How To Evaluate Precious Stone Quality

Gemologists grade gemstones based on four primary properties. The properties are referred to as the four C’s: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. To understand how precious gemstones are graded according to their features, let’s consider the grading system.


Colored Gemstones Classification System

Before we consider the grading system, we must first understand how colored stones are grouped.

Three chief categories define gemstone beads:

  1. Precious gemstones. Precious gemstones exclusively allude to emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and diamonds.
  2. Synthetic gemstones. Synthetic gemstones are lab-created colored gems like Goldstone, Opalite, and Lab-created sapphires. These gemstone beads are not mined from the earth, but their natural formation is instead recreated in the controlled environment of a lab. This implies that synthetic gemstones lack the typical inclusions and other imperfections commonly present in natural precious and semi-precious gemstone beads.
  3. Semi-precious gemstone beads. Semi-precious colored gems refer to all the other gemstones that aren’t classified as precious or synthetic gemstones. This class additionally includes composite stones.
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The Gemstone Grading System

Although there is a lack of a standard universal grading system, most gem dealers and experts grade gemstone beads based on their color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. The gemstone grading system assigns letters to gemstone beads that represent their grade of quality.

Where the letters AAA are assigned to the highest grade gemstone beads, the letter D is given to the lowest.

AA to AAA grade gemstone beads

These colored gemstones are of a higher quality, the gem’s appearance being near perfect. AAA grade gemstone beads are typically quite expensive and will be kept separate in glass top trays to indicate their high value. For example, a genuine London Blue Topaz sells at $2800. AAA grade gemstone beads won’t typically be color-enhanced.

A Grade Gemstone Beads

A-grade gemstone beads are deemed good quality beads having subtle and slight inclusions. The best method of assessing A-grade gemstone beads versus lower-grade beads is to compare labradorite. B-grade labradorite will have a lighter shade of greyish hues, whereas higher-quality labradorite beads will have green and blue flashes. Furthermore, a high-grade lapis lazuli bead will consist of more golden pyrite streaks. A-grade gemstone beads are typically found among all the other colored stones in a gemstone cabinet.

B to D Grade Gemstone Beads

Although this class includes a lower grade bead, they remain decent quality beads consisting of their own unique characteristics that set them apart. Many gemstone beads of this grade are generally color-enhanced and have fascinating cuts and organic shapes.

Although we describe the properties of a colored gemstone by using the word “quality,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that one colored stone is better than another. Regardless of the classification of the gemstone grading system, gem buying ultimately depends on one’s own preferences and taste.

A high-quality bead may have received its grade based on rare features of a particular property, but your preference in precious stones won’t necessarily be AAA-grade gemstones beads. Gemstone grading is simply a tool to measure unique qualities and should not determine how you value gemstone beads.

Nevertheless, it is still beneficial to evaluate the different gemstones’ properties to aid in making an informed decision on which gemstone is suitable for you. To assess the factors that make for a high-grade quality bead, we must consider the four C’s contributing to gemstone grading.

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The color quality of gemstone beads is usually graded by considering tone, hue, and saturation.

The word “hue” is commonly used to describe the color of most colored stones. The primary hues include orange, red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and violet. If the descriptions white, black, or brown are used, it is probably intended to describe saturation rather than hue.

The saturation of gemstone beads refers to the intensity or magnitude of the gem’s hue. Colors can be described as being strong or soft. For example, pink is a desaturated version of red, making it a soft saturation. Warmer colors, such as orange and red, turn into different shades of brown when their saturation is lessened.

The tone of gemstone beads describes the relative darkness or lightness of the stone’s color. Therefore, white and black are measures of tone from its lightest to darkest form.

Colored gemstones are typically considered good quality beads if they have rich colors and pure, clear hues.

The color grades of decent higher-quality gemstone beads

Slight variations in colored gems contribute to whether the colored gemstone will be classified as a high or low-grade quality bead.

The finest colored stones have pure colored and thus have a higher value. For example, a pure red ruby will be worth much more than an orangish ruby. Although most people don’t readily notice the difference with their naked eye, this factor greatly contributes to which grade gemstones will ultimately be given.

Color Grades For Average-Value Decent Quality Beads

The color of moderately-priced gemstone beads isn’t of such great significance as with a high-grade quality bead. Unless gemstone beads possess exceptional colors like pure blue, green, or red, the remainder of the four C’s will greatly influence the value of decent quality beads.

