market.

Due to the level of difficulty in producing gems of this precision, Whiteflash is completely transparent about every aspect of these extraordinary gems. The benefit of purchasing a diamond that must pass each and every one of an extensive and comprehensive list of the most exacting requirements is that A CUT ABOVE® diamonds can be counted on for ultimate consistency in delivering optimal brilliance, fire and sparkle under the full range of lighting environments.

What is the Secret?

Unlike other brands, there is no secrecy surrounding the requirements for A CUT ABOVE®. This is in keeping with the aims of AGS members which have always been firm believers in consumer education and providing detailed information on jewelry and associated products. The firm commitment to this aim has distinguished Whiteflash from a host of companies that rely on marketing spin and unsupported claims. Here you will learn the specific guidelines and qualifications that we use for vetting the A CUT ABOVE® brand. The fact is that diamonds of this quality are so difficult to produce that even knowing the formula does not make it any more likely that competitors will be able to duplicate what Whiteflash does.

Whiteflash stocks the largest in-house inventory of true super ideal diamonds of any retailer in the world. And they don’t just make claims about how special these diamonds are - they prove it, one diamond at a time. The ultimate beneficiary is the consumer who understands that an A CUT ABOVE® diamond is the most exhaustively evaluated and dependably consistent, high performance diamond on the planet. As an added and very popular benefit, each one comes with their own industry-best 100% Lifetime Trade Up Guarantee.

AGS Triple Ideal Platinum Certificate

The first requirement for A CUT ABOVE® is certification as Triple Ideal (Triple Zero) by the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL). The AGSL is the world leader in diamond cut quality analysis and their Platinum Certificate is the ultimate pedigree. The AGS light performance grading system involves a scientifically rigorous analysis that examines every facet of the diamond and assesses light return, light leakage, fire, and contrast which drives the all-important aspect of scintillation (sparkle!). In all, eleven key aspects of cut craftsmanship are analyzed and all must be Ideal for a Triple Zero platinum certificate to be awarded.

Both the A CUT ABOVE® Round Hearts and Arrows Diamond and the A CUT ABOVE® Princess share the distinction of being true Super Ideal Diamonds and must meet extreme standards for craftsmanship and light performance. However, both are distinctive and must be evaluated in unique ways. For detailed information please see this article on princess cut grading at AGSL.

A Cut Above Diamonds

Extreme Precision - Exceptional Beauty™

The round brilliant cut has a facet arrangement that, when executed with a very high degree of precision, produces a pattern of eight arrows face up (table view) and eight hearts face down (pavilion view). The presence of these patterns indicates that the diamond’s facets are aligned precisely in three dimensions and that the diamond has outstanding “optical symmetry”. Crafting to this level of precision can be likened to “tuning” of the facets – the complex sculpture of tiny mirrors that make up the diamond’s “engine” of light performance. A perfectly tuned diamond with a top quality engine will perform at optimal levels and deliver full horsepower. In order for a round diamond to qualify for A CUT ABOVE® it must be tuned to within the extremely tight tolerances as published in Whiteflash's hearts and arrows grading standard.

GIA vs AGS vs A CUT ABOVE® Diamonds

GIA vs AGS vs A CUT ABOVE Diamonds

Hitting the “Bull’s Eye” of AGS Ideal

The crafting of A CUT ABOVE® diamonds is aimed at the very heart of AGS 0 parameters representing a very narrow subset of the overall GIA Excellent cut grade category. While a small minority of GIA Triple Ex diamonds are cut to the center, most cutters target the outer area of GIA EX parameters, consciously sacrificing light performance for heavier carat yield. In contrast, the proportion guidelines Whiteflash cutters target are in the “sweet spot” of specifications for AGS Ideal (see table below). For a diamond to make A CUT ABOVE® it will normally fall within all of these measurement ranges. In rare cases, it is possible for an A CUT ABOVE® to exceed one or more of these specifications, but only if the light performance analytics are superb.

