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Hearts and Arrows

Hearts and Arrows


The hearts and arrows pattern (often marketed under brand names such as 'Hearts on Fire') refers to a symmetrical light pattern visible using a specialized viewer in diamonds cut within certain narrow specifications.


Hearts and Arrows Viewer 
Modern, portable H&A viewers

The hearts and arrows pattern was first viewed using a Firescope; a tool developed by Kazumi Okuda in the 1970s. Firescopes and their modern equivalents (such as the H&A Viewer, Ideal-scope and ASET-scope) use colored reflectors to display a pattern showing the direction and intensity of light emitted from a diamond. These colorful patterns can be evaluated to determine how much light is exiting the diamond at proper angles, and whether the diamond is optically symmetrical (indicated by a uniform pattern).

Round Diamond Ideal Scope Image 
An Ideal-scope image displaying symmetry

In the example at left, red represents light being emitted from the diamond in a direction and intensity that will be perceived by the viewer as brightness. Pink areas represent areas of less brightness. Dark areas indicate areas where light is blocked by the viewers head (these areas are perceived as dark flashes, or scintillation, when the viewer or the diamond moves). Finally, white areas indicate where light is traveling through the diamond, and 'leaking' out of the bottom (perceived as dull or dark areas in the diamond). Different types of viewers will use different color schemes, but all produce similar patterns.

Hearts and Arrows Pattern 
Hearts (top) and Arrows (bottom)
as seen in the viewer

One possible pattern is what is today marketed as "hearts and arrows". The "arrows" are visible when the diamond is viewed from the top. The "hearts" are visible when the diamond is flipped over and viewed from the bottom.


The hearts and arrows pattern was initially noticed by accident; the name first coined by Kinsaku Yamashita, and eventually trademarked in 1988, the birth of the hearts and arrows marketing campaign. The hearts and arrows phenomenon quickly spread from Japan to the U.S in the early 1990s. The hearts and arrows pattern is now so popular that many diamond manufactures cut to a specification that will yield this particular pattern, even at the expense of overall cut quality.

The intrinsic appeal of the hearts and arrows pattern, with its association to Cupid, is obvious; even if the heart pattern is invisible once the diamond is set. Often the presence of the hearts and arrows pattern is taken as confirmation that the diamond is well cut. This is not necessarily true. In a round diamond, a clearly defined set of 8 hearts and 8 arrows is a sign of excellent optical symmetry, an important component of cut. As such, its appearance is a very likely a sign of superior cut, but not a guarantee.

Consumers are often misled regarding the quality of a hearts and arrows pattern. While a diamond may display what appears to be a pronounced hearts and arrows effect, several subtle details in the shape, spacing, and positioning of the pattern can have a significant impact on desirability and therefore value. These variations are often not detectable by any except experienced graders or jewelers.

Even so, the marketing impact of the hearts and arrows campaign has been profound. Because well cut diamonds are rare to begin with, and diamonds with the particular hearts and arrow pattern rarer still, H&A diamonds carry a premium price. This is due not only to effective marketing, but because all well cut diamonds (including H&A) require more time to cut, and generate about 15% more waste than lower quality cuts.

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