Colored Gemstones - Clarity
Clarity is the term used to describe the internal quality of a gem. A trained expert examines the gem for inclusions, cracks, spots, clouds, or any other blemish or imperfection of any sort.
Clarity Grading Levels
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) recognizes 8 grading levels for clarity in colored gemstones. The same clarity grades are used for all stones, though the definitions of each grade differ by gem type. Other qualities being equal, the lower the clarity grade, the less valuable the stone.
- IF - Internally Flawless
- VVS Very, Very Slightly Imperfect
- VS - Very Slightly Imperfect
- SI1 - Slightly Imperfect (1)
- SI2 - Slightly Imperfect (2)
- I1 – Imperfect (1)
- I2 – Imperfect (2)
- I3 - Imperfect (3)
Flawlessly clear gems are extremely rare in nature for most gemstones. Slight disturbances in a gem may or may not be visible to the naked eye but excessive inclusions or fractures make a stone very unattractive (and difficult to sell). To improve the appearance of such stones, gem suppliers use a number of treatments or “clarity enhancements.” These treatments can make a remarkable difference in the gem’s appearance.
Clarity enhancement improves only the appearance of the gem, not its inherent quality or value.
If a poor-quality stone is treated, or clarity enhanced, it may look better because its flaws are disguised, but it is still a low-quality stone. A gem with severe fractures is also more vulnerable to chipping or cracking. This remains true even if the fractures are camouflaged.
Gem treatments should always be disclosed, since they can be used to disguise a low-quality stone. Before you shop, read about the specific treatments for the type of gem(s) you are interested in, to understand their purposes and their shortcomings. Being acquainted with the terms will also help you in discussions with jewelers.
For more information on treatments, visit the Web site of the American Gem Trade Association. AGTA also publishes the Gemstone Information Manual, a guide to natural gemstones, enhanced natural gemstones and synthetic gems, including care and handling requirements. The manual is available for $2.50. Order Form
When pricing jewelry, always ask whether the gem has been treated. For many stones, an untreated gem is worth considerably more than a treated, or clarity-enhanced, gem of the same appearance. This is particularly true of emerald, ruby and sapphire. If you choose to buy a treated gem, be sure you are not paying the price of an untreated gem.
The appraisal should state any treatments used or, if the gem has not been
treated, the appraisal should state that it is untreated.