GIA Excellent Cut Compared to A Cut Above Specifications

A Cut Above Diamond Measurement Specifications

Benefits of a Bull’s Eye

There are two significant practical benefits of crafting to the center of AGS Ideal parameters; First, it insures the diamond will be a top performer in all possible lighting conditions, The Most Visually Balanced Diamond in the World®. As I like to say, the benefit of owning an A CUT ABOVE® diamond is experienced every moment of every day with every glance of every eye!  And secondly, if diamond grading systems ever change in the future with the advent of new technologies, A CUT ABOVE® diamonds will always remain at the very top of any scale.

Light Performance Imaging

Whiteflash provides an image package of actual photos that enable a complete understanding of how each A CUT ABOVE® is actually handling light.  They provide two magnified photos of the diamond, one in face up mode that can reveal certain aspects of clarity and patterning, and another from an angle that reveals to some extent its dynamic potential to deliver fire and brilliance.

In addition, Whiteflash provides actual ASET and IdealScope images that reveal critical aspects of light return and light leakage. Any significant amount of light leakage detected by these tests will be grounds for disqualification. This fact also explains why these images tend to look very similar throughout the A CUT ABOVE® category.

For more information on ASET imaging please see my article on How To Read An ASET Image.

And of course, the hearts image is posted as visual confirmation of the precision of the cut in terms of three dimensional facet alignment, and verification that the diamond is perfectly “tuned”. Patterning for A CUT ABOVE® Hearts and Arrows Diamonds must conform to Whiteflash's published criteria on hearts and arrows grading - the strictest standard in the world.

Filtering for Clarity Issues

It could be argued that any internal inclusions block some light rays as they pass through the diamond and would therefore diminish light performance. In theory this is true but in practice many inclusions are so minute as to have negligible effect on performance. This is especially true in the upper gemological grades. In the Slightly Included grades, diminished light performance can be an issue, even if cutting is perfect. Therefore, one of the critical assessments the Whiteflash gemological review team makes is to look for any deleterious effects that might be present as a result of clarity features. Depending on several factors such as inclusion type, location, size and density, some diamonds will appear slightly “sleepy” or not as “crisp” as they otherwise would be. This can be a very subtle effect and one that is not contained on any grading report. Diamonds with any such deficits are not allowed into the A CUT ABOVE® brand.

For perhaps even more obvious reasons, A CUT ABOVE® diamonds are carefully inspected for any clarity issues that would give rise to structural weakness. A diamond with a feather or other clarity feature that in Whiteflash's assessment poses an elevated durability risk for mounting or wear will not be allowed in the brand.

Eliminating Cutting Defects

Defects that can be controlled by the cutting process are disallowed. For instance, diamonds with chips or scratches mentioned on the lab report will disqualify a diamond from A CUT ABOVE®. Some surface features such as ‘naturals’ are allowed as they are “elective” in nature. That is, the cutter allows a small piece of the skin of the diamond to be present in natural condition (not polished) when it is confined to the girdle of the diamond. Extra facets are not allowed in A CUT ABOVE® rounds as they often represent a “shortcut” that a cutter has taken to repair a chip or remove an inclusion.

A large percentage of mined diamonds exhibit a property called fluorescence. When exposed to ultraviolet light, they will glow. Usually the color is blue. Because fluorescence can at times be off-putting to some people, reduce market value, and in some cases actually diminish light performance, A CUT ABOVE® diamonds must have Negligible fluorescence.

A Cut Above Princess Diamonds

Unsurpassed Performance - Ultimate Assurance™

The faceting arrangement of a princess cut, although featuring a brilliant style pavilion, is quite distinctive from that of a round. Therefore a somewhat different set of conditions and qualifications are in place for vetting our super ideal princess. As stated earlier, both round hearts and arrows and princess A CUT ABOVE® diamonds require as a baseline requirement an AGS Triple Zero Platinum Certificate. AGSL is the only major laboratory providing overall cut quality analysis on princess, and because of the added complexity of this facet arrangement most cutters do not have the level of expertise necessary to cut to AGS Ideal standards. This partially accounts for why there are very few ideal princess cut diamonds on the market.

