Cut to the Chase (Part 2)

Jewelry Tweezer And Diamonds

By John Carter, CGA, Jack Lewis Jewelers

Buying finished jewelry is so different than buying loose diamonds, mainly because our diamond buying is a year-long process. We are constantly searching for diamonds, whether it be something specific that a client has asked to see or just something that we need to meet our day-to-day inventory needs.

Because of this never-ending search for perfect diamonds, our ability to spot the good ones remains pretty sharp. I’ve always said that a really well-cut diamond has a sort of “it factor,” meaning after you’ve seen enough of them, you just know the special ones with a glance. When it takes your breath away—right away—that’s the one.

When I closed Part I of this blog, I promised you that we would discuss exactly what goes into making a diamond an AGS Ideal® cut. How do you tell the difference? And is it worth the extra money? I stressed out so much about living up to my promise that I reached out to my good friends at American Gem Society Laboratories to make sure I kept it all straight. So here we go:

What exactly is “cut” as it relates to diamonds? The American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories say, “The cut of a diamond refers to how well the facets of a diamond interact with light, the proportions of the diamond, and the overall finish of the diamond.” (Source:

Facets, light interaction, proportions, and finish may seem like small things, but their influence on the beauty of a diamond is enormous. AGS makes it really easy to understand with their 0 to 10 grading system, with zero (0) being the highest cut grade (ideal) a diamond can receive and 10 being the lowest. However, this apparent simplicity is deceptive because it requires very careful analysis of all things that make up that diamond.

It used to be that diamonds were “cut graded” primarily by their proportions, but AGS revolutionized diamond grading in 2005 when they released their long-awaited Light Performance Cut Grading System.

This method uses patented software technology to measure the attributes that are most important to the beauty of your diamond: Brightness, Fire (spectral color), and Contrast. The combined impact of these factors is what breathes life into your diamond and makes it sparkle!  In other words, they are the secret ingredients of the “it factor” that I mentioned above.


The AGS Grading Scale, based on a 0 to 10 scale, makes grades easier to understand;
0 means the cut grade is the best it can be.

Because every facet is considered, every cutting mistake and design flaw can impact the final Cut Grade. Consequently, the AGS Performance Cut Grade system is the most technologically advanced and scientifically rigorous system in the world and represents the highest standards in cut grading.

These ranges make it easier to understand, but I’ve seen more than my share of clients get caught up in these numbers, and they forget to ask themselves one thing: how does the diamond actually look? Is it bright and sparkly with a lot of life? Yes? Then don’t let one number encourage you to cast a pretty diamond onto the scrap pile.

What’s really cool from a gemologist’s point of view is that the same technology used to compute the Cut Grade also produces a color-coded image of the diamond which allows you to understand its light performance.


The above is called an ASET image. ASET stands for Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool. (There will be a test later, haha.) For customers like you, this is a crucial piece of technology because it demonstrates the way light interacts with your diamond. It’s much easier to see and understand a diamond’s beauty through this image than to listen to a scientific explanation, right? We can show you your diamond’s ASET image right at Jack Lewis, and you can even snap a picture of it to carry around with you or share on social media.

Additionally, The ASET  shows the “optical symmetry” of your diamond. For example, in the image above, the eight symmetrical arrows prove that the diamond was cut with a high degree of craftsmanship and artistry.

The simple fact remains that while what we do isn’t the most complicated job on the planet, it really does take a scientific approach and an educated eye to do all of the above. A life spent in the diamond business can teach the right grader, gemologist, or diamond buyer the skills they need to be able to make proper decisions and assign the right grades which determines the right price.

The average consumer looking to find just the right diamond for the love of their life does not have the time to become an expert during their brief shopping experience. They can Google, research, and look at hundreds of diamonds, but they will still need to seek out a properly credentialed and trustworthy diamond professional to help them find what’s right for them. That’s the real dilemma when you’re looking for a jeweler isn’t it….trust?

I once had a client at the diamond counter who told me that Jack Lewis Jewelers was the 15th jewelry store he had visited! He was so confused and so frustrated with the process that he was almost in tears. I can understand why. One jewelry store will tell you one thing, and then another will explain it another way, and on top of it, they are all trying to sell you whatever is in front of them. Just about all of them mean well and are honest, but it can be a lot to process.

