My Experience at HOFU 2013: With Master Cutter Brian McHardy

HOFU BMH 3This year, I was lucky enough to attend the Hearts on Fire University held in Las Vegas. What is the HOF University? It is an annual conference to which all of the Hearts on Fire retailers are invited to get together to share stories and ideas, as well as learn more about the company and the brand.

What I was looking forward to the most, and also the highlight of my trip, was being able to watch the Brian McHardy, Master Diamond Cutter explain and demonstrate how a piece of rough gets transformed into a polished diamond cut to perfection. Brian is a third generation diamond cutter who honed his craft in his native South Africa, and has been with Hearts on Fire for over a decade. Fun Fact: his great grandfather, Thomas McHardy, was the General Manager at the Cullinan mine when the famous 3,106 carat Cullinan diamond was found!

The love for diamonds is very apparent in this man. Despite having done this demonstration countless times, he was animated and excited when talking to us, and had to consciously stop himself from going off on tangents. Don’t take my word for it – here is a video where Brian gives you a tour throughout the cutting facility:

Although the brand obviously focuses on the cut, they also have very stringent selection processes to ensure they are starting with the best quality rough.HOFU BMH 4

Here, I am holding a few diamonds in the rough – they are in the octahedral crystal formation, the only kind that Hearts on Fire will accept. Diamonds can form into many different shapes, known as ‘crystal habits’. Those in the octahedral habit are a result of being exposed to higher temperatures and higher pressure and take more time to cultivate, resulting in a more stable compound and higher optical purity.

The color and clarity ranges for Hearts on Fire diamonds (excluding the Select range) is D to J, and Flawless to SI2. With rough, the minimum criteria they will accept is predicted I color and SI1 clarity, one grade above their polished diamonds minimum. Color and clarity are graded subjectively and on a continuum; there is a range that encompasses each grade. Hearts on Fire is even stricter than most lab gradings, for example if you buy a G/VS2 you know you are getting the best G color, the best VS2 there is.

Brian goes on to demonstrate how to polish a diamond, and even demonstrates how hot it can get: in the picture below, the diamond on the wheel is glowing red! He then takes it off and submerges it in a small pool of water, which started to boil after a few moments. Imagine the amount of precision and concentration needed to handle that kind of work. Incredible.

HOFU BMH 1Brian also lets us in on a little secret – as of the date of this posting, Hearts on Fire currently operates cutting at 160x magnification, which is 16 times the industry standard! I know, they advertise it as 100x, because it rolls off the tongue a little easier. That is the thing with perfection – you are always striving towards it, and because Hearts on Fire is so ahead of what everybody else is doing, they are always trying to outdo themselves.

I can really only touch on a few aspects of the Hearts on Fire cut and selection quality here, but the great thing is you can find out for yourself by browsing their website: Hearts on Fire is the only diamond brand with so much transparency behind their processes. Other brands can only allude to high quality, Hearts on Fire proves it.