As with rounds, A CUT ABOVE® Princess must have superb light performance as demonstrated by ASET and IdealScope imagery. Any significant light leakage detected will disqualify a diamond. Most princess cut diamonds on the market exhibit very poor light performance as cutters aim for size over fire and brilliance. Even AGS Ideal princess often have some slight leakage in the bottom of the pavilion that will disqualify them from A CUT ABOVE®. Diamonds such as these are beautiful as well and you will find them in Whiteflash's Expert Selection category.

Advantages of In-Stock Inventory

It may come as a surprise to many diamond shoppers that the vast majority of diamonds offered for sale on the internet have never been evaluated or even seen by the merchants selling them. That’s right, even diamonds listed with documentation and images (even videos) overwhelmingly fall into the category of “virtual inventory” and are not in the possession of the merchant offering them for sale. In fact, a high percentage of these diamonds are actually housed overseas. This is in contrast to in-stock and in-house inventories that are actually owned and housed by the merchants offering them. While there are advantages associated with ‘virtual’ inventories, there are also major downsides. Moreover, there are very good reasons to appreciate the advantages of shopping in-stock diamonds that are fully evaluated, on-hand, and ready for immediate delivery or in-store viewing.

Whiteflash In House Diamonds

Background

In a time before the internet, diamond shoppers would go into their local jewelry stores to look at diamonds and be educated about diamonds by a jeweler who had developed trust in the community over the years. Jewelers used to carefully buy and stock their own diamond inventory. There was a certain level of confidence and protection built into that model, especially if the store had national credentials such as membership in one of the prestigious trade organizations such as the American Gem Society.

Things are very different in the internet age. In many ways far better. In other ways, much more uncertain. Today, the number of stores actually stocking a decent inventory of high quality diamonds is very small. Most rely on consignment and/or trade networks to access diamonds on demand. Everyone with a website can also now be a diamond dealer, posting thousands of diamonds for sale, with or without any particular level of expertise, investment, or standing within the industry. Prices and availability for many of these listings can be extremely unreliable and therefore very misleading to consumers. And the data and evaluations associated with diamonds that have never been inspected or verified by the merchant, are very much open to question.

Whiteflash Diamonds

Developments in information technology over the last 15-20 years have made it possible for e-commerce websites to post for sale mind boggling numbers of diamonds cloned from database listings. This 'virtual' market concept makes a lot of sense and is being utilized effectively by many legitimate and conscientious sellers today. The model allows for broad selection and sharp pricing because the vendor has no financial investment in the inventory. The advent of this virtual model has put downward pressure on prices as information concerning diamond values has become more readily available to the public. In general this trend has been very beneficial to consumers.

Modern reputation tools such as review sites and information forums empower consumers to identify reputable sellers and get real time peer recommendations. And learning the added value that the merchant provides in the form of diagnostic evaluations, assurance policies, buyback and trade-up guarantees allows a consumer to understand differences in pricing between sellers so that they can make the best choice based upon what is most important to them.

The Downside of Virtual Diamonds

Despite these benefits, there is also a downside to shopping the virtual market. Virtual diamonds are typically listed on multiple websites, so actual availability is not guaranteed. Prior sale or delivery delays may cause disappointment and frustration. The diamonds are not pre-vetted by the merchant and therefore there is risk of unforeseen issues.

Diamonds listed with old certificates, with limited objective data, with mismatched data, with minimal return options, or by sellers with questionable or unproven reputations, are all red flags that should be taken very seriously by consumers. Virtual diamonds coming from overseas are difficult and expensive to return, thereby creating an incentive for the merchant to fulfill the order even if an issue is discovered. In this way, problems are sometimes passed along undermining the protections a consumer would expect the merchant to provide.

Because there has been a massive trend in the industry toward the virtual model, the value of in-stock, fully vetted diamonds available for immediate sale is sometimes under-estimated. The opportunity to see a comprehensive set of diagnostics on the diamond and the option of having a gemologist answer questions with the diamond in hand, or provide additional information such as comparison images, can be very valuable for such a special purchase. This also makes it possible for a consumer to visit the vendor to see the diamond in person and get to know the merchant and the operation face to face. On large dollar purchases, many smart shoppers do exactly that.

