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Diamond Education

Articles: 8 Star and the Ideal Scope

by David Atlas

Here is a truly excellent explanation of the value of the Ideal-Scope from Mr. Richard Von Sternberg, a highly respected diamond authority and the head of the 8 Star Diamond Company. This passage was taken with his permission from a posting on We thank him for this opportunity to present you this very well constructed article.

Building blocks of truth
by Mr. Richard Von Sternberg

Not every proposition in life is an either/or proposition.

Any among those who are reading this post who do not know of its inventor are urged by myself to acknowledge Mr. Garry Holloway for his superlative contribution to diamond buyers everywhere: his ubiquitous little hand-held device known as the Ideal Scope. Those who are already aware of it most likely have already made this acknowledgement. What Holloway has created is nothing short of a boon to diamond consumers everywhere because his device is an empowering instrument, one that allows consumers everywhere to - for a nominal charge - purchase an easily transportable loupe-like instrument that gives an immediate look see at a phenomenon inside a diamond generally referred to as a reflective image, a kind of feedback image reporting to the observer on the quality of any diamond's cut.

Many in my industry have assumed that I object to Holloway's invention because my company, EightStar Diamond Company, was the first company on earth to, in the 1980's, actually cut diamonds to produce a perfect optical image seen in the progenitor of all current reflective image devices known as the Firescope®. The Firescope, as well as its evolution known as the SymmetriScope™, is a far more sophisticated device which gives a much greater in-depth, gemological look at a diamond due to the fact that it has a constant light source, a tempered tray that holds the diamond a scientifically computed distance from the reflected light source and engenders further fungibility by maintaining a constant even in the parallelism of the table planes of diamonds observed. No hand-held device could possibly work with such repeatable accuracy, such precision, such fungibility. Nevertheless, the gemological superiority of the Firescope and its evolutions in no way diminishes my regard for Mr. Holloway's brilliant creation.

Why might I not shed my regard for such an instrument as Holloway's knowing there exists a superior device? Because not every proposition is an either/or proposition. Anybody who has any experience with the centuries-old pastime of birding (often referred to as bird watching) could easily understand what I mean. Simply stated, there could be no argument that microscopes and telescopes have obviated the usefulness of binoculars. A birder in the field is in no need of either a microscope or telescope. The binoculars he or she carries along are the tool that corresponds to the job at hand: simple and rudimentary observation of relevant phenomena. The hand-held binoculars are the perfect tool for a closer look at the bird because they are easily transportable, offer a much closer look than the unaided eye can, and have upon them no greater expectations than simple observation.

In gemology it has always been the case that looks into diamonds are based on a similar philosophy that precludes an either/or proposition. We have the unaided eye, the hand-held jeweler's loupe and the dark field microscope forming an historical continuum of information retrieval, each offering a bent of practicality depending on the level of sophistication any observer wishes in his or her observation. It would be nonsensical to argue that the hand-held loupe should be tossed into the wastebasket of history simply because of the existence of the microscope. Clearly there is need for both. The analogy holds exactly true for Holloway's system and that of the grandfather scope that preceded it: the Firescope.

What constitutes the continuum of sophistication of observable reflective phenomena in diamonds that would require greater and lesser levels of discernability? Simply stated, it is a matter of abstraction and specificity. At the greatest level of abstraction we have the unaided human eye. The jeweler's loupe, however much it might be tempting to list as the next level, offers no insight into the reflective image pattern resulting from sending colored light into a diamond or easily observable light loss one discerns by using what IS the next level: Holloway's device. Since the continuum in question only contains directly observable phenomena, such devices as the Brilliancescope® and other devices of its ilk - ones which require computerization and digitization to use - are not appropriate in this discussion. Nor is the hearts-and-arrows viewer since it is not a pure viewer in that it is designed to filter out all but the phenomena created by the main facets of a diamond. The final level of sophistication, the one to which may be ascribed the most durable level of specificity, remains the Firescope and its offspring (such as the PerformanceScope® -- see patent #6665058) which grant the observer exact and scientifically translatable insight into:

Given that the diamond industry is attempting to incorporate into its early definition of an ideal model of diamond cutting - which was based for the first 90 years on the superficial analysis made by comparisons of a diamond's external measurements to the 1919 model of Marcel Tolkowsky et al - the new phenomena of reflective images, the most sophisticated and scientifically repeatable, most specific technology is necessary to make the ultimate ideal model comparison once it is universally established what constitutes that model. Mr. Holloway's device cannot be the instrument of choice for such a determination since it does not pretend to be fungible as a hand-held device. This is no different than stating that an ornithologist, upon attempting to determine the species specific nature of certain arterial cells of a meadow lark, would not consider the use of the birder's binoculars of value.