I asked if I could give him some advice and he reluctantly said, “Sure.”  I said, “Just stop. Stop looking. Pick the place that makes the most sense with as little sales talk as possible. Then trust that person to walk you through the process with an education along the way.” I went on to say that I hoped that was me, but if not, he needed to find the person he could most relate to and trust.

I could tell when I gave him that advice that I had lifted a great weight off of his shoulders. The process can be overwhelming and the diamond grading scale can be a large part of why. I understand that retailers don’t always do a good job of explaining the process, so it is really important to find one who takes the time to do just that. I’ve found it’s the best way to establish a relationship with my clients—and dare I say it—a friendship. I’m happy to say that client did choose me! This occurred over 10 years ago and over the course of a few years, he even sent me several of his friends.

You can see we’ve taken this from an explanation about Cut Grade to the importance of establishing a relationship with someone you can trust. My journey to this destination was no accident. So let’s cut to the chase: at some point, buying a diamond becomes a leap of faith, and Cut is the most complicated part of the buying process as well as being the most essential characteristic in determining beauty. I believe it’s an understatement to say that it pays off to have an expert help you with that part. And at Jack Lewis, we’re ready to walk you through it.

I want to thank my friends at the American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories for helping me with this blog. In particular, Jason Quick, who is the Laboratory Director and a mad genius who understands diamonds in ways I can only imagine. Jason and the team at AGS are on the forefront in the jewelry industry because consumer protection is at the very heart of everything they do.

Like the young man in my story, I hope you also choose Jack Lewis Jewelers, but we realize we can’t sell everyone a diamond. If you’ve ever wondered how you can find a jeweler you can trust, start with us if you can…but if not, AGS has you covered. Visit Find a Jeweler at, type in your zip code and visit a great store. Every retail member of the American Gem Society adheres to a strict code of ethics that help them remain dedicated to the education of their clients.

Jeweler Spotlight: Denise Chislett, CGA, Underwood Jewelers, Florida


Denise Chislett, CGA, Underwood Jewelers

The American Gem Society had a chance to speak with Denise Chislett, CGA, from Underwood Jewelers, which is located in these four Florida locations: San Marco, Ponte Verde Beach, Avondale, and in the Mall of the Avenues.

The CGA title after Denise’s name means she is an American Gem Society (AGS) Certified Gemologist Appraiser: the most highly regarded title among peers in the jewelry industry. In order to earn this title, the associate requires advanced training and experience in determining the value of diamonds and gemstones.

Denise Chislett is also the chair—and one of the founding members—of the AGS Young Titleholders (YTs) Committee. The YTs is a fun and energetic group of individuals who celebrate their hard-earned AGS titles, and they represent the next generation of leaders in the jewelry industry and the American Gem Society.

Denise shares with us her favorite jewelry styles, trends and pet peeves, and the importance of shopping with an AGS-credentialed jeweler.

Describe your jewelry style:
I only wear yellow gold; it looks better on my skin. One of my favorites is a men’s Rolex in yellow gold. It makes me even happier that yellow gold is in style right now. For earrings, I always wear studs—everywhere. To the beach or even to the pool.

Do you have any diamond obsessions?
Oval diamonds: they are my favorite cut diamonds. I love the shape and how it elongates your finger. Oval cuts are coming into trend, too!

Speaking of trends, what other trends should we pay attention to?
There is a trend toward solitaire rings or a single, beautifully cut diamond with a couple of side stones.

Although we only have another month or so left of summer, what is your favorite go-to jewelry for the season?
I tend to wear lighter colored stones like turquoise or lapis. In general, I wear more shades of blue! It doesn’t differentiate that much from other seasons since I live in Florida!

Favorite underappreciated gemstone:
The opal. This year at JCK [the industry’s largest jewelry and gemstone event] it was all about opals. I predict it is going to be a huge trend.

Do you have any jewelry pet peeves?
I don’t like matching jewelry. If I’m wearing Roberto Coin earrings, I probably will wear a necklace by someone else that is in yellow gold.

We are always telling our readers to buy jewelry from a credentialed, American Gem Society jeweler. As one such jeweler, what advice do you have for jewelry buyers looking for a personal jeweler?
When you visit an AGS-certified store, you are going to get a passionate professional who is not only highly educated on jewelry and gemology, but you are going to get someone with a good reputation that you can trust to give you great service and good advice. So many AGS-certified jewelers have been in business for decades, and some for more than a century, and continuously uphold their great reputations as ethical jewelers.

