Jewelry Guide

What Is The Bowtie Effect In Diamonds?

Affiliate Disclosures

As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you. 

Diamonds are complicated gemstones to evaluate, especially if you’re new to diamond-shopping. So many of their characteristics or inclusions are invisible to the naked eye or are hard to judge and classify. This results in millions of customers unknowingly buying sub-par diamonds for their rings.

However, one of the more easily noticeable defects a diamond can have is the bowtie effect. The bowtie effect is one of the few defects in diamonds that even a rookie will be able to point out right away. And yet, even the bowtie often catches customers by surprise.

What is the bowtie effect?

bow tie on oval shape diamond

Severe bowtie in oval diamond

This diamond defect looks exactly like what it sounds like – a bowtie. It consists of a black “stripe” through the middle half of certain diamond cuts which severely affects the look of the stone.

This black stripe isn’t due to a certain chemical coloring inside the stone, nor is it due to a particular inclusion. It also doesn’t have anything to do with “light leakage” through the sides of the stone which is one of the more common problems in diamonds.

No, the bowtie effect is simply a zone in the middle of the stone where light isn’t reflected properly due to the diamond’s cut. This results in that part of the stone appearing darker. In essence, the bowtie is a shadow inside the diamond. This happens due to how some of the facets in the middle of the diamond are cut and reflect light.

A diamond’s bowtie is usually the shadow of the viewer’s head reflected inside the diamond. This shouldn’t typically happen – diamonds are cut in such a way so that they always reflect light all throughout their bodies and don’t have such shadows inside them. However, if the cut isn’t perfect diamonds can end up with a bowtie whenever you lean over to look at them.

Which diamond shapes have bowties?

Bowties in marquise shape diamond

Bowties in randomly selected marquise diamonds

This effect is most common in some of the more elongated fancy cuts such as the oval cut, the pear cut, and the marquise cut. Some square shapes like the radiant cut can also show bowties, but apart from these, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bowtie in other diamonds cuts.

The reason this problem is so exclusively common in these shapes is that it is simply hard to avoid during the cutting process of elongated shapes such as these – their middle sections are too long and it can be difficult to cut the facets there to reflect light properly.

Why do some diamonds have this problem?

However, not all elongated shapes display bowties. The bowtie effect is a man-made problem and it happens during the cutting of the diamonds. Sometimes the bowtie is unavoidable because the diamond cutter has had to avoid another bigger problem in the stone and sometimes it’s simply the result of a mistake.

It’s easy to think that cutters should simply not cut bowties in their diamonds but diamond cutting is complicated work and even the best diamond cutters aren’t perfect. In short, here are the several main things that can result in a diamond bowtie:

  1. A mistake – the cutter may have cut the diamond poorly with misaligned facets.
  2. The cutter may feel forced to cut the diamond in such a way that it would result in a bowtie because the alternative is to cut too much rough off the diamond and reduce its carat weight excessively. At the end of the day, while every cutter wants to craft the most beautiful diamonds possible, this is a for-profit industry and the bigger the stone is, the better.
  3. The cutter may have had to cut the diamond this way in order to avoid bigger inclusions. Diamond bowties are unsightly, especially when they are very pronounced but they are not the worst thing that can happen to a diamond.

Are bowties always a bad thing?

The diamond bowtie effect isn’t always pitch black. Many bowties are just slight shadows near the middle of the stone that are barely noticeable. Almost all marquise, oval, and pear-shaped diamonds have at least some bowties in them, but they are just often seamless and not so obvious.

In fact, certain bowties are even viewed as a positive – if the bowtie effect isn’t too pronounced and if the cutter has shaped the stone well around it, the bowtie can even add a degree of scintillation to the stone and enhance its sparkle, like this one. Oval, pear, and marquise-shaped diamonds with absolutely no bowties can sometimes look dull and boring.

Bowtie in radiant shape diamond

Radiant diamond with bowtie

Another thing to keep in mind with bowties is that dishonest vendors will often try to twist what we just said and claim that bowties are always a good thing. It’s common for many retailers to tell customers that bowties are unavoidable in elongated fancy shapes and that they enhance the beauty of a stone.

This is all false. Lighter bowties can have a certain positive effect on the stone’s appearance but overall, this effect is considered a negative on the diamond’s appearance.

Bowties are not on grading reports

Pear shape diamond bowtie

A pear diamond with slight bowtie that enhances its beauty. Check price here.

One of the main problems most shoppers have with the bowtie effect is that it isn’t listed on the grading report. No grading report states whether the diamond has a bowtie or how pronounced the bowtie is.

This means that if you purchase your diamond blind, that is, without seeing images and videos of the actual diamond, you could be buying a stone with a severe bowtie effect and not even know it until you receive the diamond.

A lot of customers are unfortunate to make that mistake even in physical jewelry stores. If the lighting of the diamonds showcase is set up in such a way that minimizes the effect of bowties and other appearance problems – which it always is – you can easily not notice just how strong the bowtie effect is until you’ve already brought the stone home.

How to avoid getting a diamond with a bowtie effect?

The two pear cut diamonds below have nearly identical specifications and on a grading report, they would appear the same. However, which of them would you choose?

Impact of bowtie on price comparison

Comparing pear cuts on James Allen. See them here.

The diamond on the left has a noticeably severe bowtie whereas the diamond on the right is more aesthetically pleasing. This is why it’s important to purchase diamonds after inspecting them carefully. There are several main things you can/should do if you don’t want your diamond to be marred with an ugly, black bowtie:

  1. Inspect what you’re getting before finalizing the purchase. This is easier done in physical stores but reputable online vendors like James Allen and Blue Nile offer HD 3D videos of all their product, allowing you to inspect the stone closely and in more detail than in a physical shop.
  2. Only buy diamonds from reputable vendors. Whether online or offline, you should always make sure that you’re getting your diamonds, engagement rings, and other jewelry pieces from adequate and trustworthy stores.
  3. Make sure that the store has a good and customer-friendly return policy. This way, if you notice a problem such as the bowtie effect later on, you can simply return the diamond or ring for a refund or a replacement.

Wrapping Up

When purchasing a diamond shape that could be prone to bowties, always make sure that you see the stone carefully in many angles. This will help you to make an informed decision as to the aesthetic and physical properties of the diamond.

While bowties are not a major issue in most cases, if it’s the first thing you see when you look at a diamond, then it’s best to avoid that stone and go for another. Your diamond can have a bowtie, but if the bowtie takes more attention than the diamond itself, it undermines the point of having a diamond in the first place.

Jewelry Guide