The cutters who cut our EightStar diamonds use the most advanced and proprietary technology we have created to make each of our diamonds identical optical matches to the standard of excellence we have created that has led many to refer to our cutting as the D/Flawless of diamond cutting. Exactly what level of technology should be used in the analysis of our cutting is entirely dependent on what observable results one is interested in ascertaining. For those who wish a diamond to please only the eye, the eye is clearly the appropriate "tool" to use. For those who wish to know if a diamond is in the "ballpark" of the new optical ideal standards, Mr. Holloway's tool is perfectly adequate. For those who wish to see exactly how close to the ideal a diamond is, greater technology is required. For the laboratory grader of the future who will be charged with determining scientifically to what category any given diamond must be assigned optically, even more sophisticated technology must be used (one which photographs optical phenomena and allows magnification and exactitude required for laboratory based analysis of cut quality).

The purpose of sophistication in this area of study is to help determine exactly what constitutes "ideal." Once established, all comparisons will be made to this as have been made the heretofore incomplete analyses made by comparison to the Tolokowsky model. Since we began the pursuit of criteria based on optical phenomena, we know that there is a logarithmic scale to climb as a cutter of diamonds as one gets closer and closer to what we now consider to be the ideal. (Logarithmic scales are ones that increase in much greater increments as one moves up the scale; the Richter scale, an open-ended logarithmic scale for expressing the magnitude of a seismic disturbance is an example as is the Mohs' hardness scale used in determining the hardness of gemstones in which each numerical level of hardness is 10 times the previous one). In other words, the difficulty in achieving what we do versus what is close is far greater than one would suspect by observation. To determine positively which diamond possesses ideal optical symmetry and which does not is a separation requiring an ideal instrument. The fact that there are already agreed-upon determiners for color and clarity placing D color and Flawless at the pinnacle of gemological color and clarity analysis elucidates the desire for such pinnacle criteria in all aspects of diamond analysis.

The value of any given diamond increases logarithmically as it approaches pinnacle status in any of the categories of analysis. The D/IF, for example, brings 55% more money than the D/VVS-1. As hard as it may be to "justify" such increase in value due to the fact that it is virtually impossible for a person without ample gemological training to make such distinction correctly, that EXTREME jump in premium and value exists in all pinnacle products. This is true in cutting as well. Let me offer this imaginary scenario as an example that you will find particularly easy to identify with:

You go to a jeweler and ask to purchase a D/IF diamond that the jeweler must order up for you since it is not in his or her stock. Let us make this example particularly poignant and applicable to real life by adding that you are asked to pay in advance at least a deposit toward the purchase. Having set your sights on this acquisition, you comply. The next day, upon your return to the jeweler, you put out your hand to receive your diamond and hear these words:

"Here is your E/IF diamond."

Puzzled, alarmed, and quite disconcerted you exclaim, "But I ordered a D/IF, not an E/IF diamond!"

Were the answer of the jeweler to be, "No matter, E is very close to D," it is impossible to resolve the clear and pressing concern that surfaces in you that D and E are not and can never be one and the same. "Similar" or "Close enough" or "Just about" blur the notion of ideal and beg the question of ideal and distort the actual underpinnings of value which are based on ideal.

The notion of rectitude and standard rigidity are wonderfully expressed by the first poster to this thread who said: "The only exception was an eightstar diamond I saw in the local 8* dealer... It generated a beautiful ideal scope image. Unfortunately, they were out of my price range." This person has made as accurate an observation as can be made with an ideal scope and acknowledged the value of the diamond in question stating only the objective truth about personal budgetary considerations. Similar financial restrictions surface as one climbs higher and higher up the color and clarity scale toward D and Flawless. (The difference is, of course, it is possible to obtain one of our perfectly performing cuts in lower colors and clarities and achieve the original budgetary goals without sacrificing the beauty that comes only from cutting).

What one sees optically within a diamond using the most highly sophisticated reflected-image technology, once observed, affects not only the change in personal psychology resulting from the optical discovery, but allows a more sophisticated look with the unaided eye. It is our contention, after 20 years of EightStar diamond production, that the closer the internal optical effects approach ideal, the more beautiful the diamond is to the naked eye.

What Mr. Holloway has created is the single most significant advance to date in the consumer's ability to get on the path to a more beautiful diamond by pointing the way to the extremely important phenomena of optical symmetry and light return. Once a person has determined for him or herself how high on a list of personal priorities these phenomena are, the ideal scope opens the door better than any of the gadgets and gimmicks beginning to surface in jewelry stores - marketing toys primarily - because the ideal scope is not among the host of those smoke-and-mirrors gimmicks. Instead, it is a truly useful device that empowers consumers. Only a derivative of Firescope technology can elevate your observation to a greater level of sophistication.

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