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An Intro to Gemstone Clarity

Clarity is key when it comes to showcasing a gemstone’s sparkle and color. The clarity that is deemed acceptable varies for colored 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 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 Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has identified three types of gemstone clarity.

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.

Type II: Usually Included

Gemstones that are expected to have visible inclusions include rubies, sapphires, peridots and garnets.

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.

VVS Grade

Inclusions are very, very small.

VS Grade

Inclusions are very small.

SI1 and SI2 Grades

Indicate a gem with small inclusions—SI1 gemstones have smaller inclusions than SI2 gemstones.

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.