Clarity is one of the four C’s used to evaluate the gemstones we use in our custom designed jewelry in Seattle and Bellevue. Gemstone clarity is determined by blemishes and inclusions found on and in the stone. Since clarity may be affected by imperfections that are not visible to the naked eye, it is important to have your stone inspected by a professional, who will use magnification to see even minute inclusions.
All gemstones are formed under pressure below the Earth’s surface. This intense force is what causes the blemishes and inclusions that affect the gemstone’s clarity. A blemish is a mark, such as a scratch or chip on the surface of the stone. Scratching or chipping may also occur during the stone cutting process.
Inclusions are found within the stone and may include things like cracks or foreign material. Not all inclusions are considered bad, and some types of stones almost always have inclusions. The level of gemstone clarity is based upon how many imperfections exist and how easy it is to see those marks with the naked eye. Each type of stone is graded based upon the standard for that stone. In gemstone grading, all blemishes and inclusions are simply called inclusions.
Diamonds first became a symbol for engagement in the 15th century, but with the rise in popularity of diamond engagement rings in the 20th century, understanding gemstone clarity and how it relates to diamonds has become very important.
Diamonds are graded on internal and external flaws. The highest grade is flawless, which means there are no blemishes or inclusions visible when the stone is viewed at ten times magnification. Since diamonds and other gemstones are created beneath the earth, a flawless stone is extremely rare. The second best diamond grade is IF or Internally Flawless. This means there are no inclusions, but there are some external flaws.
A stone that has both internal or external flaws will range from VVS (very very slightly included), SI (slightly included) to I (Included). VVS and SI each have levels 1 and 2. I, or included, has levels 1, 2, and 3.VVS and SI are usually invisible to the human eye, which makes them a great alternative to pricier flawless stones. Included stones are the lowest quality and are best avoided unless an imperfection can be hidden in the jewel setting.
Gemstones come in a variety of colors and are graded for gemstone clarity under ten times magnification, just as diamonds are. Some gemologists use the same grading scale for colored stones as the one used for diamonds. However, since gemstones are colored, imperfections may not be as noticeable as those on diamonds. For this reason, colored gemstones may be graded more upon the type of stone and the propensity to flaws.
Gemstones such as topaz or aquamarine tend to have few inclusions and are listed as Type I. Type II stones may include garnets, which often have only a few imperfections. Stones such as emeralds are rarely without flaws and are considered Type III. Inclusions such as minerals may not necessarily devalue a type III stone. In some cases, an inclusion such as pyrite may actually increase the value of the stone.