GEM CLARITY SCALE
Gemstone clarity refers to the degree to which inclusions (tiny imperfections) are present in the gem. They can be minor inclusions or visible inclusions.
The occurrence, type, and acceptability of inclusions vary from one gemstone to the next. Emeralds, for example, tend to contain visible inclusions and are still more highly valued than most gems. Flawless diamonds, on the other hand, should have no inclusions at all.
However, unlike diamonds, there is no standard grading scale for colored gemstones. Generally, fewer noticeable inclusions or blemishes translate to higher prices. Still, there are some cases in which specific flaws actually increase the value of a stone (like in the case of emerald). Another example of this is the horsetail inclusion in green demantoid garnet.
Thus, the clarity of a colored gemstone must be measured against what is standard for that variety. Aquamarine, for instance, naturally tends to contain fewer inclusions than ruby.
Type 1 Gemstones
Type 1 gemstones include beryl gems, such as aquamarine, heliodor (golden beryl), and morganite; yellow and green chrysoberyl, pale-colored amethyst, citrine, smoky quartz, spodumene, tanzanite, diamond, and blue zircon. The gems in this category are usually found to be loupe clean (meaning they have no visible inclusions).
Type 2 Gemstones
Type 2 gemstones are generally found to be eye-clean rather than loupe-clean (meaning they have some inclusions, but these cannot be seen by the naked eye). Type 2 gemstones include amethyst, andalusite, alexandrite, garnet, and peridot.
Type 3 Gemstones
Type 3 gemstones include gem varieties such as green emerald, red beryl (bixbite), and varieties of tourmaline, particularly blue tourmaline (Paraiba tourmaline and Indicolite tourmaline), red (rubellite) tourmaline, pink, and bi-color tourmaline, and multi-color, or watermelon, tourmaline gems.
AAA Gemstone Clarity
“AAA” gem clarity grade is assigned to colored stones that are considered “near-perfect”. This means that, although these gemstones do show some variation in color, they are clean, well-cut, and polished. Despite not being loupe clean, AAA quality colored gemstones are the most sought-after precious stones for their perfect cut and vibrant color.
Colored Gemstones’ Clarity Grades
|very, very small inclusions
|VVS I: Minute inclusions, difficult to see under 10X magnification. Eye-clean.
VVS II: Minor inclusions, somewhat easy to see with 10X loupe. Usually eye-clean.
VVS III: Noticeable inclusions under 10X loupe. Usually eye-clean.
|very small inclusions
|VS I: Minor inclusions, somewhat easy to see with 10X loupe. Usually eye-clean.
VS II: Noticeable inclusions under 10X magnification. May be eye visible.
VS III: Obvious inclusions with 10X loupe. May be eye visible.
|SI1 I: Easily noticeable with 10X loupe. Slightly visible to the unaided eye. Usually low relief.
SI1 II: Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X magnification. Apparent to the unaided eye.
SI1 III: Prominent inclusions to the unaided eye.
SI2 I: Easily visible to the unaided eye. Usually low relief.
SI2 II: Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X magnification. Very apparent to the unaided eye.
SI2 III: Very prominent to the unaided eye.
Frequently Asked Questions
Jewelers use the clarity grade scale to measure the degree to which inclusions are present in a gem. Gemstones that have no inclusions or blemishes are regarded as FL or flawless. The clarity scale has 11 ratings going down to I3, which means that the gem has several slight inclusions which are visible to the naked eye.
Jewelers use the “four Cs” to judge the quality of a gemstone, which include carat weight, cut, color, and clarity grading. Obviously, the higher the clarity grading, the better the cut, and the clearer the color results in a higher quality stone. Carat weight is essential when it comes to determining the value of a gem but is not really a contributing factor when it comes to quality.
It is generally accepted that color has more significance than clarity grade when it comes to judging the quality of gemstones. This is because color is more obvious to the naked eye, even in small gems. Therefore, you should always choose color over clarity when selecting a gemstone. This rule especially applies to diamonds since flawless diamonds are incredibly rare (not to mention astronomically expensive!).
The highest colored gemstone clarity level is “AAA”. A gem with an AAA grading means it is considered “near-perfect”. In other words, the stone may show slight variation in terms of color, but it has a high clarity rating and is well-cut and polished.
Jewelers use the four Cs (clarity, cut, color, and caratage) to determine the quality and value of gemstones.
VVS is a clarity grading for diamonds and colored gemstones that stands for very, very small inclusions.
An SI2 diamond is a diamond that has inclusions visible to the naked eye. This means that you will be able to see mid-sized inclusions upon closer inspection of the stone. Choosing a cut like a brilliant round cut, which has 57 facets, is a smart way to reduce the appearance of inclusions in diamonds without spending a lot of money on stones with higher clarity grades.
Of the four Cs, clarity affects sparkle the least. Cut and color tend to impact the sparkle of a gem more.