What do you do in your store that makes you different from other jewelers?
There are so many ways that you can differentiate yourself. We show our customers how to evaluate a diamond’s light performance with the American Gem Society’s ASET® (Angular Spectra Evaluation Tool). We also discuss with our customers the scientific difference with AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Reports. Our customers truly appreciate that we can explain the various complexities of diamonds and jewelry with them.

Below are a few shots of Denise’s favorite jewelry:


Top Left: 18kt yellow and white gold Barocco diamond chandelier earrings by Roberto Coin
Top Right: 18kt yellow gold moonstone ring by Erica Courtney
Bottom Left: 18kt yellow gold Rolex President; 18kt yellow gold bangles by Forevermark; green tourmaline bracelet by Erica Courtney
Bottom Right: 18kt yellow gold bezel set diamond pendant by Underwood Jewelers

The American Gem Society

by Beau Davis, CSA Shelton Jewelers – ABQ, NM

What it is all about

A diamond is the world’s most precious gemstone. Between their unique optic qualities and sheer hardness, these little beauties, though miniscule, have become a valuable part of civilization today. But how do you know that you, as a consumer or buyer of diamonds, are getting what you’re paying for? With such small sizes and high values, there can be much ambiguity and misinformation throughout anyone’s shopping experience. These are some of the primary issues the American Gem Society works tirelessly to prevent.

How the AGS was formed and why

In the 1920’s Robert M. Shipley had put together a group of qualified jewelers to work together as a team to better the buying experience for their customers. They would use their tools of good ethics and their training and education to help reduce the misinformation and subsequent deceptions in the jewelry industry. However, one day, Mr. Shipley realized he had been wrong on a number of critical topics.


With this new insight, Mr. Shipley travelled abroad and received the best education for the industry in that period of time. Upon returning to the states in 1929, he went right to work in founding the Gemological Institute of America, which is now known as one of the best educational institutes in the world for gemology. However education simply was not enough. Robert Shipley wanted to extend that knowledge to his own clients rather than just his staff. So in 1934, The American Gem Society was founded, designed to protect anyone buying diamonds or jewelry from being deceived or misinformed.

AGS ideals and ethics

Since its creation, the AGS has epitomized consumer education and protection throughout the diamond and jewelry industry. Both jewelry and diamond vendors and jewelry retail stores and outlets may become members of the AGS by continually following the AGS code of ethics- the highest standards in the industry. In fact, in order to remain an AGS member, the titleholders of any store or vendor must undergo a recertification process every single year. This way all AGS members are kept fully up to date on everything jewelry.

AGS Laboratories


The American Gem Society Laboratories are the other side of the AGS mission. AGSL is committed to providing certificates, or grading reports, for diamonds. Anyone shopping for a diamond has heard of the 4-C’s of a diamond, carat weight, cut, color, and clarity. Of these 4 grades, only the carat weight had been 100% objective until AGSL created a new method of measuring the grade of the cut of the diamond for the Round Brilliant Shape, thus making 2 of the 4 C’s impartial to comparisons or opinions.

The Remaining 2 C’s, the color and clarity, still remain subjective to comparative analysis, however, the grading specialists at AGSL are devoted to providing the most accurate diamond grading available, and sticking to the AGS ethics will grade a diamond down to a +/- one grade tolerance. Overall, there is no grading report or certificate that will be more accurate or precise as a report issued by the American Gem Society Laboratories.

Now, what does all of this mean for you?

First off, members of the American Gem Society are dedicated to the highest standards in their business and educational practices, so you, as the consumer may feel just as comfortable with the purchase, as they are with the sale.

Secondly, when working with any AGS members, you will be offered any and all available information about what you are buying. Above and beyond is an understatement for the knowledge within the walls of an American Gem Society store.

And lastly, the grading reports issued by AGSL are among the most trusted and reliable certificates throughout the diamond industry. These grading reports will reference the qualities of the diamond, allowing your AGS member gemologist to provide you the most exact value. This is a major detail of any diamond purchase, because it will prevent any sort of under or over payment for the diamond in question. All in all, the American Gem Society is here, not for the retailers, but for you, the consumers, the shoppers, anyone interested in buying a diamond really, and they are truly committed to their ethics and ideals.

