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14.05.20

5 Reasons Not to Buy an Oval Diamond Engagement Ring

The latest trend in diamonds? Ovals. Get a little insider know-how on to buy an oval engagement ring that doesn’t disappoint.

By Stephanie Dore

Oh the oval diamond – the shape we hate to love

Oval diamonds would be the perfect diamond. That’s right. Would. Their elongated, finger-flattering shape. Their shallow cut that gives you more stone for your money. Oval engagement rings give you all the sparkle of round brilliant cut diamond in a more affordable (about 25% less than a comparable weight round), contemporary package.

Unfortunately, oval diamonds might just be too fancy for their own good. In fact, they’re all wearing bow ties! While a distracting bow tie is the fastest way to turn a good oval bad, for better or worse, they all have them. And if that piece of formal wear is all you’re ever going to see, you may want to consider another cut. Need convincing? Check out these five reasons we recommend choosing a different shape.

Oval diamond bow tie survival guide

While its moniker is cute and all, this dark area that stretches across the width of the diamond (it looks like two triangles that meet in the middle, hence the formal name) is caused by the diamond’s pavilion facets reflecting your own shadow back to you, instead of catching the light. For real? Yep. It’s your head blocking the light! Now, some ovals are cut better than others, so this bow tie effect won’t be as noticeable, but this is just a matter of fact in elongated brilliant cut diamonds like ovals, marquises, pears, or radiants, which can all display a similar effect. 

Some oval diamond bow ties are big and black. Others are whisper-thin dark lines. Others look more like scattered dark patches across the middle of the diamond. All oval cut diamonds all have some darkness in the middle of the diamond, the question is how much.

Oval diamond with a bad black bow tie
Oval diamond with a bad bow tie

So how do you buy an oval diamond without a bow tie?

You don’t. They all have them.

But, bow ties can vary quite a bit in visibility. Unfortunately, the diamond’s cut grade is not going to help you determine if it’s distracting or not, since grading labs don’t grade fancies.

Plus, it’s just way too subjective to put a label on it. Online videos aren’t going to help much either (because remember, it’s a super white, controlled photo environment, with no one’s head peering into the diamond). Looking for a depth between 60%-68% is a good starting point, but seeing ovals in person is the only way to be sure if the bow tie is dominating the face-up view, or barely there.

Other issues with ovals — dark tips

While you might think, hey, at least they’re not frosted, think again. Ovals, similar to pear cut diamonds, and other fancy shapes, are prone to having dark tips, where the diamond’s color is more visible. The points can look grey, yellow or even brown.

How to avoid this? Paying for a higher color grade is one way.

If you’re willing to do the legwork -ask for an ASET® test to help you better understand the bow tie and light return. This Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool, is a device developed to assess a diamond’s interaction with light.

The ASET test uses a color coded light system to break the oval down into areas of red (bright light return), green (less bright but still sparkly), blue (contrast), and black (light leakage).

The bow tie and dark tips generally show up as dark blue areas in the diamond. Too much blue in one spot is a receipe for a fugly oval.

Harper No. 2 Pavé
Notice how this oval has even
coloration throughout
The oval on the left has a more pointed, movaly shape. The oval on the right has a classic profile.

The moval

Not all oval engagement rings are created equal. The moval is like the Bennifer of diamonds — a cross between the marquise cut and an oval diamond. It’s more elongated, with slightly rounded points. It’s sometimes masquerades as an oval diamond, but when you see it in person, you’ll know. How does this come about? In lab grown diamonds, cutters sometimes cut the oval shape diagonally from the rough which can lead to pointed tips. Sounds like the best of both worlds, and while some people love them, many don’t.

The long and short of it

With all elongated cut diamonds, the length-to-width ratio can have a major impact on the diamond’s look. Maybe it’s short and squarish (1.26:1), or maybe it’s long and thin (1.7:1), or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. Most people tend to prefer oval engagement rings with a more elongated look, but they’re also much rarer (it’s harder to cut elongated stones from diamond rough), and nearly impossible to find in a lab grown diamond, which maxes out around 1.45:1.

The look you like is up to you, just keep in mind the actual reality of it—and be flexible with your other diamond specs because there’s a limited supply.

Pro tip — the more elongated the oval becomes, the worse the bow tie becomes. To make things more complicated, the shallower an oval becomes, the worse the bow tie becomes. An elongated shallow oval diamond is basically the worst in the bow tie department. The trade off — it’s going to look huge and very flattering on your hand.

Searching for an oval diamond online?

It’s pretty much impossible to tell if an oval cut diamond is going to have a bow tie from the video online. We’re still constantly surprised by this ourselves. If only it were possible to eliminate the darn thing through the cutting process… everyone would! But because it’s caused by your head literally blocking light as you gaze longingly into the depths of the diamond’s brilliance… well, you get the idea. Finding a bow tie-free oval online is a tedious task.

So why are oval engagement rings so popular?

So all that other stuff aside, ovals are basically the perfect diamond, and yes, they’re trendy. Oval cut diamonds are less expensive per carat than round diamonds, they elongate the finger, they look huge for the weird, and they’re seriously sparkly. Plus they’ve got this timeless, sophisticated vibe going on and we’re pretty sure they’ll be as popular in ten to twenty years as they are today. An oval cut diamond isn’t a shape you get sick of, it’s one you grow into. And oval engagement rings aren’t going out of style anytime soon.

Harper no. 2 oval solitaire set with a3 carat oval cut diamond and paired with an emerald cut diamond eternity band
Harper No. 2 set with a
3 carat oval diamond

How to buy an oval diamond ring (if you must)

If all that isn’t enough to talk you out of this complicated cut, then the first thing you need to do when shopping for an oval cut diamond is forget the 4 Cs. That doesn’t mean forget what you know, it just means that now that you know the “rules” it’s time to break them. More important to finding the oval diamond ring of your dreams? Figure out what length-to-width ratio you like; more elongated or more square? Then think about cut, color, and clarity—in that order.

But our best recommendation? Ovals are best bought working with an expert who can help you find exactly what you’re looking for and can show you the stones in person or over video chat. And if you find an oval cut diamond you like, with minimal bow tie? Scoop that bad boy up because you’ll probably never find one quite like it again.

Our favorite solitaire oval engagement rings

Our favorite east west oval engagement rings

Shopping for an oval diamond ring?

Check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds (including countless cushion cuts) and don’t forget to zoom out (because size can be deceiving), or book a virtual or offline appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person. 

Not finding what you’re looking for? Email us with what you’re looking for at hello@frankdarling.com. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.

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