Gemstone Clarity

Most gemstones have flaws or inclusions. Diamond Tips

- The grading of gemstone clarity is much more loosely defined than the grading of diamond clarity.

- Choosing a VS or SI gemstone grade will be less expensive yet will have a great look.

Gemstone Clarity Is Not as Important as Diamond Clarity

Some flaws are going to be found in even the most expensive and rare gemstones. Finding a gemstone that does not have any inclusions or flaws is extremely rare. However, unlike diamonds, a small clarity difference rarely affects the price of a gemstone, and in some cases a gemstone can be valued higher with a lower clarity grade.

Gemstone Clarity

Compared with diamond clarity grading, gemstone clarity grading is more loosely defined. Gemstones can be classified into three categories:

Type 1: Includes stones that are usually free of inclusions. This group includes gems in the beryls family (Aquamarine) and quartz family (Amethyst and Citrine), as well as Blue Topaz, Blue Zircon, Green Tourmaline, Morganite, Smoky Quartz, and Tanzanite.

Clarity with this group is generally classified as VVS (Small to detectable), VS (Minor), SI1 (Noticeable), SI2 (Obvious) or I (Included).

Type 2: Includes gemstones such as Alexandrite, Amethyst, Garnet, Green Zircon, Iolite, Orange Zircon, Peridot, Ruby, Sapphire, and Yellow Zircon.

Clarity with this group is classified as VVS (Minor), VS (Noticeable), SI1 (Obvious), SI2 (Prominent), or I (Prominent, affecting appearance).

Type 3: Includes gemstones that almost always have inclusions. This group includes Red Tourmaline and Emeralds.

Clarity with this group is classified as VVS (Noticeable), VS (Obvious), SI1 (Prominent), SI2 (More prominent), or I1 (Affecting appearance or durability).

Some jewelers have redefined or simplified these categories into the following:

  • Clean - No inclusions visible under 10x magnification.

  • Eye-clean - Inclusions not visible to the naked eye.

  • VVS, VS, or SI - Inclusions visible to the naked eye, but still a beautiful gemstone.

  • Included - Numerous inclusions that affect the beauty of the gemstone.

The following table* represents how gemstone type and clarity overlap:

Clarity Grade Type I
Usually eye-clean with no clarity characteristics visible to the naked eye.
Type II
Typically shows some eye-visible clarity characteristics that do not detract from the overall beauty of the gemstone.
Type III
Almost always contain eye-visible clarity characteristics.
Eye Clean / VVS Appears clean of flaws or inclusions to the naked eye.
Slightly Included / VVS Small flaws difficult to see with the naked eye. Noticeable inclusions apparent to the naked eye.
Moderately Included / VS Minor flaws somewhat easy to see with the naked eye. Inclusions noticeably apparent to the naked eye. Obvious inclusions very apparent to the naked eye.
Heavily Included / SI Prominent flaws or inclusions that have a negative effect on the appearance or durability of the gemstone.
Severely Included / I Prominent flaws or inclusions that have a severe effect on the appearance, durability, or both of the gemstone.

*Table adapted from and Colored Gemstones by Antoinette Matlins

The type of gemstone you are looking at will also determine the amount of inclusions it will contain. When buying gemstones, make sure to compare the inclusions against these standards and parameters.

At E.S. Designs, we use only the best gemstones based on their type and clarity. We do not stock any gemstones with less than an SI grade.

Download a PDF with all the info on gemstone education
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