So you think you know a guy who knows a guy who has a cousin who can help you find a diamond?

By Evert P. Botha, Registered Supplier, Embee Diamonds


Think again.

Truth be told, just about everyone knows someone in the diamond and jewelry trade, but do you have a relationship with a trusted jewelry professional? Someone with the credentials to prove that they know their stuff? Someone that’s not interested in simply selling you what they have available at a bargain price?47th_Street

So called “bargain” prices on diamonds should always raise several red flags. Let’s look at some of the many factors that impact such “bargain” prices.


Firstly, origin or conscience. Diamonds that make their way into the supply pipeline from questionable sources are very often steeply discounted. These diamonds are imported into diamond producing centers illegally and are mixed with diamonds from legitimate sources. Illegitimate sources are countries suspended by the Kimberly Process, sanctioned or blocked by the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control or any other government agencies, and most obviously stolen goods.


Secondly, grading. Diamonds that are misgraded or misrepresented are always steeply discounted. When purchasing a diamond, always insist on a grading report from a trusted, reputable grading laboratory such as AGS Laboratories or the Gemological Institute of America, and when in doubt, ask the opinion of a Certified Gemological Appraiser.


Thirdly, their credentials. When dealing with a diamond or jewelry professional, make sure they have the required credentials. If you have an established relationship with an American Gem Society Retailer you’re in safe hands as they’ve already made a commitment to consumer protection, ethical business practices, and the development of superior gemological skills and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask for these credentials.


Fourthly, presentation. So much can be said about the presentation of diamonds which differs from store to store. Your jewelry professional should always have a loupe or microscope available for you to view your diamond. If they don’t have one, then they don’t know diamonds.


Ask your jeweler to look at the diamond under normal and/or daylight conditions. You don’t live in a jewelry store, so you should always ensure that your diamond’s brilliance doesn’t die the minute you walk out of the store. A lot of jewelers have advanced hardware and tools to demonstrate the diamond’s light performance and cutting precision.


Ask your jeweler to demonstrate or show you the diamonds interaction with light using their ASET (Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool) or if the diamond has an AGS Laboratories grading report, they should be able to explain the diamond’s ASET image as displayed on the report.ASET_IMAGE

Lastly, and I really mean lastly, the C’s. Once you’ve established that your jeweler knows their diamonds, then talk about whichever one of the many C’s are most important to you as this is what determines the value (and future value of your diamond).


Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone else who can get you a deal, but you’re buying a diamond to propose, to celebrate and to remember. It should be something special and you should rely on accredited jewelry professionals to help you.Engagement_Ring

Smart Phones & Diamonds

By David C. Rotenberg, Certified Gemologist Appraiser


DID YOU KNOW that your smart phone can make your diamond shopping experience easier?

Now I don’t mean surfing the net, I mean actually looking at and comparing diamonds.


Professional Jewelers like American Gem Society Jewelers have a tool called the ASET (Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool) which will reveal a well cut diamond, or a not so well cut diamond. What you want to see in a diamond with the ASET device are symmetrical patterns with lots of red which shows brilliance, some blue which is contrast and some green which is light being reflected at a different angle.  You don’t want to see much white or black which means light is being lost in that area. How well a diamond is cut is what makes it sparkle! 



Once you have found a diamond you like with your jeweler you can ask them to verify the cut (or beauty) with the ASET tool.


Now comes the fun. A professional jeweler will have an ASET with a staging device so when you look at the diamond you can not only see the well cut proportions, but using your smart phone you can capture image with a picture.


All you have to do is hold the smart phone over the eyepiece showing the diamond, lower the phone on to the stage, focus, shoot the picture and “voilà” you have a photo of the diamond of your choice.Well_Cut_Diamond

It’s that simple. If you decide to shop around, when you go to the next jeweler check  their diamonds using the same method with the ASET device and compare the images. If you like what you see, you have a second choice, if they don’t have an ASET tool then you should ask yourself how can they tell me how well cut their diamonds are if they can’t show me? You might want to keep shopping.


These photos show various degrees of light performance (beauty) as displayed in the ASET tool.Well_to_Poor_Cut_Diamonds