An Intro to Gemstone Clarity
Clarity is key when it comes to showcasing a gemstone’s sparkle and colour. The clarity that is deemed acceptable varies for coloured gemstones. Aquamarine, blue topaz and citrine naturally have fewer inclusions, while other gemstones, like emeralds and rubies, tend to have a higher rate of acceptable inclusions.
What are Inclusions?
Because gemstones are formed in nature, certain varieties may include traces of gas or liquid, or they may have internal fractures. Inclusions don’t necessarily detract from the beauty or desireability of a coloured gemstone, and in fact, inclusions may increase the value of some gems. For example, some inclusions can enhance colour uniformity by deflecting light throughout the stone, and in many cases, they add interest to a gem.
What to Look for When Buying a Gemstone
There are two main factors to keep in mind when considering a gemstone’s clarity: The standard for the stone and its clarity grading code.
Gemstone Clarity Types
Some gemstones naturally have fewer inclusions than others. Gems that are opaque or translucent have different clarity standards than gems that are transparent. The Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) has identified three types of gemstone clarity.
Type I: Usually Eye-Clean
Type II: Usually Included
Type III: Almost Always IncludedEmeralds and tourmaline are two gemstones that almost always have inclusions, which may or may not add or subtract to their value.
Clarity Grading Code
Gemstone clarity grades identified by the GIA indicate the size and visibility of the inclusions in a gem.
VVS GradeInclusions are very, very small.
VS GradeInclusions are very small.
SI1 and SI2 GradesIndicate a gem with small inclusions—SI1 gemstones have smaller inclusions than SI2 gemstones.
I1, I2, and I3 GradesIndicate a gem with inclusions—the higher the number (1, 2, or 3,) the more inclusions the stone has.
How grading code and clarity types work together
Each clarity grade means something different for each gemstone type. For example, for a Type 1 gemstone, like aquamarine, a grade of VS means the stone has tiny inclusions that are fairly easy to see under 10x magnification, but these gemstones are usually eye-clean. But for a Type 3 gemstone, like an emerald, a VS grade means it has obvious inclusions at 10x magnification, which may be eye-visible. The right an gemstone cut can help reduce the appearance of inclusions The most important thing to consider when purchasing any gemstone is how much you like it. If you fall in love with an emerald that’s heavily included and has a mossy look, known as “jardin,” which is French for garden, then choose that emerald over a cleaner one that’s more “valuable,” but may not be the gem that captures your attention.
|Type I||Type II||Type III|
|VVS||Minute inclusions, difficult to see under 10X. Eye clean.||Minor inclusions, somewhat easy to see with 10X. Usually eye clean.||Noticeable inclusions under 10X. Usually eye clean.|
|VS||Minor inclusions, somewhat easy to see with 10X. Usually eye clean.||Noticeable inclusions under 10X. May be eye visible.||Obvious inclusions with 10X. May be eye visible.|
|SI1||Easily noticeable with 10X. Slightly visible to the unaided eye. Usually low relief.||Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X. Apparent to unaided eye.||Prominent to unaided eye.|
|SI2||Easily visible to the unaided eye. Usually low relief.||Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X. Very apparent to unaided eye.||Very prominent to unaided eye.|
|I1||Moderate effect on appearance or durability.|
|I2||Severe effect on appearance or durability.|
|I3||Severe effect on both appearance and durability.|
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