February 15

What Is Brilliance in a Diamond? | Is This Feature Highly Valued?


Author: David Kopelman

Key Takeaways

  • Diamond brilliance refers to the white flashes or the return of white light upon its exposure to light. 
  • The measure or degree of diamond brilliance depends on the cut quality.
  • To get the most brilliant diamond wedding ring, consider the cut grade.
  • Excellent diamond cut, polish, and finish gives the most brilliance.

An immediately mined diamond is less attractive with rough and opaque skin; a rough crystal or clear pebble scarred by its long-term evolution in the interior earth crust.

Cutting and polishing remove this top surface and expose a diamond brilliance; the cutter's skill and art are crucial. The process is extensive, from a rough stone to a sparkling brilliant cut diamond, drawing heavily from technology developed over the years.

What Is Brilliance in a Diamond?

Diamond brilliance refers to the quality of white light a diamond can bounce back. An object with brilliance can reflect light and give out excessive brightness to the eye. The more the white light reflects within a diamond, the more brilliance the diamond has. 

Essentially, it's the ratio of blacks and whites visible when you look closely at a diamond, which must be well-balanced and distributed. Too many black regions make the diamond too dark, and too much white makes it boring to glance at. 

Most people will refer to it as the quality of sparkle, fire, or light –elements that make a diamond glitter with brightness and give out a brilliant visual impression.

What Makes a Diamond Sparkle?

Ever curious to know why a diamond would sparkle? Uncut diamonds don't sparkle. Natural diamonds are made when carbon gets under tremendous heat and pressure within the earth, which results in internal inclusions and external 'blemishes.' It affects a diamond's clarity. An inclusion's location, size, and visibility greatly affect a diamond's clarity and white light reflected.

Diamonds have a unique crystal structure and chemical composition. Their physical facets aid in setting off their wonderful white light flashes via light reflection and refraction. The higher a stone's light dispersion value, the better it can display colorful flashes. Diamond has a light dispersion of 0.044. Rutile, a reddish-brown mineral, has 0.28, meaning it can disperse six times more light than diamonds.

If a diamond sparkles the most (has more Brilliance), it usually means it has more facets.

Facets resemble mirror functionality. They reflect light, causing a mystic twinkle that gives a diamond its unique nature. They vary in size too, from small to large, prism-like, and will scatter light into different colors.

How well a diamond can sparkle depends on the diamond's shape and cutting angle.

Light dances internally within diamond facets, bends, and comes out from the top, giving a sparkling effect. You see sparkles when someone rocks, rotates or moves a diamond around.

You can devise a diamond cut to maximize sparkle. Cutting a diamond into the right proportion ( not too shallow or deep) gives more Brilliance.

A Diamond's Cut Can Make or Break Brilliance 

Diamond cut and polish are a big deal because they greatly interfere with a diamond's Brightness. Cut quality and style are important factors because they affect the degree of sparkle.

After a diamond comes out of the ground, a professional cutter examines it to determine an excellent cut, a brilliant cut, or a step cut.  

A brilliant cut provides more facets–or flat surfaces– and produces diamonds with more brilliance capable of reflecting more light. On the other hand, a step cut produces diamonds with fewer facets that hardly reflect light. But they have more fire and clarity. 

Certain diamonds can sparkle more than others. A well-cut diamond has robust angles that can absorb and reflect light in bulk. A diamond with poor brilliance looks dull and lifeless and doesn't bounce off enough light.

Round Diamonds Have the Most Brilliance 

Diamond cutting is a vital stage. Professional cutters can devise different shapes from a diamond, such as oval, square, emerald, heart, round, etc.

The round diamond’s cut has the most brilliance and sparkle. It's also the most popular and excellent shape for a diamond’s cut.

A standard round diamond has the largest number of facets–58 on average that interplay to provide the strongest shine. They give exceptional brilliance and a magical sparkle by reflecting light.

Pattern Scintillation Affects Diamond's Brilliance 

A diamond is not a static object. It's always moving in real life. When wearing a diamond ring, your hands move more often, and you'll observe the diamond at different angles— mostly viewing it from the top (80% of the time). The rest is at other angles, like 45 degrees. 

Observing what happens to a diamond at different tilts (or pattern scintillation) helps measure its brilliance. Scintillation–or sparkle– gets its meaning from the act of movement. The diamond, the viewer, or the light source should get in motion for scintillation to occur. Furthermore, the diamond facet must have enough structural contrast to bounce light back and forth.

a person showing a diamond ring on their finger

A brilliant gemstone has even and well-balanced scintillation. Facets can be dark or flashy but should stay at equilibrium. Too excessive, and the diamond lacks enough scintillation or becomes too dark.

If poorly cut, diamonds will have severe light leakages or more blacks at certain angles. In such a case, the diamond can no longer show pattern scintillation.

Inspecting Diamond’s Brilliance – The Whites and Blacks

Analyze and check the diamond under white light. Not the led lights or spotlights used by a jewelry shop. Spotlights can only reflect the diamond fire and not the brilliance–two different elements.

Diamond's Brilliance and Beauty  

For the Beauty of a diamond, first, observe its structure. Most diamonds have circular outlines aiding their structure.

The tone is also an aspect of Beauty, referring to the surroundings, nature, or visuals. It's what gives a dynamic view to visual images. Diamonds show different colors under a different light setting-- an office fluorescent light, cloudy outdoor lights, or under a shed.

Diamonds vary in brightness and contrast. The contrast makes darker areas darker ( and white regions whiter), giving a brighter-looking diamond with more depth. Tones in everyday life give depth and interest to objects. Otherwise, objects would seem dull and two-dimensional. 

Different objects may depict different tones– light, mid, or dark. A diamond with contrast areas starts displaying depth and brilliance—the ratio of blacks and whites. The absence of these aspects gives a diamond a blunt look, evident whenever there's a black or white tone alone. Adding more tones, in this case, makes an object come to life.


Does Color Grade Affect Diamond Brilliance?

Color grade doesn't affect diamond brilliance. It only affects how icy a stone looks. For instance, an L-coloured diamond will still display much brilliance.

Does Clarity Grade Affect Diamond’s Brilliance?

Yes. Clarity grade can affect diamond brilliance, especially with 11, 12, and 13 clarity grades.

Do Natural Diamonds and Lab Diamonds Have the Same Brilliance?

Yes. Natural diamonds have the same brilliance as lab diamonds because they're both true.

What Makes a Diamond Sparkle With Much Brilliance?

Diamond brilliance and sparkle come from internal refraction. They have a robust refractive index, and white light reflected or dispersed gives a diamond its unique nature. Light enters a diamond, bounces within, and reflects the eye. That's what makes a sparkle.

About the Author:

David Kopelman

In every article I write, I share my experience as a GIA Graduated Gemologist so that you learn everything about diamonds and other precious stones.

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