Diamond Color Grades

Diamond grading is based on how near colorless the diamond is. The highest value is attributed to a diamond color or colorless. This grading standard is essentially the opposite of that of colored gems.

Thus, colorless diamonds are worth much more than colored diamonds. The grading system dictates that letters D to F is assigned to colorless diamonds, varying depending on the transparency. Nearly colorless diamonds receive G to J gradings, meaning they appear colorless when placed in jewelry settings.

For any non-expert, differentiating between grades G to J is near impossible, but this distinction greatly influences the value of the diamond.

Which Colored Gemstones Are Right For You?

Your choice of color is entirely a matter of personal preference. Of course, there are certain guidelines on which colors fit which skin types best, but this should not be a restrictive factor when deciding on which synthetic, precious, or semi-precious gemstone beads will satisfy your needs.

Consider many gemstone beads before finalizing your decision in your search for the perfect gemstone. If you are looking at raw, uncut gems, keep in mind that the gems’ cut will significantly affect their overall appearance. Gem cutters have a unique gift of transforming any average stone into a beautifully faceted gem that makes for stunning jewelry.

Be sure to consider other gemstones than only those your vendor has to offer in their single gemstone cabinet. There are countless options out there, and it is certainly worth exploring many gemstone beads and their color variations before committing to a purchase.

An important fact to remember is that higher quality doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better; it just means it’s rarer.

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Many gemstones consist of varying amounts and degrees of inclusions. Inclusions in faceted gems are defined as any hindrance that interferes with the light passage through the gem. Inclusions can manifest as fractures, hollow areas, or bits of minerals. The structural impact that these inclusions have on gemstone beads is addressed by clarity.

Diamond Clarity Grades

In diamonds, clarity affects a stone’s value to the same extent as color. The grading of diamond clarity indicates the extent of the presence of inclusions visible to the naked eye. This, of course, does not deteriorate the beauty of the diamond; it simply affects the price value of the faceted gem.

Some inclusions are only visible in diamonds by 10x magnification, but others are relatively obvious. Thus, there is a wide variety of clarity gemstones that all differ in their relative market value.

Diamond Clarity Grades

The Clarity Grades Of Colored Gems

When gemologists grade the clarity of colored diamonds and gemstone beads, they typically just assess whether the stone is eye-clean or otherwise heavily included. Eye-visible inclusions lower the value of a gem.

According to the GIA clarity grading system, AAA grade gemstone beads will often be eye-clean, being classified as Type I. The presence of slight inclusions will classify a gem as Type II, whereas Type II gems are heavily included.

Emeralds Are Exceptions

Although emeralds are classified as Type II gemstones due to their abundance of inclusions, they cannot be likened to other gems. Only very small gems will be free of inclusions, but most emeralds will inherently have visible inclusions.

The value of an emerald is largely based on color rather than other factors such as clarity.

If you have a dislike toward inclusions, consider other gemstones with similar colors, like diopside and tourmaline. These other gemstones go for a much more affordable price and resemble emerald’s color.

The Relationship Between Price And Clarity

Inclusions offer an opportunity to be able to afford good quality beads that have very subtle, slight inclusions. These inclusions aren’t visible until you thoroughly investigate the stone, but it does lower the value substantially.

By utilizing this advantage, you could purchase larger stones that are still considered good quality beads, despite their minute flaws. It is still up to you to establish if you would be equally satisfied with your gem, but slight inclusions contribute to your gemstone’s own unique characteristics.

Do Inclusions Interfere With Structural Integrity?

Most gemstones maintain their structural integrity despite the presence of inclusions, but it is still worth evaluating the degree of fractures.

Certain inclusions may make your gem vulnerable to breakage. Most jewelry items aren’t subjected to too much abuse in daily life, but pieces like rings experience a greater deal of barrage. If you are looking for AAA-grade gemstones beads for a ring, rather go with a gem with little to no inclusions. Synthetic gemstones or composite stones may be the wise way to go.



The cut of a gemstone is intended to enhance the stone’s inherent magnificence as much as possible. Since the cut involves a great deal of aesthetic preference and personal taste in shape and faceted cut styles, it is undoubtedly the most subjective of all the quality grading aspects.


