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What’s the Difference Between Brilliance, Fire, Scintillation and Sparkle in Diamonds?

The most beloved – and well-known – aspect of a diamond is inevitably its brilliance. Then there’s also sparkle and fire. These factors all work together to give a diamond their famous appearance. These terms should not be mistaken for one another, though, and cannot be used interchangeably to describe a diamond’s visual properties. We explain the difference between brilliance, fire, scintillation and sparkle in diamonds so that you’ll be able to use each term with 100 percent certainty and confidence from now on.


This is one of the more generally well-known terms used to discuss diamonds. Brilliance refers to the light that is reflected from the surface of a diamond. Because brilliance is the quantity – or, rather, the quality – of light that is emitted from the top of a diamond, diamond cut has a large impact on brilliance. Cut should not be confused with shape, however. Cut is a characteristic that describes the level of excellence a diamond cutter displayed in maximizing the sparkle of a given diamond. Shape, as you might expect, refers to the outline of a diamond – be it round, princess cut, cushion, emerald, or, in our case, octagon.


When a diamond is rocked back and forth, colored flashes of light can be seen – this phenomenon is known as fire. Not surprisingly, diamonds with better cut grades will give off a greater variety of colors as they are tilted from side to side.


Diamonds are most often associated with the flashes of white light mixed with hints of dark as the stone, the individual viewing the stone or the light moves. This awesome phenomenon is referred to as scintillation, better known as sparkle in layman’s terms.


As indicated in the explanation of “scintillation,” sparkle is the more common term for the apparent white light and dark flashes when the stone, the observing individual or the light source moves. Sparkle is synonymous with scintillation.

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