How can you tell if a diamond listing is virtual or in-house?

It’s not always easy to tell. The merchant naturally wants to give the impression that the diamond is available and ready for sale. This is precisely why so few shoppers are aware of this issue. If the stone is actually in stock it will usually be called out on the site. But the best way to be sure is to inquire specifically about the status with the vendor. If you are dealing with a reputable merchant they will be honest with you. (Remember: there is nothing inherently wrong with virtual offerings – it’s just that they are not the same as pre-vetted in-stock offerings). Listings that show delivery times of several days to a week are a tipoff that the diamond is not on hand.

Whiteflash Diamonds

Merchants with diamonds in-stock will also be able to provide extra services for you such as making a staff gemologist available for a consultation with the diamond in hand, or taking photos of the diamond in comparison with others you may be considering. The mere fact that a diamond is listed with a photo or even a video is not proof that the stone is in hand. If you ask for one of these services and they are not available, that is an indication that the merchant does not have physical possession of the diamond.

Whiteflash In-house Diamonds

Whiteflash is dedicated to providing the broadest and deepest in-house inventory of precision cut diamonds of any retailer anywhere. They have three categories of diamonds that are in-stock, fully evaluated, and ready to ship. A CUT ABOVE® and Expert Selection consist of AGS Ideal round and princess cut diamonds, and Premium Select feature the top cut quality and light performance available in GIA Triple Excellent grade. All in-house diamonds have been subjected to the rigorous Whiteflash review process and are posted with a complete set of light performance diagnostics including 360 HD video. They are available exclusively at Whiteflash and come with an assurance package that includes 100% Lifetime Trade-up benefit.

While e-commerce in general provides consumers with a fantastic array of opportunities, it is still necessary to perform due diligence and to use sound judgment when making significant purchases. Being confident about the quality of a purchase and the time-line to delivery are extremely important considerations for an expensive and emotionally important purchase. In-stock diamonds that are fully vetted and ready for an in-store viewing or a personal consultation with a professional who has the diamond in hand, can be of enormous value for the modern diamond shopper.

Whiteflash Diamonds

With an in-house diamond a shopper has confidence knowing that the diamond has been specifically selected by the merchant for their inventory. The merchant has essentially 'put their money where their mouth is’ and feels strongly enough about the quality and value to invest their own money in it, knowing there are many potential buyers for it. It is in-house inventory that comes with the most generous buy-back and trade up benefits for the same reason.

Whether you are comparing in-house or virtual inventory (or some of each) as you shop, it is important that you know the distinctions so that you can make the best choice based upon your needs and sensibilities.

A Cut Above: What are the benefits for the customer?

A customer that is interested in the light performance of the diamonds they are shopping, would find Whiteflash to be one of the few destinations that will speak their language. 

https://www.whiteflash.com/about-diamonds/diamond-education/benefits-of-hearts-and-arrows-diamonds-1521.htm

Because Whiteflash owns and stocks their diamonds, they are all fully vetted and imaged (ASET, Ideal Scope, Magnified Image, 360 HD video), and they are readily available for further consultation from a Whiteflash gemologist, additional imaging from the Whiteflash photo team, or for personal inspection in their showroom in Houston.

Whiteflash Reviews

Customers are in very good hands with Whiteflash.  Not only have they been a Better Business Bureau ‘Winner of Distinction” every year since 2004, they have won the coveted Pinnacle Award 3 of the last 7 years.

Outstanding review profiles from third party sites such as Yelp, Google Reviews, and  iVouch attest to the fact that Whiteflash is at the top of the scale for customer care.

Additional Links

Shop with Confidence

https://www.whiteflash.com/confidence/

About Whiteflash

https://www.whiteflash.com/about/

Authorized reseller for top Designer brands

https://www.whiteflash.com/engagement-rings/designer-rings.aspx

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