The shape is the fundamental outline of the gem, which could vary from cushion, oval, and round to emerald cuts. Of all the shapes found in a typical gemstone cabinet, some are more popular than others. It is the market demand that largely determines the value of the stone.

Each shape reflects the jewelry designer’s specific needs and will vary between vendors. On average, emerald and round shapes are rarer and therefore more expensive than their oval counterparts. Moreover, marquises and pear shapes are not extremely sought after and trade for less than oval shapes of similar carat weight.

The gemstone’s shape is closely related to its original rough shape. That is why certain shapes, like oval shapes, are more prevalent; they retain the most weight when cut.

The cut of a gemstone


Also referred to as the facet pattern, the cutting style is also largely based on market demand in addition to other factors, such as the yield of cutting and the manufacturing speed. For example, blue sapphires and rubies often have step pavilion or brilliant crown cuts simply because they are the most practical and suitable options.


The faceted cut is tailored to each gemstone according to what enhances its brilliance and light refraction in the most symmetric and aesthetically pleasing manner. Gems that have been faceted feature a crown and a pavilion. The function of the crown is to capture light and create a stunning sparkle, whereas the pavilion enhances brilliance and light dispersion.

Finding the balance in depth and height entails a sensitive evaluation. An overly deep pavilion results in extinction in light while more shallow pavilions produce windows. Furthermore, if a crown does not reach high enough, the gemstone will lack a certain degree of sparkle.


Some gem cutters implement the art of freeform shapes into the cut, but many gems are intended to have orderly shapes. If you are looking for a more organized appearance, choose a stone that displays symmetry. The extent to which a gemstone exhibits symmetry will largely depend on the jewelry designer’s specific needs and intents.


Finishing defects are not of major concern as most such flaws can be corrected by repolishing.

Some common finishing shortcomings include:

  • Facets that are misshaped
  • Facets that do not meet at a common point
  • Poor polishing with visible scratches and marks
  • Round faceted cut junctions

Moreover, if gems have exquisite sparkle, they are considered good-quality beads. The cut largely influences how the stone will reflect light. Larger gems generally require a greater amount of facets than small gems to achieve the same extent of sparkle.

Dispersion is defined as the scattering of white light into various colors as it passes through the stone. Diamonds exhibit this quality to a greater extent than most colored or composite stones.

It is worth noting that many expensive gems, such as rubies and colored diamonds, often display a measure of misshapen symmetry and proportions. This is not due to neglect but rather done for the sake of preserving the weight.


The Relationship Between Carat Weight And Price

Needless to say, large gems are rarer than small gems in addition to being more difficult to extract. Consequently, their price is much higher per carat. For example, a quarter carat genuine London Blue Topaz may cost $60 per carat, whereas a half-carat Blue Topaz with comparable clarity, color, and cut may value $100 per carat.

Should You Choose Small Or Large Gems?

Once again, your choice of size is a matter of personal preference. If you are a delicate person, smaller stones may be more suitable for your, whereas bold personalities likely prefer larger gems.

However, if you are on a tight budget, a small gem is obviously the better option. It is worth noting that the visible amount of gem content is disproportionate to the actual size of the stone. For example, a half-carat diamond will measure 5 mm, and a three-quarters-carat diamond’s measurement will only increase slightly to 6 mm. Consequently, a higher carat weight to the average person won’t necessarily appear larger in size than a lower grade bead, though the price will vary significantly.


Jewelers frequently cluster numerous small gems to give the illusion of more value.

This is especially effective with diamonds, as seven diamonds of 1.6 mm that are set close enough together will have the appearance of one whole-carat diamond. These settings are often referred to as “illusion settings.”

Clustering many gems together could save you a lot of money as the carat weight would be significantly less than it would have been had you purchased one large stone.

With clustering, you can create a setting with its own unique characteristics for a reasonable price.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you are informed on the different factors involved in gemstone grading, you should be aware that rare features do not always imply better quality. 

Gems that don’t fall into the highest grade may be the ideal option for your individual needs.

A key takeaway should be that some of the contributing factors have an impact on the durability of the gemstone, which is certainly worth consideration. Clarity and cut should be chosen wisely as they may have long-lasting effects on the longevity of the gem. 

Moreover, remember that there are excellent options available for lower budgets. Find the stone that fits your personality best and brings your joy upon the first view. 


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