Get Our Diamond-Buying Cheat Sheet  | Sign Up for Our Emails Now
Emerald earrings demonstrating the gemstone's unique inclusions called jardin

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.
Shop Gemstone Jewellery

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
  • Gemstone Clarity Types
  • Clarity Grading Code
  • How Grading Code and Clarity Types Work Together

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.
  1. Type I: Usually Eye-Clean

    Eye-clean means that you can’t see inclusions with the naked eye. Gemstones that are typically eye-clean include aquamarine, morganite and tanzanite.
  2. Type II: Usually Included

    Gemstones that are expected to have visible inclusions include rubies, sapphires, peridots and garnets.
  3. Type III: Almost Always Included

    Emeralds 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.
  1. VVS Grade

    Inclusions are very, very small.
  2. VS Grade

    Inclusions are very small.
  3. SI1 and SI2 Grades

    Indicate a gem with small inclusions—SI1 gemstones have smaller inclusions than SI2 gemstones.
  4. I1, I2, and I3 Grades

    Indicate 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 IType IIType III
VVSMinute 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.
VSMinor 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.
SI1Easily 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.
SI2Easily 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.
I1Moderate effect on appearance or durability.
I2Severe effect on appearance or durability.
I3Severe effect on both appearance and durability.

Shop Popular Gemstone Jewellery

View All

Learn More About Gemstone Characteristics

Explore Education by Category

AmethystAquamarineBlue TopazEmeraldGarnetMoonstoneMorganiteOpalPeridotRubySapphireTanzaniteAll Gemstone Buying Guides

Only at Blue Nile

When it comes to celebrations we strive to make your experience as brilliant as our jewellery with the perfect pieces for every occasion.
Email Us
Call Us

Visit a Showroom

Meet our personal jewellers, explore bestselling styles, pick up an online order, arrange to preview something from our online collection and so much more.

Schedule an Appointment

Book a fun and interactive appointment with a diamond expert and get up-close views of diamond and jewellery options from the comfort of your own home.

Amazing Value

The highest-quality design at a great price.

Peace of Mind

30-day returns, diamond price-match guarantee and more.

Expert Guidance

The original online jeweller since 1999.

Inspiring Assortment

The perfect pieces for every occasion.